History : Mar-Apr 2018
the next year its contents had been logged and removed, leaving just two statues guarding the door to another area, which Carter had a hunch must be the burial chamber. That door was opened in February 1923, and the room was found to be entirely taken up with three nested shrines. Deep inside these lay a se- ries of gold sarcophagi, at the heart of which lay the mummy of King Tut wearing his golden fu- nerary mask. Abutting the burial chamber was another, smaller room, which became known as the Treasury. Containing the most precious of Tutankhamun’s royal possessions, it had suc- cessfully eluded grave robbers for an astonishing 3,000 years. Carnarvon died a few months after the dis- covery, from an infected mosquito bite. But Carter would survive to complete his work. He continued with the task of inventorying the myriad contents of the tomb, completing his work in 1932. He spent his final years preparing the results for publication, and died in London in 1939, age 64. Carter’s perseverance and good fortune uncovered a little-known pharaoh and made him a phenomenon. the outbreak of World War I disrupted explo- ration, although Carter did manage to explore the tomb of Amenhotep III, Tutankhamun’s grandfather, in 1915. It was not until December 1917 that he was able to resume work and fi- nally search for the resting place of the boy king. Carter employed a systematic method he had developed during his many years in the field: a meticulous division of the site into a grid. For years Carter and his team scoured the rocky landscape, scarred with the trenches of previous digs. Discoveries were thin on the ground. In 1922 a frustrated Carnarvon informed Carter he would not continue to finance the work. Carter pleaded with him to reconsider; moved by his passion, Carnarvon agreed to fund one last season. On November 1, 1922, Carter resumed digging in the Valley of the Kings. On November 4, they found the stairway that led to the unopened tomb of Tutankhamun. Blessings and Curses Carter described his first glimpse some years later:“Details of the room emerged slowly from the mist. . . strange animals, statues and gold— everywhere, the glint of gold.” The room Carter saw is now known as the antechamber. By early 55 PROTECTIVE FALCON A standard bearing the falcon god Gemehsu, placed in Tutankhamun’s tomb as a funerary offering. Egyptian Museum, Cairo S. VANNINI/GETTY IMAGES THE CURSE AND THE CANARY WHEN HOWARD CARTER arrived in Luxor on October 28, 1922, to begin his final season in the Valley of the Kings, he brought a little pet with him: a canary he bought in Cairo to keep him com- pany and brighten up his home with its singing. Carter’s Egyptian workmen became fond of the creature, regard- ing it as a symbol of good luck. Archaeologist Robert Winlock reported one of the workers saying: “This year we will find, inshallah [God willing], a tomb full of gold.” In November Carter and his team discov- ered Tutankhamun’s tomb. But then something hap- pened that scared the Egyptians: The golden bird, as they called Carter’s canary, was devoured by a snake. Since the Egyptians believed that snakes grew inside the heads of the ancient kings, they thought it was the pharaoh’s revenge for disturbing his eternal rest. They were also convinced it was a portent of a forthcoming death. Lord Carnarvon’s sudden demise just months later only fueled what would become known as the mummy’s curse. S.VANNINI/GETTYIMAGES 38 MARCH/APRIL 2018 EGYPTOLOGIST MAITE MASCORT HAS WRITTEN EXTENSIVELY ON HER RESEARCHES AT THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN CITY OF OXYRHYNCHUS.