Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Howard Carter: Archaeologist or Grave Robber

In 1922 a tomb of a Pharaoh was discovered in the cemetery of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. In the Valley of the Kings and for the very first time, a tomb that was still sealed. The world waited in awe to see what was inside. The first person to look inside was the person that had been searching for this tomb for years. Then the waiting was over and the British archaeologist Howard Carter peered into the dusty tomb. What he saw was something remarkable. He saw toys, the toys of a boy. Then he knew he had discovered the tomb of King Tut.

Carter and King Tut

Until today, the tomb of the Pharaoh boy King Tut remains the richest royal collection ever found in Egypt. After years of futile searching the tomb with its rich collection of artefacts in gold caused a sensation and even today, it still gets the most attention of all the tombs in the Valley of the Kings.

Damaged Mummy

One would assume Carter would look after the boy once he discovered the boy was still in the tomb. Sadly this was not the case. Carter did what he wanted to do and one thing was to see what treasure was with the boy. The 3000-year-old body of Tut was damaged. The body that lay safely in the sarcophagus had a golden mask and that was worth more than the body itself for Howard Carter and his team.

Eventually the mummy lost the tug of war and ended up in 18 pieces. The neck broke off completely. Carter also removed all the amulets and jewels and recorded their position on the king's body.

The Royal Mummy Re-examined

In 1968 a team of scientists opened the mummy that Carter said he re-wrapped in 1926 and found he had lied. The royal boy was covered by a simple sheet on a tray of sand almost exactly like in the pictures seen from him taken in 1926.

The arms, both were severed from the chest at the shoulders. Also the forearms and hands had been amputated so that they could have removed his bracelets. The legs were removed or amputated at the hip, knees and even at the ankles to establish the age of the young king.

Furthermore the body trunk was completely separated from the pelvis to facilitate its removal from the mummy coffin. The boy had to give up his mask but with this also his head as this was severed from the cervical vertebrae. Tissue at the back of his head was also destroyed in the attempt to get the mask.

Cover Up of the Damage

Since Carter knew what they had done to the King boy, they used a sand tray to support the mummy while being photographed. This camouflaged the damage. Lastly new pictures in 1968 showed that in 1926 the boy still had a right ear and a penis. This was gone in 1968.


When Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the Pharaoh King Tut in the Valley of the Kings the world praised his efforts. Then in 1068 when the boy was opened for research the team was shocked to see the condition of the mummy. Contrary to reports by Carter and his team, the mummy was not re-wrapped and his body had been severely damaged. His legs and arms were amputated to remove bracelets and his head was broken off to remove his golden mask. In hindsight Carter seemed to have treated the discovery in the way Grave Robbers did with the other tombs. Sadly the boy did not get the proper attention, one fitting a King.