When he glimpsed into the hole punched into the top corner of the door, he was completely struck. Strange sculptures of animals were silhouetted against the twilight that was slowly subdued by the glitter of gold. Inside the door a world buried 3,000 years ago revealed its magnificent details.
Howard Carter was born into a family of artists in Kensington, England. Carter, like his painter father, also had artistic talent. Thanks to his outstanding drawing skills, at the age of seventeen he had a chance to assist in an excavation at Beni Hassan, Egypt, where he began his archeological career with the task of copying ancient Egyptian tomb decorations of the Middle Kingdom.
Later he took part in the excavation of Amarna, founded by the pharaoh Akhenaten, then recorded the wall relief in the temple of Hatshepsut, situated in the ancient necropolis of Thebes. Carter did not receive academic credentials, his archeological skills were gained by fieldwork. In 1915, he began his long search to find and excavate the tomb of Tutankhamun, the pharaoh of the 18th dynasty (reigned 1335 BC- 1325 BC), in the Valley of the Kings.
On November 4, 1922, one of Carter’s assistants discovered traces of stairs leading down to an unearthed place at the tomb of Ramses VI. After cleaning up the stairs Carter found a sealed entrance. Having realized the significance of the discovery, he immediately sent a telegram to Lord Carnarvon who was the patron of the excavation.
Fortune smiled on Carter because the lord had been running out of patience and was about to cut his sponsorship. After six unsuccessful excavation seasons, Carnarvon issued an ultimatum to the archeologist: if the season of 1922 also ended in failure he would not continue to finance the excavation.
Finally, Carter, together with Lord Carnarvon, opened the bricked up entrance, decorated with the seal of King Tut. Tutankhamun’s tomb was almost untouched. The sensational findings provided a wealth of information about Egyptian funerary customs and events of the era, but they were also a great scientific challenge for Carter. When the tomb revealed its secret, more than 5,000 artifacts waited to be documented by Carter. He also had to work out the safe removal of artifacts and mastermind the preservation project as well. The gigantic work lasted for ten years, ending in 1932.
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