ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, on November 4, 1922, archaeologists working in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings uncovered the first of 16 steps leading down to a sealed doorway. When they made an opening in the second wall, on November 26, the British Egyptologist Howard Carter (1873–1939) peeked into what turned out to be one of the most sensational discoveries of all time—the virtually intact rock-cut tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun (d. 1324 BCE).
Carter entered the burial chamber on February 16, 1923, but it took another ten years to document and empty the tomb. The small but crowded burial place contained more than 5,300 objects and the bodies of the king and his two stillborn daughters. Almost all the artifacts found their way to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (these are now on view in the newly inaugurated Grand Egyptian Museum). Carter broke Tut’s mummified body into pieces to extract it from the coffin and remove all the precious items. Now, after nearly a century and some more recent X-rays and CT scans, the king is back in his tomb, which reopened for tourists in 2019, following ten years of research, conservation, and infrastructural upgrades carried out by the Getty Conservation Institute.1
Tutankhamun died of uncertain causes at age 19. His reign was short and relatively insignificant, and his tomb is perhaps the smallest royal burial in Egypt. Yet he is probably the most famous of ancient Egypt’s kings, and his name continues to conjure images of splendor and mesmerizing treasures.
Plethora of events and publications around the globe commemorate the anniversary of this extraordinary discovery. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), for instance, is scheduled to air a new documentary today (November 23, 2022) titled Tutankhamun: Allies & Enemies. And the following exhibition at the Weston Library, a division of the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, presents the original records produced during the initial exploration of King Tut’s tomb.
Through February 5, 2023
The Weston Library
University of Oxford, England
The unearthing of Tutankhamun’s tomb—100 years ago, in 1922—is one of the world’s most famous archaeological discoveries. It remains the only known intact royal burial from ancient Egypt. During the ten years it took to excavate the tomb, the team around archaeologist Howard Carter—including the expedition’s photographer, Harry Burton—generated an immense amount of documentation.2
Marking the centenary of the discovery, this historic material is currently the object of an exhibition, Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive, at the Weston Library, a division of the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford. Through stunning images and original records, which include maps, plans, drawings, diaries, object cards, conservation records, and letters, the exhibit offers a fresh look at the complexities of both the ancient burial and the excavation.
This exhibit is the most comprehensive presentation of the material to date, offering a vivid first-hand account of the excavation and of the meticulous work that went into documenting and conserving the artifacts. On display is also this photographic print of Tutankhamun’s throne annotated by Carter with notes on colors and materials.
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