Ancient History & Civilisation

Chapter 93

Valley of the Kings

December 1922

BACK AT “CASTLE CARTER”—as the news of his discovery sped around the world via cable and telephone—Carter took a moment to think about what he had found and the consequences of that discovery.

The specter of Tut’s death hung over Carter as he peered out at the valley from his home’s lofty viewpoint. He struggled to make sense of the findings inside the tomb—the toy sailboats, the chariots, the golden shrines and shabtis and jeweled amulets—and wondered how a young man so full of life had come to die. Even more mysterious to Carter: Why was the tomb located where it was? And where was the queen buried?

“Politically we gather that the king’s reign and life must have been a singularly uneasy one. It may be that he was the tool of obscure political forces working behind the throne.”

Carter couldn’t help mentally cataloging the valuable artifacts he had found. He wrote of a “painted wooden casket found in the chamber, its outer face completely covered with gesso.” He noted cosmetic jars portraying “bulls, lions, hounds, gazelle, and hare.” Most touching, he thought, were “episodes of daily private life of the king and queen.” But where was her coffin?

He was struck by a painting that depicted Tut accompanied by a pet lion cub and shooting wild ducks with bows and arrows, “whilst, at his feet, squats the girlish queen.” Another such scene showed the young queen offering Tut “libations, flowers, and collarettes.” Still another showed the pharaoh pouring sweet perfume on his queen as they rested together. He had the sense of how young they both were—and how much in love.

Carter was astounded by the gold and jewels found inside the tomb, but he was also stunned by what seemed to be an arsenal.

In the room off the burial chamber, the one with unpainted walls that Carter referred to as the treasury, and in the small room off the antechamber known as the annex, he had discovered an enormous stockpile of weapons: thirteen composite bows, three self bows, and two quivers, one made of linen, and one of durable leather; two hundred seventy-eight arrows, many with bronze arrowheads; and an elaborately carved bow case decorated in gold leaf.

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The tomb of King Tut. Because it was small in comparison with many other royal tombs, each room was packed with Tut’s belongings.

The largest bow suggested that Tut was a man of some strength, as it was more than six feet in length.

Certainly, Tut was no peaceful king. And just as certainly, he had a fondness for pursuits other than archery. The annex also contained throw sticks; several shields; a leather cuirass that would have been fitted to protect Tut’s chest and shoulders; as well as swords, boomerangs, clubs, and daggers.

Tut clearly was not his father’s son. “The possessor of the bow could bring down the fleetest of animals and defend himself against the enemy,” Carter noted.

In one corner, lost amid the towering bows of the hunt and war, was one Tut would have shot as a child. It was just a foot and a half tall, and its lone arrow was six inches long.

Carter again found himself wondering about the circumstances surrounding Tut’s death and concluded that it might not have been an accident. “The sense of premature loss faintly haunts the tomb. The royal youth, obviously full of life and capable and enjoying it, had started, in very early manhood—who knows under what tragic circumstances?—on his last journey from the radiant Egyptian skies into the gloom of that tremendous Underworld,” he wrote.

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