Remembering Carter: The man who found King Tut's tomb

Nevine El-Aref , Nevine El-Aref , Nevine El-Aref , Thursday 10 May 2012

Wednesday was the 138th birthday of celebrated Egyptologist Howard Carter, who unearthed the tomb of Egyptian boy-king Tutankhamen. Ahram Online remembers the intrepid archaeologist

the official opening of Tutankhamun

When Howard Carter left his home in Kensington in London at the tender age of 17, abandoning a career in his family business to join the Egypt Exploration Fund as an illustrator, he didn’t know that he would fall under the spell of Egypt and its ancient treasures.

At Beni Hassan archaeological site, Carter began his career as a tracer, copying scenes from the walls of the tombs of royal princesses for further study. He worked with pioneer Egyptologists at the time, and succeeded in recording the wall reliefs in Queen Hatshepsut’s temple at El-Deir El-Bahari on Luxor’s west bank.

Carter learned the nascent science of Egyptology from William Flinders Petrie, and, during his training courses at Tel Al-Amarna, he unearthed several important artefacts. 

He then continued his training under Gaston Maspero, and in 1894 at the age of 25 he became the first inspector-general of monuments for Upper Egypt. In 1905, he was forced to resign from the post following an incident between Egyptian guards at Saqqara and a handful of drunken French tourists.

Seeking private funding for excavation work, Carter became supervisor of excavations for Lord Carnarvon V, who owned one of the most valuable collections of Egyptian artefacts in private hands at the time. Carter succeeded in discovering six tombs in the Valley of the Kings on Luxor's west bank, but was obsessed with finding the tomb of a relatively unknown Pharaoh named Tutankhamen.

Working hard in the Valley of the Kings, Carter’s dream came true when he stumbled on the boy king's intact tomb – seen at the time as the greatest ancient Egyptian treasure trove ever unearthed – on 4 November 1922. Carter soon died of a type of cancer known as lymphoma in his hometown on March 1939 at the age of 64.

To commemorate Carter, Egypt's Ministry of State for Antiquities in 2009 renovated his rest house on Luxor’s west bank, turning it into a museum to celebrate the archaeologist's work. The house displays tools that Carter used during his excavations in the Valley of the Kings.

The visitor can see his desk, camera, coat hanger, sofa and chimney. Black-and-white photographs portray Carter busy at work, removing Tutankhamen's funerary collection from the tomb and welcoming British, Egyptian and foreign dignitaries during the celebrations that marked the tomb's opening.

Pieces of English furniture illustrating a typical contemporary home interior are also on display. A visitors’ centre has been set up adjacent to the house to provide visitors with additional information about the intrepid Egyptologist.

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