Ancient History & Civilisation

Chapter 76

Valley of the Kings

November 24, 1922

THE FOLLOWING DAY, Carter, along with Lord Carnarvon and Lady Evelyn, arrived at the site. For Carter this had been a thirty-year wait, but even for the Carnarvons the suspense must have been great.

The heavy boulders were rolled away from the tomb. Then Carter’s men began clearing the steps.

One group dug away the bits of debris while another swept the steps clean. But this was not as simple as shoveling sand out of a hole, for as they dug deeper and deeper, ancient artifacts mixed with the soil.

Lady Evelyn was beside herself about the historical significance of it all, lovingly studying each new pottery shard or amulet—scarabs, they were called—that turned up in the mountain of dirt.

But Carter’s spirits soon plummeted. In his mind these bits of rubble confirmed that he had found not a tomb but a royal trash heap. “The balance of evidence would seem to indicate a cache rather than a tomb,” he admitted dourly, “a miscellaneous collection of objects of the Eighteenth Dynasty kings.”

The shards were stamped with the names of kings he knew well: Amenhotep the Magnificent, Akhenaten, Tuthmosis. Less than pleased with what he was seeing, Carter passed the day looking down from the top step, thinking this might be the end of his career—and an ignominious final chapter at that.

When he was not having such thoughts, he was bent to the ground sifting through whatever new shovelful of dirt the workers had exhumed, now and then admonishing them to be careful. His mood blackened further.

Finally, “by the afternoon of the 24th the whole staircase was clear, sixteen steps in all, and we were able to make inspection of the sealed doorway,” he wrote.

He was terribly disappointed by what he saw.

“The tomb was not absolutely intact, as we had hoped,” he wrote.

Someone had been there before Carter.

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