Jarrod E. Stephens
The Ashland Beacon
Human curiosity into the lives of those who came before us has led to some amazing archaeological discoveries. However, few discoveries have had such a profound impact on our knowledge of the grandeur of the burial of ancient Egyptian pharos than Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
Imagine, digging and searching in desert land where artifacts and archaeological excavations of ancient Egyptian rulers have revealed perhaps that you were about to discover a long-lost tomb of an important ruler. The Indiana Jones movie series captured the spirit of such adventure in such a vivid and fun way that every time I read about the archaeological expeditions, I can almost hear the theme music. Countless leads and disappointments that fueled the desire to find the tomb was well recorded by Carter and his entourage.
Howard Carter and a wealthy Brit by the name of Lord Carnarvon began their initial search for the tomb of King Tutankhamun in 1917. The greatest obstacle for excavating in Egypt is the shifting sands and how that much of the region where the tombs were likely located was buried deeply in sand. Years of searching only brought disappointment. Even if the duo did find the king’s tomb, they were unsure if there would even be anything remaining since nearly every royal tomb had been looted for their valuable jewels and gold.
The ancient Egyptians rulers were not buried in a simple manner. Instead, they were buried in massive tombs that consisted of several larger rooms and chambers that were filled with the artifacts and wares that they believed would be needed in the afterlife. It’s amazing to consider that they were buried with everyday items such as tables, chairs, and beds as well as a throne. The walls were painted with vivid images that told stories of the king’s greatness. Great masses of gold and jewels were commonly placed in the tombs, and it was such treasure that had led to grave robbing.
Archaeologists had discovered several tombs in what became known as The Valley of the Kings and some small artifacts indicating that Tut’s tomb was nearby. Howard Carter had become a respected Egyptologist after working for several years in Egypt. Carter became close friends with Lord Carnarvon and the two set their sights on discovering the tomb of Tut. Lord Carnarvon was sponsoring Carter’s expeditions but was growing weary with the continual failure. Carter convinced Carnarvon to allow him to search for a few weeks more and that tenacity led to the discovery that would change archaeology and Egyptology forever.
Only three days into what they had said was their “final” attempt to discover the tomb, Carter found the entrance. November 4, 2022 is the centennial of the discovery of a step that led to the tomb. The following day they discovered the entrance to the tomb. Carter immediately sent a telegram and told Carnarvon about the discovery. Lord Carnarvon promptly set out for Egypt.
It wasn’t until November 26, 2022 when Carter first appears into the tomb and declared, “As my eyes 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.” The discovery proved to be the most valuable and intact tomb ever discovered. Aside from the discovery of the precious jewels and gold, the undisturbed mummy of Tutankhamun inside the sarcophagus opened new mysteries of how and why Tut died. Sadly, the full truth of his legacy may never be known. Egyptologists worked for years to catalog and preserve all the contents of the tomb.
Since the discovery of the tomb the artifacts have traveled the globe and given millions of people the opportunity to take a glimpse into the life of the young king. Carter published several volumes telling about the discovery and what was inside. His dedication led to the preservation of Tut’s legacy and opened new doors for discovery.
The spirit of adventure and discovery keeps life interesting and gives us all the chance to be lifelong learners. While it’s not likely that we will make such a groundbreaking discovery as Carter’s, every day that we are alive we can work to preserve the past for the coming generations by telling our stories and the stories that have made our families what they are today. Such knowledge is more valuable than the gold from a thousand tombs.