On February 16, 1923, in Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter entered the sealed burial chamber of the former Egyptian ruler, King Tutankhamun.
Because the ancient Egyptians regarded their pharaohs as gods, they carefully preserved their bodies after death, burying them in elaborate tombs containing rich treasures to accompany the rulers into the afterlife. In the 19th century, archaeologists from all over the world flocked to Egypt, where they discovered a number of these tombs. Many had long been burgled by thieves and stripped of their wealth.
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When Carter arrived in Egypt in 1891, he was convinced that there was at least one undiscovered tomb – that of the little-known Tutankhamun, or King Tut, who lived around 1400 BC and died as a teenager. Backed by a wealthy British man, Lord Carnarvon, Carter searched for five years without success. In early 1922, Lord Carnarvon wanted to cancel the search, but Carter convinced him to hold out for another year.
In November 1922, the wait paid off, when Carter’s team found steps hidden in the debris near the entrance to another grave. The steps led to an ancient sealed door bearing Tutankhamun’s name. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the interior chambers of the tomb on November 26, they were delighted to find it virtually intact, with its treasures intact after more than 3,000 years. The men began to explore the four rooms of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Carter opened the door to the last chamber.
Inside was a sarcophagus with three coffins nested within each other. The last coffin, in solid gold, contained the mummified body of King Tut. Among the riches found in the tomb – golden shrines, jewelry, statues, a chariot, weapons, clothing – the perfectly preserved mummy was the most valuable, as it was the first to be discovered. Despite rumors that a curse would fall on anyone who disturbed the tomb, its treasures were carefully cataloged, removed and included in a famous traveling exhibition called the “Tutankhamun’s Treasures”. The permanent home of the exhibition is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
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