Unearthing Tutankhamen's Tomb; RETROSPECTIVE WALES - ARCHAEOLOGY: Since Its Discovery in 1922 the Myths of the Famous Mummy Are Still Potent

Article excerpt

Byline: RHODRI EVANS

IT is almost 80 years since a discovery was made which fascinated the entire world.

On November 4, 1922 British Egyptologist Howard Carter made what has become probably the most famous find in the history of archaeology.

Carter, whose work was funded by George Herbert, the 5th Lord Caernarvon, was excavating in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor when, at around 10am, his team uncovered the first signs of an entrance to a tomb.

Carter had previously uncovered other royal tombs, including those of pharaoh Thutmose IV and Queen Hatshepsut.

But this tomb was to be special. It contained the body of the boy king Tutankhamen, who had reigned in the 14th Century BC.

What made it so special was that, unlike other royal tombs, it had been untouched by graverobbers since the body of the king had been interred three millennia before.

Over the next day Carter's team cleared the staircase leading down in to the tomb.

By sunset on November 5 they had reached 12 steps down and had uncovered some of the doorway and could discern symbols, which suggested the tomb's occupant was a royal.

That night Carter sent a telegram to Lord Caernarvon.

It read (verbatim), "At last have made wonderful discovery in Valley a magnificent tomb with seals intact."

On November 23 Lord Caernarvon arrived in Luxor to take part in the opening of the tomb.

Records were taken of the seals on the door of the tomb, on which the name of the king was revealed as Tutankhamen.

Then, on Saturday November 25 the first door was opened and the work began on clearing the passageway beyond.

The next day the seal at the entrance of the tomb was broken and Howard Carter entered the tomb.

Writing in his book The Tomb of Tutankhamen Carter recalled those first moments.

"At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flames to flicker, but presently, as my eye grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold - everywhere the glint of gold."

Carter and his patron Lord Caernarvon then entered the passage that led into the tomb complex.

Two other chambers were discovered.

It was in these rooms that most of the funerary equipment was found.

The burial chamber containing the sarcophagus was sealed off and it was not until February 1923 that its secrets were finally uncovered.

Over the next decade work was carried out to collate, record and photograph the 1,700 items that had been found, including chariots from the 18th Dynasty, beds, statues and jewellery.

What made the discovery unique was that unlike the tombs of other pharaohs the resting place of Tutankhamen had not been disturbed in 3,000 years.

The discovery of the tomb marked the high-point in a Howard Carter's career as an Egyptologist. …