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  • Writer's pictureGreat Wonders of Egypt

Tut Ankh Amun: Archeology of the Tomb

This tomb in which the king was found intact with his treasures was originally prepared for the aging high priest of Karnak. The unexpected death of the king caused a rapid alteration of plans in the valley. The high priest Ay, took the concession from Tut to cut his tomb in the valley. The royal architect started the work in the tomb, but before decorating any of the walls, king Tut died. Plans were changed and the tomb must be prepared to receive a royal burial. The walls should be decorated and the funerary furniture must be made in the workshops of Karnak.

The architecture of this tomb was rather simple. It is the smallest in the valley. The tomb is cut down in the bed rock of the valley. , Its white limestone with flinty masses and occasional veins of calcite. The entrance stairway comprises of 16 steps about 1.68 m wide. The last 6 steps and the door jambs have been cutaway by the ancient workmen to enable the larger pieces of the furniture to pass, such as; the sarcophagus & the wooden shrine panels. After burial, they were reconstructed. Carter had to cut them again to take the large pieces out. This entrance led to a corridor which was full of rubble and sand at the time of the discovery. It wasn’t decorated and at the end there was another blocked doorway. This led to the antechamber.

The antechamber is 7.85 m long, 3.55 m wide & 2.68 m high. The walls are not decorated or smoothed. At the time of the discovery, the mason’s measuring marks were still visible. On the west wall of this chamber, there was another blocking leading to the Annex. The floor of this room drops 1 m below that of the antechamber. A third blocking was made on the north wall of the antechamber. This leads to the burial chamber. This partition wall was constructed out of rough limestone splinters and dust, bonded with pieces of timber and plastered over. The burial chamber is 6.37 m long, 4.02 m wide and 3.63 m high. The floor here drops 1 m below that of the antechamber.

Before decorating the walls of the burial chamber, small niches had been cut in the north, east west & south walls. They are called the magical niches and they were containing statues of Osiris & Anubis. In antiquity, after putting these statues inside, the niches were blocked and plastered over. The walls of this chamber are plastered with gypsum and painted.

When the tomb was closed after the king’s burial, the plaster was not fully dry. The reason for suggesting this is the damage caused to some objects in the burial chamber due to humidity. On the northeast corner of the ceiling, traces of smoke could still be seen. It’s coming from oils & torches used by the ancient artists. A doorway in the east wall of the burial chamber leads to the treasury. The treasury is 4.75 m long, 38 m wide & 2.33 m high. The walls are undecorated.

On the whole, Carter considered the cutting of the tomb good. However, there was a big fault in the stone, which probably responsible of the fungus growth on the decorated surfaces.

The Antechamber

Facing the doorway of the antechamber there were 3 gilt couches. Their sides are carved in the form of monstrous animals. Between them, around them, piled on top of them, there were other countless objects exquisitely painted and inlaid.

On another side, there were overturned chariots glistening with gold and inlay.

On a third side, two black statues with gilded kilts and sandals were flanking the doorway to the burial chamber.

This room contained about 700 objects. The clearance began on 27th DEC 1922 and finished on 16th FEB 1923. There was always the danger of a piece when removing another piece from its place. In some cases, they had to devise a system of props and supports to hold one object in place while removing another one.

The Burial Chamber

After cutting a small hole in the blocking of the burial chamber, Carter used his torch to see what’s behind this wall. To his amazement, it was a wall of solid gold. This was the wall of a gilded wooden shrine in which there were three others containing at the end the body of the king. In between the walls of these shrines, many objects have been found.

Taking all of these objects outside the tomb took 8 months, from NOV 1924 to DEC 1925. Their total number was over 300.

The Treasury

Facing the entrance of the treasury, a statue of Anubis was found wrapped in linen cloth and recumbent on a portable chest. After removing it in OCT 1926, a head of a cow was found behind it. Large numbers of black boxes containing statues of the king were found. Model boats were found intact with their sails and riggings. This room had more than 500 pieces.

The annex This is the storage room of the tomb. Work began at the end of OCT 1927 and finished in the spring of 1928 (6 months). To Carter the antechamber was an organized chaos, but this was chairs itself. Although being the smallest room in the tomb, it contained 2000 pieces. The annex had been intended as a storage room for oils, unguents, foods & wines, beds & chairs. As Carter described it, first there were 40 pottery wine jars placed on the floor, next to them some 35 heavy alabaster vessels were found, some still preserving their contents. 116 baskets of fruit were placed in this room. The remaining space was used for other furniture, boxes, stools & chairs.

The Burial of the King

This was the first tomb to be found intact. So everybody was wondering what could be found inside the burial chamber. Is the mummy still preserved or it had decayed? Egyptologists had a shrewd idea of what to expect. A papyrus in Turin had preserved the plan of the tomb of Ramses 4th. It showed the sarcophagus surrounded by 5 shrines and a linen pall. Another papyrus provided a graphic description of a king’s mummy adorned with jewels & accompanied by his weapons.

In an interview with the Times on 18th DEC 1922, lord Carnarvon stated his ultimate archaeological fantasy. He was expecting to find an alabaster sarcophagus, in which there will be the ordinary wooden coffin. Then a second coffin of thin wood finely lined with silver. Finally a third coffin of thin wood richly gilt. The mummy will be encased in sheet gold about the thickness of the tin used for making tobacco boxes.

Immediately behind the blocking of the burial chamber there was the nest of the floorless gilded shrines placed one inside the other. The larger sections were of cedar, held together by tenons of oak, Christ's thorn wood & bronze. Each shrine is copper-bound at its lowest edge. To the east end of each of them a double folding doors were fitted. The doors were held shut by ebony bolts sliding within massive, silver-coated copper staples, two further staples on each door had been intended to receive a cord binding & seal. The 4 shrines altogether are composed of 51 wooden pieces, weighing from a few kilos to half a ton. This was not an easy task, especially after the shrinkage of the base wood and the crack of the gesso layer above it. That’s why Carter and his team were very careful in dealing with the shrines. As Carter said “we bumped our heads, nipped our fingers, we had to squeeze in and out like weasels and work in all kinds of embarrassing positions”.

After 81 days of manual labor employing only the most primitive lifting gear, the shrines were dismantled. Conservation began in 1928 and it wasn’t before 1930 that they were strong enough to be transported to Cairo museum.

The sarcophagus of the king is carved out of a single block of quartzite. On the 4 corners, 4 tutelary deities are carved spreading their winged arms to envelope the sarcophagus and protect the king. On the short side of the sarcophagus 14 vertical lines of hieroglyphic are inscribed, however, on the long side 6 vertical lines. A representation of the ujat eye is clearly carved.

The lid of the sarcophagus was of granite. This lid is 1.25 ton. It had been found cracked in the middle. This may have happened during the burial of the king due to the hurried installation. The crack was restored by filling it with gypsum and painting it in red to resemble the granite’s color. After lifting the lid, the awaited moment had come. His majesty will be unveiled.

The first to be seen was a linen shroud enveloping the king. The small granite chips falling on the linen were very clear. After unrolling the linen bandages, the anthropoid coffin was revealed. It was made of wood covered with gold foil inlaid with lapis lazuli and other semiprecious stones; it showed the serene expression & calmness on the king’s face. The thickness of the gold foil was varying from one place to another. Over the forehead, a snake & a vulture were represented. All around them was a small wreath composed of olive leaves and other flowers resembling the blue cornflower. The olive leaves had been carefully arranged to show alternately their green front and silver beck surfaces.

The lid of this coffin was removed and the anticipated second coffin was revealed. The entailment of this coffin was far richer. The linen shroud of this coffin was covered with floral garlands. Lifting the lid of this coffin was almost impossible without removing the shell of the outer most one. A copper wire was placed under the shell of the second coffin, while strong metal eyelet was screwed carefully into the edge of the shell of the outer coffin. By lowering the shell of the outer coffin, the second coffin was left suspended. After removal of the shell of the outer coffin from the tomb, the second coffin was opened. The lid of the second coffin was attached to its shell by 10 silver tenons, inscribed with the name of the king. After its removal, it revealed the inner most coffin which is made out of pure gold weighing 110 kg. This coffin was covered with a thick layer of pitch-like material. It proved to be 2 buckets full of perfume poured over the king’s mummy. After cleaning it the gleam of gold filled the tomb.

The lid of this coffin was attached to its shell by 8 gold tongues, 4 on each side. After lifting the lid of this coffin, the mummy of the king was disclosed. The noble mummy of the king was covered with perfumes except for the mask and the golden hands holding the royal insignia.

The mask is made of two separate sheets of gold. It stands without parallel as a masterpiece of the Egyptian metal workmanship. The two sheets of gold are remarkably consistent in thickness and joined by hammering. The head cloth is inlaid with opaque blue glass in imitation of lapis lazuli. The eyes of the king are of quarts and obsidian, and convey a distinctly life-like impression.

As the wrappings of the mummy were gradually removed, 150 magnificent items of jewelry, superb amulets and other objects were brought to light. All of them were fashioned and positioned to ensure immortality for the king.

The Mummy of the King The unwrapping of the mummy of Tut began on 11th Nov 1925 in the outer corridor of the tomb of Seti II. It was a great event attended by Carter’s team and some Egyptians dignitaries. An enormous quantity of perfumed resin was poured over the mummy. That’s why it was difficult to take away from its coffin.

After unwrapping the mummy completely, it proved to be not of an excellent state of preservation. The penis was wrapped in the erect position. No traces of pubic hair were found, it was clean shaven. And it was difficult to establish whether the king was circumcised or not.

The head was firmly attached to the mask. To free the head, hot knives were used successfully.

The head was clean shaven. The skull was empty except from a small amount of resinous material introduced through the nostrils.

The mouth was plugged with resin and the nose was flat, probably due to the pressure of linen on the face. The mummy of the king was re-examined in 1968. The king was 1.68 cm tall, died at the age of 18, cause of death unknown.

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