Utankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922 and provided a great insight into ancient Egypt. There is much to learn about the discovery, including when and how the tomb was found, and why it had such an impact.
For example, it may surprise you that Tutankhamun is heartless or that the tomb has been broken into twice before.
Tutankhamun, or King Tut, was born in 1342 BC, in the ancient city of Amarna. He ruled Egypt as pharaoh for 10 years from the age of nine until his death at the age of 19, around 1324 BC.
It was not well known in the modern world until 1922 when British archaeologist Howard Carter chiseled into the intact tomb of King Tutankhamun.
There are different theories about what killed King Tutankhamun. He was tall but physically frail, with disabling bone disease in his clubbed left foot. Traditional consanguinity in the Egyptian royal family probably also contributed to his poor health and early death. DNA tests published in 2010 revealed that Tutankhamun’s parents were brother and sister.
His remains revealed a hole in the back of his skull, leading some historians to suggest the young king had been killed, but recent evidence suggests the hole was made during mummification.
CT scans in 1995 also showed the king had an infected broken left leg, while DNA from his mummy revealed evidence of multiple malaria infections, all of which may have contributed to his early death.
10 secrets of Tutankhamun’s tomb
1. King Tutankhamun’s tomb was very well hidden
Tombs were usually covered to protect them from being discovered by looters, and the tomb was eventually found under more than 150,000 tons of rock, including rubble from a tomb carved into the hillside above his own.
2. It was believed that the grave would not be found
Experts believed that all the tombs in the valley had already been looted in ancient times or discovered more recently by archaeologists.
3. Howard Carter went against public opinion to find the grave
Before King Tutankhamun’s tomb was found in November 1922, from the bottom step of a stairway leading to the tomb, the team nearly gave up. Carter dug for years before this, including during the First World War.
4. This wasn’t the first time King Tutankhamun’s tomb had been raided.
Although the door at the bottom of the stairs was sealed, the tomb had been broken into twice before.
The thefts had taken place shortly after the burial, 3,000 years before Carter’s discovery. The thieves had mainly stolen smaller items, such as gemstone beads.
The old officials had plastered over the openings in the outer door and sealed it with new seals after the last breach. An interior door leading down a sloping corridor had also been broken and resealed.
5. Tutankhamun was buried in the most expensive coffin in the world
Two of Tutankhamun’s three coffins were made of wood and covered with gold leaf. The inside of the coffin was made of thick sheets of beaten gold. This coffin is 1.88 m long and weighs 110.4 kg.
If scrapped today it would be worth over £1 million.
6. Created new standards for archeology
Carter carried out techniques he had learned in previous jobs, setting a new standard for meticulousness and thoroughness.
The team used electric lighting (which was an innovative tool at the time), set up by Harry Burton, the world’s most accomplished archaeological photographer.
And the numbered cards were placed next to the individual artifacts in the photos before any objects were moved. Carter also took detailed notes and sketches before packing up the inventoried treasures.
7. The discovery improved our understanding of Egyptian history.
The tomb provided valuable information on Egyptian history, with chariots, weapons, clothing, and artwork reflecting the methods of warfare and who Egypt considered its enemies.
And intact coffins helped archaeologists understand elaborate burial practices.
8. “Tutmania” spread throughout the world
Burton’s detailed photos allowed the news to reach a worldwide audience.
Egyptian and Tutankhamun motifs appeared in popular music and fashion, architecture and decoration, and even in fruit brands.
9. Egypt retained control of Tutankhamun’s antiquities
King Tutankhamun’s treasures did not leave the country. Lord Carnarvon hoped to claim a large part of the antiquities but, because Egypt was asserting its independence from Britain at the time of the discovery, the government insisted that they all remain in Egypt.
10. Today, King Tutankhamun continues to inspire a new generation of archaeologists.
Tut quickly became a symbol of Egyptian identity at the time of discovery. Now more than 5,000 treasures from the tomb will be the centerpiece of a new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo.