One hundred years ago, on November 4, 1922, archaeologists working in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings uncovered the first of 16 steps leading down to a sealed doorway. When they made an opening in the second wall, on November 26, the British Egyptologist Howard Carter (1873–1939) peeked into what turned out to be one of the most sensational discoveries of all time—the virtually intact rock-cut tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun (d. 1324 B.C.E.).
Carter entered the burial chamber on February 16, 1923, but it took another ten years to document and empty the tomb. The small but crowded burial place contained more than 5,300 objects and the bodies of the king and his two stillborn daughters. Almost all the artifacts found their way to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (these are now on view in the newly inaugurated Grand Egyptian Museum). Carter broke Tut’s mummified body into pieces to extract it from the coffin and remove all the precious items. Now, after nearly a century and some more recent X-rays and CT scans, the king is back in his tomb, which reopened for tourists in 2019, following ten years of research, conservation, and infrastructural upgrades.a
Tutankhamun died of uncertain causes at age 19. His reign was short and relatively insignificant, and his tomb is perhaps the smallest royal burial in Egypt. Yet he is probably the most famous of ancient Egypt’s kings, and his name continues to conjure images of splendor and mesmerizing treasures.
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