Ancient History & Civilisation

Chapter 74

Valley of the Kings

November 4, 1922

HE ORDERED THE MEN to dig. The single step found by the water boy soon revealed more steps, leading deeper and deeper into the hard bedrock a dozen or so feet beneath the entrance to the tomb of Rameses VI.

Carter had worked the valley long enough to know that this was the sort of stairwell associated with tomb construction. The way the rock had been cut was a giveaway.

The men didn’t need to be told what to do. All other areas of the job site were abandoned.

As one group dug deeper, clearing away the hard-packed soil and limestone that covered the staircase, another worked up top. Their job was to hack away the soil around the opening to reveal the stairwell’s true shape and size.

Carter halted the work at nightfall.

But the frantic pace began again at dawn, with the men back to jabbering.

By the afternoon of November 5, it was clear that they had found some kind of great underground structure. They just needed to dig until an entrance was revealed.

Even with the clang of turias and dust choking the air, Carter’s pessimism had returned. He began to ponder the status of the underground chamber.

Was it empty? Had it ever been used? Was it just a storage chamber, or was it actually a burial tomb?

And if it was a tomb, how was it possible that it might have somehow eluded plunder?

The staircase was now a partially covered passageway, measuring ten feet high and six feet wide. Eight steps had been unearthed.

Then nine.

Ten.

Eleven steps.

At step twelve they found the uppermost portion of a door. In his journal, Carter described it as “blocked, plastered, and sealed.”

Sealed. That was a positive sign. Carter began to believe it was possible he had found an unopened tomb.

“Anything, literally anything, might lie beyond that passage,” wrote Carter. “It needed all my self-control to keep from breaking down the doorway and investigating then and there.”

But he was through investigating—at least for now. As the sun set on the Valley of the Kings on November 5, Carter ordered that there be no more excavation.

Instead, as much as he wanted to dig deeper, as much as he needed to, he ordered the men to fill in the stairwell.

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