Finding King Tut’s Tomb

On this day in 1923, Howard Carter opened the inner chamber of Tut’s tomb.

British backer Lord Carnarvon wanted to call off the search for the lost tomb of Tutankhamun after six fruitless years of searching, but Howard Carter convinced him to stick it out for one more season—resulting in the 20th century’s most famous find.

Source: Finding King Tut’s Tomb

A hush fell on the group of British and Egyptian observers standing at the sealed doorway on November 26, 1922. Three weeks earlier, British archaeologist Howard Carter and his team had stumbled on a rubble-filled stairway in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

Following the excavations of the late 1800s, many archaeologists thought the valley had yielded all its secrets. However, Carter had a hunch that there was still more to find. Egyptians began to bury their royalty in the Valley of the Kings during the New Kingdom (circa 1539-1075 B.C.). Carter was searching for the tomb of an obscure king from the 18th dynasty. The boy king has since become Egypt’s most famous pharaoh, but when Carter was digging, his name—Tutankhamun—was only spoken in scholarly circles.

Having cleared the debris from the stairs, Carter’s team revealed the top of a doorway, sealed with plaster. Upon it were the undisturbed seals of the royal necropolis, a sight that made Carter’s heart race with excitement. After ordering the staircase filled in, Carter sent a cable to his patron—the wealthy Lord Carnarvon—that said: “At last have made wonderful discovery in valley; a magnificent tomb with seals intact.”

Carnarvon hurried to Egypt to witness the opening of the tomb. As Carter and his team re-cleared the staircase to continue their work, the entire door was exposed, and the seals of Tutankhamun revealed. Carter’s hunch was right. He had found the boy king. The door also bore signs of damage and repair, leading Carter to wonder if the tomb was indeed intact.

The next day, the team assembled to open the tomb. With Carnarvon and other observers looking on, Carter drilled a small hole in the top corner of the doorway and placed a candle inside. The candle flickered, and Carter peered in. As his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness beyond, he heard Carnarvon asking: “Can you see anything?”

“Yes,” Carter replied. “Wonderful things. Wonderful things!”

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