Ancient History & Civilisation

Chapter 88

Valley of the Kings

November 26, 1922

“LET ME HAVE A LOOK,” the earl demanded. “It’s my turn to see. It’s my turn now.”

Carter not-so-politely ignored him. He had waited too many years for this incredible moment. If anything, it was even better than he could have imagined. He had finally done it! Wonderful things.

Carter handed the candle to Callender, exchanging it for a flashlight. He played the beam slowly over the contents of the chamber, spellbound. “Never before in the whole history of excavation,” Carter wrote, “had such an amazing sight been seen as the light of the electric torch revealed to us.”

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“Wonderful things.” Carter taking his first look inside the tomb of Tut.

This tomb—or cache or whatever it was—did not merely hold a few stray pieces of antiquity. Rather, it overflowed with gold and other priceless treasures.

Carter’s eyes now began to distinguish shapes, and he mentally cataloged the amazing contents.

Straight ahead were “three great gilt couches, their sides carved in the form of monstrous animals, curiously attenuated in body, as they had to be to serve their purpose, but with heads of startling realism.”

“Next, on the right,” he would later write, “two life-sized figures of a king in black facing each other like sentinels, gold kilted, gold sandaled, armed with mace and staff, the protective sacred cobra upon their foreheads.”

There was so much more: inlaid baskets, alabaster vases, bouquets of golden flowers and leaves, and a gold and wood throne with a delicately carved inlay.

The room was packed floor to ceiling with furniture, statues, pottery, and all the accoutrements of a wealthy Egyptian.

Then, even as Carter tried desperately to maintain his vigil, he felt a pair of wiry hands yanking him backward, “like a cork from a bottle.”

It was Carnarvon.

Planting his feet firmly on the stone floor, the surprisingly powerful earl took hold of Carter’s shoulders and finally muscled him aside. The earl was not in good health, so the effort left him breathless.

Yet all was forgotten as he snatched the flashlight from Carter’s hand and pressed his nose through the opening.

Once again, Carnarvon was rendered breathless.

Behind Carnarvon stood Carter, slouched against the wall and beaming at Lady Evelyn. Her eyes were riveted on Carter, in awe of the great discovery, but even more, of Carter’s passion for his work. Lady Evelyn was one of England’s leading debutantes, a woman destined for a life of wealth and status. Howard Carter was many steps beneath her on the social ladder. Yet as she had become her father’s companion on trips to Egypt over the previous two years, the attraction between Carter and her had become intense. Lord Carnarvon had taken to keeping a close eye on them.

Only now he wasn’t looking. So Carter and Evelyn locked eyes in the dank hallway, “the exhilaration of discovery” bubbling between them. They were struggling to hide their emotions from Callender.

A dazzled Lord Carnarvon finally turned round, gesturing that it was Evelyn’s turn to look inside. “Come, come. It’s amazing, my dear! You must see for yourself.”

Only then did Carter’s focus return, allowing him to ask himself the most obvious question: If this is a tomb, then where is the mummy?

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