…By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media.
The Discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb and the Earl of Carnarvon’s Funding
Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb on November 4, 1922, is a legendary moment in the history of archaeology.
The excavation of the tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings led to the discovery of more than 5,000 priceless artefacts, including a solid gold coffin, Tutankhamun’s mask, thrones, furniture, food, and wine.
However, this might not have been possible if Carter’s financial backer, the Earl of Carnarvon, had followed through with his threat to cut off Carter’s funding, as he became frustrated with Carter’s lack of progress in the search for the tomb.
Fortunately, the Earl agreed to provide the money for Carter to hunt for one final year in 1922, leading to the discovery of the treasures.
The Role of the Earl of Carnarvon in Howard Carter’s Work
George Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, met Carter in 1907 and agreed to fund his explorations.
The pair ended up working together for the next 17 years, with their early years together proving to be successful.
However, the First World War put a pause on their work that was not lifted until 1917.
When the searches resumed, Carter did not come close to finding anything despite intensive excavations, prompting the Earl to consider withdrawing his funding.
But after Carter found the tomb, the Earl posed triumphantly outside it with his expert and his daughter Evelyn.
Carter’s Address Book
Carter’s address book is set to be sold for £5,000 later this month and lists around 200 addresses of his diverse array of high-society contacts, including the Earl’s home, Highclere Castle, which was the setting for the hit TV series Downton Abbey.
Evelyn’s address is also among those listed in the book.
She claimed to have rejected Carter’s romantic advances, later telling her daughter that ‘at first, I was in awe of him, later I was rather frightened of him.’
Carter’s Discovery and the Treasures of Tutankhamun’s Tomb
Carter initially viewed Tutankhamun’s tomb through a small hole made in masonry after two days of digging through a rubble-filled passage.
Holding up a candle, he looked inside and gave what became a famous response to Carnarvon’s impatient question: ‘Can you see anything?’ ‘Yes,’ he said.
The tomb, which included four rooms, was filled with royal treasures that had lain untouched for more than 3,000 years, including a dagger made from a meteorite.
The tomb also contained three coffins nestled within one another, the innermost of which contained the Boy King’s body.
The Aftermath of Carter’s Discovery
Fifty years after Carter’s discovery, many of the treasures inside Tutankhamun’s tomb were displayed at a now-famous exhibition at the British Museum in London.
The exhibition, which was opened by the Queen, had originally been set to last for three months but ended up being open for six due to its enormous popularity.
After the clearance of Tutankhamun’s tomb was completed in 1932, Carter retired from excavation work and died seven years later.
The Rare Book Fair
Carter’s address book, which lists the Earl’s home, Highclere Castle, will be sold at London’s Rare Book Fair, which is being held at the Saatchi Gallery from May 19-21.