IT ALL BEGAN when Davis and Edward Ayrton discovered a hidden doorway made of mud bricks and stamped with the image of a jackal watching over nine captives. This seal for the necropolis guard signified that a mummy was inside.
Next to that was stamped another symbol, this one representing Tutankhamen.
They immediately kicked down the door and tore away the bricks with their bare hands, then entered a narrow hall.
A sloping corridor led to the burial chamber. Rocks littered the floor. A piece of wood decorated with gold leaf showed the image of Queen Tiye, known to be the mother of the “heretic king” Akhenaten.
At the end of a hallway was the main chamber. It was heavily damaged by water, but the seals of Tutankhamen could be seen everywhere on the walls.
A casket lay on the floor.
Once it had rested atop a wooden platform, but time had rotted that away, and the coffin had toppled over. The lid had popped open, and when Davis looked inside, he was delighted to see a mummy staring back at him.
Portions of the bandaging were unwrapped. Davis could see hair and teeth and the remnants of a nose.
He plucked a hair, then wiggled a tooth, trying to determine the mummy’s condition. Not surprisingly, it gave way in his hands.
Davis was dismayed but only for an instant. Not even waiting for Ayrton’s help, he struggled to lift the mummy into his arms and carried it out into the sunshine as if it were a small child.
He stood there, dazzled, as tourists stared at him in utter shock and amazement.
After confirming that the mummy was a woman, Davis made a judgment: based on the evidence, he was holding the remains of Queen Tiye. He was now convinced that the tomb was that of Tutankhamen. All he had to do was dig deeper, and he was certain he would find the pharaoh himself.
Standing in the center of the Valley of the Kings, cradling a thirty-three-hundred-year-old woman, Theodore Davis was triumphant and flushed with acumen and success.
He was also dead wrong about everything.