The discovery of the grave

Ulrike Götz

Childhood and first employment

On May 9th 1874 in London Kensington Howard Carter, the discoverer of Tutankshamun’s grave, was born. He has grown up in the little town of Swaffham.

He was the youngest of eleven children. His father was a streetartist who has been painting many animalszenes which where popular at the time. Due to his weak health Carter was homeschooled.

His artistic side was pushed by his father.  Located near Swaffham is Didlington Hall where Lord and Lady Amherst resided. They owned one of the largest ancient Egyptian antique collection. Lady Amherst introduced Carter to Percy Newberry, who was a well respected Egyptologist, who recognized Howard Carters talent. As his mentor Newberry helped  Carter to find access in the world of archeology.

At the age of just seventeen years Carter received his first employment by the Egypt Exploration Fund. He helped Newberry to copy the reliefs, first in Beni Hassan and later in Dei el-Bersha. He worked very precise, however very slow. This was the reasonhis brother William was also employed for one excavation season.

Sir Flinders Petrie, the founder of the systematic field archeaology digged together with Carter a few years later in el-Armarna, the capital of pharaoh Echnaton. 20 years later the bust of Nofretiti was found there, you can find it in the New Museum in Berlin today.

Afterwards Carter begann his second employment in the Egyptian museum in Cairo. His new supervisor Gaston Maspéro has seen Carters stubbornness and his work enthusiasm.

Through the patronage of Maspéros, Cater became antique custidian for upper Egypt and Nubia, a job he took very serious. One of his first official acts was the instalation of lights within the graves in the valley of the kings.

Now it was possible for him to return the favor Lady Armherst  gave him, by getting her a excavation permission by Assuan and working there activly. He also tracked down tomb raiders and returned the stolen artifacts to the Egyptian museum. Carter begann to chase Abdel Rasul, a very experienced tomb raider. Carter tried to convict Rasul by a selfmade picture of his footprint, which was not valued by the judges. Not until the stolen artifacts appeared in the antiquemarket Carters proof of evidence was  approved.

Carter became friends with the pensioned lawyer, Theodore Davis, who had a digging permission in western Thebes. Within 12 campaigns after 1902 Carter and Davis found the graves of Horemheb, a successor of Echnaton and queen Hatshepsut. Even the coffin of Echnaton and his mummy where found. Today however the identification is controversal because it also could have been his successor Smenkhkare. The discovery of Thutmose IV. robbed, yet decorated tomb can be seen as Carters first big breaktrough.

Due to Cartes stubbornness he lost his job in the socalled “Saqqara-affair”. Little is known about this incedent, because Carter barely spoke of it.

Its been told that Carter was working on the underground labyrinth of the holy apis-bulls a big tourist attraction. According to Newberry drunken french tourist wanted to see it without paying the entrance fee. One of the french apparently punched the security guard which lead to a racket. The called up Carter advised the guard to defend himself.

After the tourists returned to Cairo, they immediately complained by the frensh consul general. Who requested an apology from Carter. Carter refused to apologize because he just discharged his duties.

Maspéro even tried to convince Carter himself, as that showed no signs of impact, Maspéro even tried to use Carters friends as intermediators. But Carter stayied stubborn and therefor lost his position.

Another version of the story is, that some visitors of Petrie requested a guide through mastaba. After they irrupted in the quarters of Petries wife a racket has begun, which called up Carter. It is hard to tell who started to provoke. It is hard to tell, if Carter resigned or if he has been dismissed. This Conflict lead to diplomatic involvements.

For a few weeks he stayed over the house of his former supervisor. A few years later he made a living as salesman, interpreter and  watercolorist.

Davis employed him again, this time as graphic artist. Thats how Carter became witness of the discovery of the tombs of Juja and Tuja, the grandparents of Echnaton.

After discovering the tomb of Horemheb, the successor of Echnaton, Davis made second important discovery in the year 1906. A small faience vessel with the cartridge of Tutankhamun. A year later he dug up a sinlge cave chamber. A small broken box was found there, contained within the box, where multiple small and thin golden plates with the names of Tutankhamun and Eje.

Davis couldn’t be sure, if he found the grave of Tutankhamun within the small bare chamber. A few days later he had found another grave filled with pots, dried up festoons and sacks full of natron. All the tags had Tutankhamuns name on it, now I was clear Davis had found Tutankhamuns tomb.