February 3, 2014

Explorer Profile: Howard Carter and the Tomb of Tutankhamen

Howard Carter was born in 1874, in London, England, and showed early signs of following in his father’s artistic tradition. Legend has is that Carter first showed interest in archaeology when his father painted the portrait of an Egyptologist. Carter went on to get his first job at age 17, as an artist commissioned to sketch artifacts found at a dig in Egypt.

Traditionally saddled camels gaze out over the Pyramids of Giza.

Traditionally saddled camels gaze out over the Pyramids of Giza.

While Carter worked for many notable archaeologists and Egyptologists, it is safe to assume that he had an entrepreneurial spirit. His head was always in the clouds, dreaming of being a great archaeologist. In 1907, he was hired by the English Lord Carnarvon (a wealthy aristocrat who was fascinated by Egypt) as lead archaeologist to dig the site KV62 in the Valley of the Kings, where it was believed that the great pharaoh Tutankhamen had been laid to rest. All of Carter’s wildest Egyptian dreams were about to come true. 

In his journal of the excavation, Carter wrote: “The Valley of the Tomb of the Kings — The very name is full of romance, and of all of Egypt’s wonders there is none, I suppose, that makes a more instant appeal to the imagination,” (Carter, 50).

Getting the permit to dig at KV62 alone took seven years, and then another eight years of digging before a young water boy playing in the sand discovered a stone step. On November 6, 1922, Carter and Lord Carnarvon walked across the threshold of that which they had only dreamed about for fifteen years: Inside, they found treasures en masse, and (if this is any indication of how much treasure there was) one year later they found the sarcophagus (and mummy, of course!) of the legendary king of Egypt buried safe within the innermost chamber.

In his journal, Carter wrote of the sights that beheld him upon entering the tomb for the first time: “Surely never before in the whole history of excavation had such an amazing sight been seen as the light of our torch revealed to us.” He goes on to describe the treasures: statues of kings, alabaster vases, shrines to Egyptian gods, robes of Jaguar pelt, golden chariots, thrones of jewels and inlaid gold, gilded snakes and furniture crafted from only the finest materials ancient Egypt had to offer, all inscribed with the name “Tutankhamen.”

Carter and his team spent ten years excavating the entire site, cataloging the artifacts and preparing them to be showcased all over the world. Many explorers, Egyptologists and archaeologists (and sometimes even grave robbers!) had excavated other burial sites near Carter’s find, but all have paled in comparison since the discovery of King Tutankhamen. Carter and his team are often credited with sparking an interest in Egypt and its ancient culture with their discovery of King Tut (as he’s commonly referred to). After finishing the dig, Carter toured around the United States and Europe with the artifacts, teaching others the things he had found in the Sahara desert’s Valley of the Kings, and inspiring others to pursue their dreams to the utmost.

Howard Carter certainly inspired us to explore the deserts of Egypt! (Psst! Have you gotten your copy of Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Egypt yet?) Travels with Gannon & Wyatt Egypt


Happy Travels!

 Patti Wheeler


“The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen” by Howard Carter. Dover Publications, Inc., New York. Copyright 1977 by Dover Publications, Inc. , originally published by Cassell and Company, Ltd, London, 1923.