Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s tomb on November 4, 1922, but he heroically refrained from unsealing the entrance.
Well, heroically might be the wrong word – sensibly is more accurate. The man who had paid for Carter’s seasons in the Valley of the Kings for about seven years – the Earl of Carnarvon – really deserved to be present for the great occasion.
So Carter wired the earl and waited. Carnarvon arrived three weeks later and witnessed the first breach of the entrance. Using a candle, Carter cast a tiny light into the dark and later wrote that he saw ‘Many wonderful things….and gold, everywhere, the glint of gold.’
It was the greatest tomb discovery of all time – there were so many artifacts that it took ten years for Carter to catalogue them all and see them transported to the Cairo Museum. At that point, he retired from archeology and became a dealer and consultant to museums.
Ironically, the most celebrated tomb discovery of modern times was of a king who ascended the throne at the age of nine and then died nine years later, a reign so short and basically uneventful, that he was quickly forgotten in his own time. The sands shifted, burying the entrance. Eventually the location of his tomb was forgotten; workmen’s huts were built over the site, further discouraging tomb raiders.
Once discovered. however, Tut became a very important figure. It was thought initially, because of evidence of a head wound, that he had been assassinated, but modern CT scans and DNA evidence show that he suffered from spina bifida and a recent leg injury that had become infected.
We also know that his name – Tutankhamun – was his second name. First, he was called Tutankhaten. Aten was the sun disc that his father the monotheist – Akenaten – had worshiped, much to the dismay of the priestly class that surrounded the deity Amun. When Tut became king, the priests of Amun reasserted their authority and changed his name.
Although his sarcophagus has been removed, Tut has been allowed to remain in his final resting place, in a climate-controlled glass case.
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Many happy returns to the inimitable Tina Turner, turning 72 today.