The Valley of the Kings was chosen by Thotmose 1st in the 16th century BC
to be his burial ground. For the next 500 years, all the kings of the new kingdom followed his example. The last one to dig his tomb in the valley was Ramses 10th in the 11th century BC. After his time, dismantling the valley began. The treasure buried with the king was a great temptation for thieves. The lure of buried treasure was the target & the dream of every excavator came to the valley. It was the greatest motivation.
One of those was Theodore Davis, a retired American lawyer who started excavations at 1902. Davis had an amazing good luck. Between 1902 & 1914 he discovered more than 30 tombs of varying significance. His interest in careful clearance was minimal; his employment of photography and the least conservation methods was almost non-existent. His publications manage to record everything but the facts.
Davis came to finding Tut’s tomb on several occasions. The first in 1905, his Egyptologist, Ayrton, found a faience cup bearing the name of Tut-Ankh- Amun under a rock in the valley. The second in 1907, when the pit labeled number 54 was found. Bags of linen containing natron salt & jars have been found in this pit. The jars had remains of clay seal impressions with the name Tut and dockets dated year 8 of Tut-Ankh-Amun reign.
Most probably this was the embalming cache of Tut. The third time forDavis with Tut was in 1909. He found pit 58. Gold foils, a shabti figure & a harness stripped from a chariot were found. They all bore the name ofTut. Those three finds made Davis to conclude that he has excavated the tomb of Tut and the valley is now exhausted with excavations. He stopped digging in the valley in 1914.
He was born in 9th may 1874, the youngest of 11 children. His father was an animal illustrator working for illustrated London news. The formal education of Howard Carter was minimal but he was talented in painting and drawing. In 1891 he was introduced by coincidence to one if the most prominent Egyptologists of the time. He was impressed with Carter’s talent. Being so, he took him to Egypt to be a draughtsman in the excavations of Bani Hassan. This was in OCT. 1891; Carter was only 17 years old.
Later on, he was involved in excavations at El Amarna on behalf of William Amhurst, later first baron Amhurst of Hackney. Flinders Petrie was supervising this excavation. He dismissed Carter and said a faint praise about him, ”he is a good natured lad, gifted in painting, but it is of no use to me to work him up as an excavator”.
Carter left to England in the winter of 1892, but his enthusiasm for Egyptology was intense & real.
In 1893 he was employed by the Egypt Exploration Fund as a painter. They were starting their 6 years excavation at the Valley of the Kings & other Theban sites. For most of the time, Carter was copying scene and inscriptions from the walls of Dier El Bahari temple.
Now, a very important post was vacant in the Antiquities Organization. Maspero was appointed head of this department. He was impressed with Carter & they spent sometime working together in Thebes. One of Maspero’s first acts in 1899 was appointing Carter in the newly established post, inspector of the monuments of Upper Egypt.
From January 1900 Carter became involve d in all the excavation activities in the west bank of Luxor. He was working with Davis and they found the burial of Thotmose 4th Carter was doing his job very well. He was awarded by being promoted to the more prestigious post of inspector of Giza & Sakkara in 1904.
At Sakkara, one particular incident had coast him his career. In 1905 a French party was visiting the Serapium. They refused to pay for tickets. After insulting all the guards, all agreed to pay but 3. The paying & un-paying rushed into the Serapium. They didn’t find any torches, so they came out trying to take their money back. Carter was present at the moment and he dismissed them without paying their money back.
Unfortunately, they were friends of the French consul, so an apology was demanded from Carter. He was dismissed from the department.Carter spent the next few years working as an antique dealer. He was a middleman for the Metropolitan & many private collectors. He was taking15% commission from these deals. The introduction to Lord Carnarvon was the best chance he had.
To be continued...