Categories: World

From the Archives, 1922: Tutankhamun’s tomb discovered

It will take many weeks to recover the objects of the first chamber, and the contents of the other chambers in the tomb are still unknown. The evidence so far suggests that Tutankhamun was co-regent with Akhenaten for some time, but on Akhenaten’s death returned to Thebes and re-embraced the orthodox worship of Ammon.


LONDON, Feb. 19, 1923.—Messages from Luxor state that 50 notables including the Queen of the Belgians, Prince Leopold, Lord and Lady Allenby, and the Dowager Sultana of Egypt, visited Tutankhamun’s tomb.

All expressed them-selves dazzled with the magnificence of the mortuary chamber. The heat in the tomb was intense.

The Queen of the Belgians remained 40 minutes, and was then forced to go out. Lord Allenby and the Belgian Crown Price soon discarded their coats, and went about in shirt-sleeves.

The gold funerary mask of the pharaoh Tutankhamun.Credit:Louie Douvis

As there was only eight inches space between the walls of the tomb and a huge gold embossed and gem-studded series of coffins, in one of which the Pharaoh lies, visitors were forced to squeeze sideways when inspecting the beauties.

It was curious to see the mummified monarch thus holding a levee of people mostly from lands which the King never knew and whose civilisation took tens of centuries to reach a stage of culture equal to his own. Tutankhamun apparently died unexpectedly, and was buried hurriedly, as the pictures on the wall of the mortuary chapel are unfinished. The artists were unable to complete the scheme of decoration though what was done is exquisite in colouring.

Perhaps for the same reason the tomb only consists of four rooms-the first an ante-chamber, the second an annex leading from the ante-chamber the third, the mortuary chapel, and the fourth, an annex to the chapel which is filled with a dazzling array of art treasures.

These testify to the wholehearted manner in which Tutankhamun had accepted the Amen faith when he apostasised from the solar mono theism of Akhenaten.

The sarcophagus in a huge erection 13ft high 16ft long, overlaid with gold and blue glaze.

Probably it will not be opened for several weeks – possibly not until next winter – as the coming season is unsuitable to archaeological work.

It is now known that the sarcophagus consist of at least five sections of which the outermost is decorated on each side with four guardian figures and religious text. Isis with outspread wings covers one end. The goddess Nephthys adorns the other.

An eye-witness of the opening of the tomb says: –

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“We had a weird impression on passing two black-faced figures of the king, who stand as sentinels to the mortuary chamber.


Going through a hole in the wall big enough to allow a tall man to enter, we came upon the huge canopy of the sarcophagus in the bright glare of the electric light.

The feet of the dead king lie toward south. The tomb is a chamber about 4ft below the ante chamber. It does not seem as high as you look into it from the broken doorway, but appears much higher when inside and one falls to distinguish the roof in the fitful flicker of the electric torch.

The wall is decorated in a rich yet soft colour scheme. The design includes figures and inscription, though there has, of course, been no time yet to decipher these.

Beside the sarcophagus were the two sacred oars. These were for the Kings use when the mummy came to be revivified by re-entry of the spirit, and faced the necessity of crossing streams to reach the fields of Osiris. There is also another canopy still arrayed in its cloak of gold, inset with gems.

By the side of this second sarcophagus is a kingly collection of jewels in an exquisite alabaster vase of even more perfect design and craftsmanship than those found in the ante chamber. It is decorated with statuettes of Nephthys and Isis.

The fourth chamber, smaller than the mortuary chapel, is about the size of the annex at the end of the first descending passage to the tomb of which the contents are still un-explored. The contents of this fourth room are much less crowded than the earlier annex. The objects are standing in order. If thieves reached them, they seem to have done no damage.

The contents give an extraordinary picture of the wealth of Tutankhamun’s realm. Two lovely caskets decorated with figures of Isis and Nephthys, contain the canopic jars with the entrails of the deceased.

There is also a large box completely covered with gold. This is 6ft high and 4ft square, decorated with embossed figures; also several boxes inlaid with ivory and ebony and half a dozen funerary boats about 4ft long. Lastly there stands the sledge on which the king s mummy was drawn to its exquisitely decorated tomb.


Practically every object in the fourth room bears Tutankhamun’s cartouche*. Inside the first canopy of the sarcophagus is a vest of gold wire strung with gems and armlets. Attached to it is the Royal regalia.

[*The cartouche of Tutankhamun would be the monarch’s ring bearing his name and titles.]


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