Howard Carter, Egyptologist
The great discoverer of the treasures of King Tutankhamen, Howard Carter, was born on May 9, 1874 to Samuel John and Martha Joyce (Sands) Carter in Kensington, England. A sick, home schooled child, Carter learned to draw and paint from his father, an accomplished Victorian artist. These skills helped Howard Carter well in his career as an archaeologist, working at a time when color photography was non existent.
His passion for Egyptology was awakened in his youth after witnessing a large collection of Egyptian antiquities housed in the mansion of Lord Amherst, who acquainted him to Percy Edward Newberry, a member of the London-based Egypt Exploration Fund. Newberry was at that time seeking an artist to copy the art within the Egyptian tombs on behalf of the Fund.
Howard Carter first visited Egypt in October 1891, arriving in Alexandria at the age of seventeen. He began working at the Middle Kingdom tombs in Beni Hasan. Three months later, the young artist was learning the disciplines of field archaeology and excavation from the great Flinders Petrie. Under Petrie, Howard Carter went from artist to become an Egyptologist, though the former never had a high opinion of the latter.
Nevertheless, Howard Carter's career took off at a meteoric pace, becoming main draughtsman and overseer at the site of the Mortuary temple of Hatshepsut at Deir-el-Bahari in Luxor, and appointed at the age of 25 as Inspector General of Monuments for Upper Egypt by the Director of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, Gaston Maspero.
This is about the time when things took a turn for the worse for Egyptologist Howard Carter. His "stubborn" personality and individual views of his own career and methodologies put him at odds with fellow archaeologists and officials. In 1905, after a bitter dispute with some wealthy French tourists, who complained to higher authorities, Carter was ordered to apologize. His refusal caused him to be assigned to less important tasks, which prompted his resignation. The promising Egyptologist had to resort to his artistic talents to support himself, rather meagerly.
Fifth Earl of Carnarvon
Maspero did not forget Howard Carter, however, and introduced him to George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, about 1908. Lord Carnarvon was prescribed annual wintertime visits to Egypt by his doctor, to aid in a pulmonary ailment.
It was the extraordinary relationship of these two men, the unwavered determination of the Egyptologist and the trust bestowed by his sponsor, that produced the most famous archaeological discovery of all time.
Howard Carter undertook the supervision of Carnarvon's sponsored excavations and by 1914, had secured some antiquities for his patron's personal collection. But his real dream was to find the tomb of an ancient young pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, a glorious period of Egyptian history.
Before the name of Tutankhamen (Tutankhamun or King Tut) became a household word, this pharaoh was first known through a small faience cup inscribed with the king's name found by Egyptologist's Theodore Davis in 1905. Davis thought he had found the looted tomb of Tutankhamen after he discovered an empty single chamber (KV58) containing just a small cache of gold foils with the names of Tutankhamen and his successor Ay.
Both Carter and Carnarvon suspected that Davies was wrong in assuming that KV58 was in fact the tomb they were after, since Tutankhamen's mummy was not found neither among the royal mummies discovered back in 1881 at Deir el Bahari nor at KV35 (Amenhotep II) in 1898. The missing body of Tutankhamen could only mean that his tomb was not disturbed when the ancient priests assembled the royal mummies for protection. Furthermore, it was also possible that the tomb's location was forgotten and, therefore, not robbed in antiquity.
Season after season went by until, no longer capable of sustaining another search, Lord Carnarvon gave up hope and returned to Britain. Carter, however would not give up and persuaded his patron for a last chance.
Only three days after the excavation season began in November 1, 1922, Howard Carter stepped on a platform he found after clearing ancient debris from the construction of tombs. This was the first step of a sunken staircase which, after slow and careful excavation, led the team to witness the intact royal seals of King Tutankhamen for the first time.
Howard Carter had to endure fifteen excruciatingly anxious days for the arrival of Lord Carnarvon to be there with him for this momentous event in their lives. Clearing work was resumed and in the afternoon of November 26, Howard Carter made a small hole in the sealed doorway, inserted a candle and peered into the dark tomb. The wait was well worth, for what lay behind the seals of the royal tomb were "wonderful things" indeed.
renovated Howard Carter Rest House
After Howard Carter left the Valley of the Kings, his rest house was abandoned and neglected. Now it has been turned into a beautiful museum celebrating the work of Howard Carter and it is open to the public for the first time. The house will be open for people to spend the night (at a hefty price), but only for three nights a year.
One room of the house is set aside; it contains a desk and other items behind a glass wall. An image of Howard Carter is projected against this wall and talks to the audience for 20 minutes. It is a great way for people to learn about the history of his life while taking a rest from the hot sun. The other rooms of the house contain furniture and equipment used by Howard Carter, along with descriptions of how they were used.
Outside the Rest House there is a beautiful café, which will be operated by the Winter Palace Hotel, so people may sit outside and enjoy a wonderful view of the West Bank and the Rest House.