100 year anniversary: The discovery of King Tut’s tomb

Margie Jones

Finding a Pharaoh

Nearly 100 years ago, the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun was discovered. Here’s a look at one of the greatest archaeological finds in history.

Almost lost

Tutankhamun was about age 9 when he became king of Egypt. He died after a 10-year rule (approximately 1332–1323 BC). His story would have been forgotten if it were not for the discovery of his tomb in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings. It is the most intact Pharaoh’s tomb ever found and it held a wealth of objects that give a unique insight into this period of ancient Egyptian history.

Carter’s excavation endeavors were running low on funding, but he asked for one more season from his financial backer, the Earl of Carnarvon. Lord Carnarvon granted him one more year. The first steps to the tomb were discovered on Nov. 4, 1922.

The tomb

Despite the riches it contained, the tomb of Tutankhamun, No. 62 in the Valley of the Kings, is quite modest compared to the other tombs in the area, both in size and decoration. This is because Tutankhamun came to the throne very young and ruled for about nine years. Scientists believe he died at about the age of 19.

Approximately 5,000 artifacts were discovered inside. These include objects that Tut would have used daily, such as clothes, jewelry, cosmetics, incense, furniture, chairs, toys, vessels made of a variety of materials, chariots and weapons.

Tutankhamun was erased from history because he was the son to the unpopular King Akhenaten, but once his tomb was discovered, his fame surpassed many of Egypt’s greatest rulers.

The tomb became one of Egypt’s top attractions, with about 4,000 tourists a day in the late 1980s.

Beginning in 2009, in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, the Getty Conservation Institute undertook the multiyear conservation effort.

Is there a curse?

Carter’s patron, Lord Carnarvon, died four months after entering the tomb, leading to a “curse of the pharaohs” claim that hieroglyphs on the tomb walls promised swift death to those who disturbed King Tut. More than a dozen deaths have been attributed to the curse, but studies have shown that those who entered the tomb on average lived just as long as their peers who didn’t enter.

Tut on tour

Artifacts from King Tut’s tomb toured the world in museum shows, including the worldwide 1972-79 “Treasures of Tutankhamen” exhibitions.

The most fragile artifacts, including the burial mask, no longer leave Egypt. Tutankhamun’s mummy remains on display within the tomb in the Valley of the Kings. His layered coffin has been replaced with a climate-controlled glass box.

The Tutankhamun collection will eventually move to the Grand Egyptian Museum, located near the Pyramids of Giza.

Coming to Los Angeles and San Francisco

Artifacts not included, but a visual storytelling experience about King Tut will be touring the nation and in Los Angeles soon. National Geographic’s Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience is a cinematic immersive exhibition that takes guests on a journey to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

Visitors can travel back in time 3,000 years to the 18th dynasty when King Tut ruled and gods like Ra and Anubis were worshiped by all. Descend into King Tut’s tomb, 100 years since its historic discovery and join him in his quest for immortality. Experience all of this and more in a story 3,000 years in the making.


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