The most complete tomb of a pharaoh has ever been found in Tutankhamun’s, which was uncovered in 1922. At the time, the world was enthralled by King Tut’s fine items and his ornate burial shrine, which revealed fresh information about ancient Egypt. The discovery continues to astound people a century later and has had a significant impact on both archaeology and Egyptian national identity.
West of the city of Thebes, in the Valley of the Kings, a packed Pharaoh’s cemetery contained Tutankhamun’s tomb. These tombs were frequently covered over to prevent robbers from discovering them, in contrast to pyramid burials that revealed the existence of enormous valuables. Eventually, nearly 150,000 tonnes of rocks, including pieces of a tomb carved into the hillside above his, were discovered covering Tut’s grave. (How everyone in ancient Egypt aspired to have eternal life.)
Few believed the tomb could be located.
Tutankhamun’s whereabouts were a sincere believer’s quest. By authorities of the day, every tomb in the valley had either been invaded in antiquity or recently discovered by archaeologists. One of the sites that had been dug up was an unremarkable one that had been mistaken for Tut’s tomb. Tut also seemed to have been a minor pharaoh, with only a few artifacts in the
Howard Carter, an archaeologist, persisted in his search despite famous judgment. The Lord of Carnarvon, Carter’s English supporter, nearly lost trust in him and stopped supporting him while he dug for years, even during World War I. The team discovered the top step of a staircase going down to the tomb in November 1922, just days after beginning what would be the final year of excavations. (How determination and good fortune helped uncover Tut’s tomb.)
The tomb had been broken into twice, but the door the team dug up at the bottom of the stairs was locked shut. Before Carter’s discovery, the robberies had occurred not long after the burial, about 3,000 years earlier, with robbers stealing mainly smaller items, such as priceless stone beads. After the latest breach, ancient officials plastered over the openings in the outer door and put fresh seals on it. A shattered and resealed inner door was also located down a sloped corridor.
Several priceless objects were put dangerously in the antechamber, the first room Carter unlocked. These items were probably hastily rearranged by officials hastening to restore the tomb following the final robbery. Carter was completely unprepared for the majesty of the contents. He walked into the room and said, “Wonderful,” immediately. He could use a flashlight to see the numerous “weird animals, statues, and gold—everywhere the shine of gold” once the fog had dissipated. (Find out the numbers behind King Tut’s 5,000 treasures.)
Carter raised the bar for thoroughness and rigor by expanding on approaches he had previously studied. The tomb was equipped with electric lighting, which was at the time a cutting-edge tool, before Harry Burton, the most skilled archaeologist photographer in the world, captured every moment on camera. Before any object was moved, numbered cards were placed by individual objects in photographs, and Carter made careful notes and sketches before packaging away the inventoried treasures.
The nearly complete tomb offered unparalleled insight into this period of Egyptian history. Chariots, weaponry, armor, dress, and artwork reflected Egypt’s foes and preferred means of combat. Murals portrayed religious convictions, such as a renewed veneration for Amun, which Tut’s forebearer had lessened. Archaeologists were able to learn more about the intricate burial customs because of the intact coffins. (King Tut’s mummy was filled with valuables. This illustration reveals them.)
News of the extraordinary discovery spread throughout the globe thanks to Burton’s meticulous pictures of the items and a press that was more global than ever. Even the English monarchs, the King and Queen, craved information. Tutankhamun and Egyptian symbols surfaced in popular music, clothing, architecture, home furnishings, and even fruit brands.
Also read: The beautiful domes of Qutub shahi tombs
Tut’s treasures remained in Egypt, unlike many other finds made there. As was typical for most excavations, Lord Carnarvon had anticipated being able to claim a sizable portion of the artifacts. The government insisted that they all stay in Egypt, partly due to Carter’s irascible attitude but also because Egypt was claiming independence from England at the time of the discovery.
Tut soon established himself as a representative of Egyptian identity upon his discovery. More and more Egyptians are now overseeing archaeological work being done in the nation, and the more than 5,000 items from Tut’s tomb will soon serve as the focal point of a new Grand Egyptian Museum. (Enter Egypt’s brand-new, $1 billion museum—fit for a pharaoh.)