OH, HOW THE MIGHTY had fallen!
Howard Carter stood outside the Winter Palace Hotel with a clutch of watercolors under one arm. His jacket was threadbare, with unsightly patches at the sleeves. The shoes on his feet weren’t much better, the leather unpolished and worn.
He set up his easel near the great marble steps leading up to the hotel lobby, praying that some fool tourist might take a shine to one of his paintings. The sale would net him much-needed money for whiskey and cigarettes, and perhaps even a civilized lunch inside the hotel.
Howard Carter may have become a street bum, but he still had standards.
His problems had begun when he was transferred away from the valley by the Antiquities Service. His new posting, near Cairo, meant that Davis had to find a new executive Egyptologist. Even worse, the ancient tombs at Saqqara proved to be an administrative nightmare for Carter.
When he had allowed his Egyptian tomb guards—quite justifiably—to use force against a drunken mob of French tourists, it became an international incident. After nine months of increasing shame and disgrace, Carter had been forced to resign.
Truth be told, he desperately wanted to get back to the valley. He still hoped to find Hatshepsut’s mummy—and maybe even the ever-elusive virgin tomb.
That tomb, if recent events in the valley were any indication, might belong to a long-forgotten pharaoh named Tutankhamen. King Tut had somehow slipped through the cracks of history—or been purposefully edited from it.
His name was nowhere to be found among the many shrines and temples where the succession of pharaohs had been chiseled in stone. In 1837, British Egyptologist Sir John Gardner Wilkinson had noticed the name on a statue. But other than that single mention, Tutankhamen was virtually unknown.
Ironically, it was the American Theodore Davis—the man Carter had originally persuaded to finance a valley concession—who had stumbled upon interesting new evidence about Tutankhamen.