“At last have made wonderful discovery in Valley; a magnificent tomb with seals intact; re-covered same for your arrival; congratulations.” These words were cabled by the British archaeologist Howard Carter to his sponsor, Lord Carnarvon, in Luxor, Egypt, on Nov. 4, 1922. Carter was with workers excavating in the Valley of the Kings, a narrow gorge near modern-day Cairo that was used as a cemetery by the pharaohs (rulers) of ancient Egypt. That morning, they had uncovered a stone step, which Carter recognized as the first trace of the entrance to a royal tomb.
Nothing further could be determined until the heavy rubble above the steps was cleared away. Within two days, Carter had cleared enough debris to see that he had found what he had been searching for over six years–the nearly intact tomb of a pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. The tomb’s appearance indicated that it had not been opened since ancient times.
Three weeks later, Carter was finally able to open the tomb. On November 23, Lord Carnarvon and his daughter, Lady Evelyn Herbert, arrived in Luxor. The following day, the workers had again cleared the staircase, now exposing all 16 of its steps and the full face of the sealed doorway bearing the name of Tutankhamun. On November 25, Carter and Carnarvon, along with Carnarvon’s daughter and one of Carter’s assistants, were the first to enter the tomb and view its contents.
Carter later wrote: “At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold–everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment–an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by–I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, “Can you see anything?” it was all I could do to get out the words, “Yes, wonderful things.”
The four rooms of Tutankhamun’s tomb contained more than 5,000 objects, including many beautiful carved and gold-covered items. A magnificent lifelike gold mask of Tutankhamun covered the head and shoulders of the royal mummy. The site remains the only tomb of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh to be discovered almost completely undamaged.
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