The Opening of Tut’s Tomb
“Slowly, desperately slowly it seemed to us as we watched, the remains of passage debris that encumbered the lower part of the doorway were removed, until at last we had the whole door clear before us. The decisive moment had arrived. With trembling hands I made a tiny breach in the upper left hand corner. Darkness and blank space, as far as an iron testing-rod could reach, showed that whatever lay beyond was empty, and not filled like the passage we had just cleared. Candle tests were applied as a precaution against possible foul gases, and then, widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in, Lord Carnarvon, Lady Evelyn [Lord Carnarvon’s daughter] and Callender [an assistant] standing anxiously beside me to hear the verdict. At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold – everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment – an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by – I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, ‘Can you see anything?’ it was all I could do to get out the words, ‘Yes, wonderful things.'”
The Finding of Tut’s Sarcophagus
This was the recollection of Howard Carter (below) of the opening of the long lost tomb of Tutankhamen – “King Tut”. This moment as remembered by Carter came on November 26 of 1922. But it was after
carefully excavating the contents of the find for over two years, that on this date – January 3 of 1924 he uncovered the greatest treasure of the tomb–a stone sarcophagus containing a solid gold coffin that holds the mummy of Tutankhamen. The tomb had in fact been entered previously by grave robbers, but they had not gotten to the main burial chamber containing the sarcophagus with the Pharaoh’s remains in the fabulous gold mask pictured above. Never before had so much of a royal tomb been found intact. It was the richest such find ever made, and remains so to this day.
The Unrest Leading to Tut’s Reign
Tutankhamen came to the throne of Egypt at the very young age of 9. His reign followed a period of tremendous upheaval in the Kingdom of Egypt. His royal predecessor, Amenhotep IV had initiated a monotheistic period – the worship of the Aten, or the physical disk of the sun. He changed his name to Akhenaten (“servant of Aten”), and moved the religious capital from Thebes to the new city of Akhetaten. He then thoroughly shocked the country by attacking Amun, the highest ranking of Egypt’s God’s, and closing his temples throughout the country. This sent shock waves through all levels of Egyptian society.
Tut’s Reign and Mysterious Death
It must have been a great relief when Tut took the throne and changed his name from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamen (“The image of Amur”). He restored the old religion, and apparently (judging from the reliefs and paintings found in his tomb) underwent the normal activities of a Pharaoh – campaigning with the Army and riding and driving a chariot. Clearly enough given his youth, his death was unexpected. The cause of Tut’s death remains a mystery. An X-ray made of his mummy in 1968 revealed the presence of a small hole at the base of his skull. This gave rise to speculation that the young Pharaoh may have been murdered. But a full body CT scan done on the mummy in 2005 gave a more detailed picture of Tut’s condition at the time of his death at @ age 19. The hole in the skull was likely caused by the original embalmers. He suffered from no major diseases, and was seemed to be in good health. However his chest cavity was in great disarray. His sternum as well as several of his rib bones were missing. Thus he may have sustained wounds in battle, or perhaps as a result of a chariot accident. The real truth may never be known. Whatever the cause of Tut’s death, his reign marked nearly the end of the 18’th Dynasty. Shortly after his reign, Ramses I came to the throne, and began a new royal line.
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