Little Bits of History

Pharaoh Tutankhamen

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 4, 2014
Howard Carter and King Tut's coffin

Howard Carter and King Tut’s coffin

November 4, 1922: Howard Carter finds the entrance to King Tut’s tomb. Carter was born in London in 1874. His father was an artist and encouraged his son to follow in his footsteps. The child grew up among relatives in Swaffham, a market town of Norfolk. In 1891, when Carter was 17, he was sent to Egypt by the Egypt Exploration Fund to help Percy Newberry’s excavation of the Middle Kingdom tombs at Beni Hasan. Carter improved on the methods of copying tomb decorations and in the following years came under the tutelage of other Egyptologists. By 1899, Carter was made chief inspector of the Egyptian Antiquities Service and supervised a number of excavations at Thebes (now Luxor).

Pharaoh Tutankhamen ruled from about 1332 to 1323 BC. This was the 18th Dynasty. He was born around 1341 BC and died around the age of 18. He and his half-sister/cousin had two stillborn daughters. In Egyptian history, this period is called the New Kingdom. Various spellings of the Pharaoh’s name mean slightly different things – Tutankhaten means “Living Image of Aten” while Tutankhamun  means “Living Image of Amun”. Aten is the sun god also called Ra. Amun is a local deity of Thebes and is the king of the gods and god of the wind. Computed tomography of the two stillborn infants found no cause of death or congenital anomalies.

King Tut rose to power at the age of nine or ten. It is assumed that due to his young age, he was counseled by powerful advisers and it is assumed General Horemhab and Vizier Ay were among them. During Tut’s third reigning year, he reversed his father’s decree and returned worship to Amun rather than Aten and moved the capital back to Thebes abandoning the city of Akhataten. This is also when he changed his name. With the move, building projects in Thebes were begun as were several projects in Karnak. Many monuments were constructed as the inscription on the king’s tomb door attested. It told that the Pharaoh had ‘spent his life in fashioning the images of the gods”.

Finding a nearly intact tomb was rare. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon, George Herbert found the tomb in the Valley of the Kings, it renewed an interest in ancient Egypt and archeology. Finding the steps to tomb KV62 on this day was impressive. This was the last season Carter’s funds would remain and this gave both Carter and the world a chance to further study of the tombs. He sent a wire to Lord Carnarvon to come and they began their opening of the tomb on November 26 after the noble’s arrival. They finally opened a sealed doorway on February 16, 1923 and found the regal burial chamber and the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen. Carter died of lymphoma at the age of 64 and refuted the Curse of the Pharaohs, dying long after they “violated” King Tut’s tomb.

We were astonished by the beauty and refinement of the art displayed by the objects surpassing all we could have imagined – the impression was overwhelming.

All we have to do is to peel the shrines like an onion, and we will be with the king himself.

With such evidence, as well as the sealed doorway between the two guardian statues of the King, the mystery gradually dawned upon us. We were but in the anterior portion of a tomb.

They were of many types of seals, all bearing the insignia of the King. – all from Howard Carter

Also on this day: Symbolism – In 1899, Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in Germany.
Chartists – In 1839, the Newport Uprising ended in bloodshed.
Erie Canal – In 1825, the “Wedding of the Waters” took place.
Nighty Night – In 1847, chloroform’s anesthetic properties were discovered.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 26, 2011

Howard Carter and his Egyptian find

November 26, 1922: Howard Carter and his financial backer, Lord Carnavon, peer inside KV62. Egypt’s Valley of the Kings was used for 500 years as a burial site for royalty of the 16th through 11th centuries BC. The 18th through the 20th Dynasties used this site primarily for burying their kings. It lies on the west bank of the Nile River across from Thebes (modern-day Luxor). The official name in ancient times was The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes, or more often, Ta-sekhet-ma’at (the Great Field).

The early 18th Dynasty buried only their kings in large tombs with non-royals laid to rest in small rock chambers. Some of the 18th Dynasty kings were buried at Amarna, on the east side of the river. By the end of the Dynasty, there was a return to religious orthodoxy and the west side of the river. The 19th and 20th Dynasties increased the number of people buried in the Valley of the Kings and also in the Valley of the Queens.

The site was known in ancient times as the burial grounds for kings and hence a location to plunder riches. Greek writers Strabo (1st century BC) and Diodorus Siculus (1st century AD) stated that there were 47 royal tombs in the area with 17 of them believed to have been undisturbed. Before the 1700s travel to Thebes from Europe was difficult and expensive. In fact, geography deficient Europeans often confused Thebes with Memphis.

The 1800s saw a boom in exploration of the area. In 1827 John Gardiner Wilkinson was assigned to paint the entryways to all known tombs and designated them KV1 to KV21 with the KV standing for KingsValley. More tombs were later discovered and KV62 was thought to have been undisturbed when found in 1922, but it was entered at least twice not long after the king was first buried there. It is thought that about 60% of the jewelry was stolen. Necropolis officials recovered the jewels and quickly placed them back in the tomb, often packed in the wrong cases. When Carter peered inside in 1922 he was stunned by the majesty and vast treasures hidden in King Tut’s tomb.

“Archaeology is the peeping Tom of the sciences. It is the sandbox of men who care not where they are going; they merely want to know where everyone else has been.” – Jim Bishop

“Evidence doesn’t lie. History may be accurate, but archaeology is precise.” – Doug Scott

“An archaeologist is someone whose career lies in ruins.” – unknown

“Those were the great days of excavating… anything to which a fancy was taken, from a scarab to an obelisk, was just appropriated, and if there was a difference with a brother excavator, one laid for him with a gun.” – Howard Carter

Also on this day:
Instant Camera – In 1948, Polaroid produced an instant picture camera, first sold on this day.
Puck You – In 1917, the National Hockey League was founded.

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King Tut

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 16, 2010

The gold mask of King Tutankhamun

February 16, 1923: Howard Carter opens the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt. Carter used modern archeological methods and meticulous recording of data. He was financed by Lord Carnavon. The tomb’s official name is KC62. It’s located with other tombs for Pharaohs and nobles of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt – the Eighteenth through Twentieth Dynasties. The Valley contains 64 tombs dating from 1539 BC to 1075 BC.

Tutankhamun began his reign at the age of nine with help from vizier Ay. Ay was born a commoner but rose in power to advise at least one other, and possibly two, pharaohs. After Tutankhamun’s death, Ay rose to the throne. Tutankhamun was a minor ruler and reigned for about ten years. In that time, he lifted a ban on worshiping the old pantheon of gods and reopened their temples.

Carter speculated on the cause of death of the boy king. A hole was found at the base of his skull and it was thought that Tutankhamun may have been murdered. Finally, in 2005, after taking over 1,700 images with a CT scan, it was decided that King Tut had succumbed to a case of rapidly spreading gangrene from a broken leg.

The Treasures of Tutankhamun contained 55 objects from the tomb including the famous gold funeral mask and is one of the best known exhibitions in the world. The exhibition was in London’s British Museum in 1972. Between 1976 and 1979, it went on a US tour and was shown in Washington, D.C., Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City and San Francisco before returning to England. While on display in America, more than 8 million people went to see the artifacts discovered in the tomb. It also inspired a song by Steve Martin.

“All the performances of human art, at which we look with praise or wonder, are instances of the resistless force of perseverance; it is by this that the quarry becomes a pyramid, and that distant countries are united with canals.” – Samuel Johnson

“It’s very important to reveal the mystery of the pyramid. Science in archaeology is very important. People all over the world are waiting to solve this mystery,” – Zahi Hawass

“The overseer of the unskilled peasants who dragged stone for the pyramids did not concern himself with morale or motivation,” – Peter F. Drucker

“The pharaohs didn’t lift a finger. That’s king and queen. Mrs. Pharaoh’s fingernails were as immaculately manicured as Elizabeth Taylor’s in Cleopatra. Who built the pyramids? Anonymous slaves down through the centuries.” – Studs Terkel

Also on this day, in 1937 nylon was patented by Dr. Wallace Carothers