Ancient History & Civilisation

Chapter 6

Didlington Hall

1891

CARTER STEPPED into the cool entryway. This was much better. The great expanse was lined with expensive paintings and other works of art, some of which dated to the eleventh century.

A butler showed Carter to the library.

Lady Amherst was there, as was her youngest, twenty-five-year-old Alicia. They greeted Carter warmly and introduced him to an affable stranger who clearly had a flirtatious relationship with Alicia. Carter didn’t much like that, but what Alicia did wasn’t his concern.

The stranger was a bony young man in his early twenties named Percy Newberry. His face and hands were deeply tanned from hours outdoors, and his face was half covered with a prominent mustache.

Carter soon learned that Newberry was an Egyptologist who was pursuing Alicia’s heart and Lady Amherst’s pocketbook. He was fresh from a November–April stint along the Nile, surveying ruins at a place called Beni Hasan.

Lady Amherst, who had always loved Carter, was obviously keen on having the two of them meet. He wasn’t sure why.

But Carter sat and listened eagerly as Newberry told incredible stories about life on the Nile. He spoke of working in the tombs from first light all the way through to the evening meal, then devoting the greater part of the night to study and discussion. Newberry’s tone was intense, and he had a deep passion for his work. Carter liked him instantly.

It also turned out that Percy was something of a botanist, which seemed a rather unusual sideline for a man laboring in such a barren location. But Carter remembered that Alicia also enjoyed botany, and then their connection made sense.

On behalf of the British Museum, Newberry’s expedition had undertaken to create a visual record of the drawings and colorful hieroglyphics inside the pharaohs’ tombs before they completely faded away—something that often happened when ancient drawings were exposed to air and the presence of human beings. The task was enormous. There were some twelve thousand square feet of wall drawings to sketch.

And while the job had gone well at first, the relationship between Newberry and his sketch artist had soured. Now, as he was raising money to fund another season in Egypt, Newberry was also searching for a new sketch artist. The job required someone with significant knowledge of Egypt and a talent for drawing and painting.

That person, it soon became obvious, was Howard Carter.

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