(ORDO NEWS) — Egyptomania has long seemed to us something familiar. Well, who does not know about sphinxes, Amenhotep, cat worship and strange hieroglyphs on huge golden tombs?
We watch films about the pharaohs, read books about the mysterious Queen Nefertiti and perceive as part of our lives the entire ancient Egyptian culture, which seems so far away and so close at the same time.
But it was not always so. To be honest, it wasn’t like that even just 100 years ago. Even at the beginning of the 20th century, Egyptology was a rather specific science, which was practiced only by British fanatics.
Yes, the pyramids stood and attracted sophisticated tourists back in Napoleonic times, but the wide heritage of the Nile civilization, with all its golden splendor and unusual religious traditions, did not interest even those who lived in Egypt.
Excavations and searches for unusual treasures of the ancient world have long been the prerogative of a rather narrow circle of enthusiasts. This continued until November 4, 1922 …
On that day, archaeologist Howard Carter, who worked in the Valley of the Kings on the money of patron George Carnarvon, discovered the tomb.
Later it will be called the “Tomb of Tutankhamen” – after the name of the pharaoh buried in it. And the opening, which took place on November 29, instantly became the main event of the year. And gave rise to the first wave of Egyptomania.
How was the tomb opened?
The first large-scale research in Egypt began in the 19th century. Archaeologists have studied ancient culture mainly from burials. At some point, scientists discovered that the Egyptians had a centuries-old tradition of embalming the bodies of the dead.
According to ancient Egyptian beliefs, the soul of a person “Ka” exists even after his death, so the body must be preserved intact, and food and part of his wealth must be left to the deceased. Incense, gold, jewelry and even chariots were found in the tombs.
By the end of the century, the so-called Valley of the Kings became one of the most popular sites for excavations. It is located near modern Luxor.
This is a fairly vast territory, where dozens of various burials were found. A huge part of all the Egyptian artifacts that we now see in museums was found there. Thutmose I, Ramesses II, Amenhotep III are just some of the galaxy of buried pharaohs.
By the 1900s, it already seemed that the Valley of the Kings was completely explored. Large archaeological groups began to gradually leave Luxor for other regions. From 1908 to 1922, not a single major discovery was made in this area.
And in 1914, the last great philanthropist, Theodore Davis, refused his concession (permission for excavations from the authorities). True, just a few months later, the document was bought by Lord George Carnarvon.
He had been studying Egypt for a long time, but he did not differ from other scientists either in special knowledge or in luck. And there were practically no discoveries on his account. But one thing still fueled the desire of the businessman…
Very long ago, half a century before the events described, he read the work of another Egyptologist about Tutankhamun.
This is a completely unknown, not particularly remarkable ruler of the New Kingdom, who died quite early, and descendants tried to erase his name from history.
A couple of mentions and a pedigree – that’s all Carnarvon had.
However, he knew one important thing: in the Valley of the Kings they found all the relatives of Tutankhamen… Except for himself.
The Lord hired an expert on ancient Egyptian art, Howard Carter, gave him a serious sum and told him about Tutankhamen.
The archaeologist shared the idea of his patron and considered it strange that the tomb of the little king, which probably contained untold riches, was never found. After long discussions and preparations, the start of work was scheduled for 1917.
The central part of the Valley of the Kings, where the tomb of Tutankhamun was supposed to be, was covered with tons of garbage, sand and rubble over the millennia.
In fact, five years (or rather, five winters, because of the scorching sun it was possible to work in Egypt, mainly only from October to March), archaeologists spent only taking out all the extra mound.
They even equipped a railway to the excavation site, along which rubble trains left weekly, gradually exposing ancient burials.
Despite the confidence that he was right, gradually the hands of the patron and the archaeologist began to fall: five years without even a hint of any tomb. Thousands of pounds thrown into the sand and months of life left near Luxor.
The 1922/1923 season was supposed to be the last for the explorers: either they find the tomb, or they forget about the Valley of the Kings forever.
It was at this moment that Carter, who arrived from England, decided to buy a funny canary bird in the local market for the winter. An Arab servant of the archaeologist told him that yellow birds always bring happiness.
In early November, archaeologists began excavations at the site where they actually wanted to start. But then fellow researchers convinced them that there was definitely nothing in this square and could not be. That’s why it was left for last.
The area, by the way, was located next to a popular tourist destination – the tomb of Ramses VI. Excavations had to be carried out right in front of onlookers.
On the evening of November 2, workers managed to find a stone step – the first traces of a man in the endless desert in five years of Carter’s work. She was four meters from the tomb of Ramesses.
Two days later, it became clear that there was a tomb in front of the researchers. Lord Carnarvon was urgently summoned from London. No one dared to continue without him. The patron was able to arrive only three weeks later.
Together with Carter, they cleared the door that covered the tomb. On it, in ancient Egyptian, it was clearly written: “Nebkheprura” – the throne name of Tutankhamun.
Who is Tutankhamen?
Around the XIV century BC, already in the time of the New Kingdom, Pharaoh Akhenaten came to power in Egypt. In just 17 years of his reign, he managed to carry out the most difficult reforms for the entire ancient Egyptian society.
It was something akin to a war between Catholics and Anglicans in medieval England, only Akhenaten refused the god Ra and ordered all subjects to worship the Aten.
Priests of other cults were persecuted and killed. In addition, for a lot of money, the lord rebuilt the city of Akhetaton from scratch and moved the capital there.
Just a few years after the death of Akhenaten, Egypt returned to the old cult.
And the pharaoh himself was recognized as a traitor to the state and all references to him and his relatives were erased from history, up to the moment when the right of succession passed to another dynasty.
About Akhenaten’s family can only be learned from a few rare sources, such as the books of the French scholar Emile Priss.
It was he who first said that the unreliable pharaoh had a son who also became the ruler of Egypt, and at only 10 years old. It was Tutankhamun.
The guy himself ascended the throne after the return of the old cult. And he supported him, judging by the name he took, which literally means “Living likeness of Amon.” Tutankhamun, together with his regents, managed to move the capital to Memphis and generally pursued a conservative policy.
True, he did not have time to remember anything significant: he suddenly died at the age of 15. Few people knew about the pharaoh, who ruled for only five years, and even serious scientists did not remember him for 70 years – until the discoveries of Carter and Carnarvon.
Significance for culture
It took another three long years to simply select all of Carter’s finds from the tomb. It turned out that inside the tomb there is an entrance hall, in which hundreds of gifts to Tutankhamun were collected, a huge burial room with an ark.
In which the pharaoh’s sarcophagus was located in nine layers, a separate treasury in which the lord’s jewelry and artifacts were placed, as well as a pantry in which many more items that Tutankhamun had to use after death.
Further research showed that the tomb had been plundered at least twice before being discovered. True, both crimes were committed thousands of years ago, and the thieves did not touch anything except the simplest jewelry and incense.
Then they were considered very valuable. Gold, luxurious dishes and clothes of the pharaoh were not touched.
Due to its rather secretive location, the tomb of Tutankhamen is almost the best preserved in Egypt. As a result, thousands of artifacts have been delivered to museums around the world, many of which are still on display.
The view of the tomb of the little pharaoh has become a classic for popular culture. What you imagine with the words “the ancient Egyptian ark and sarcophagus” is, most likely, it is she who is the tomb of Tutankhamen.
The discovery gave rise to an unprecedented interest in ancient Egyptian culture in the entire previous history.
He was written about on the front pages of the world’s main newspapers, the media fought for the right to cover further excavations.
A huge flow of tourists poured into the provincial city of Luxor, which no one really needed, because of which people had to sleep on the streets, because there were not enough hotels.
The famous “curse of the pharaoh” seems to be just a fiction of the media of those times. The thing is that after the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, Lord Carnarvon died suddenly, either from exacerbation of pneumonia, or from the bite of a malarial mosquito.
From this story, journalists inflated the myth of the dark forces that guarded the burial. In addition, according to one of the notes in the newspaper of those times, negligent Arab workers, after opening the sarcophagus, pulled off the towel with which the pharaoh was covered.
A few minutes later, the canvas allegedly disintegrated in their hands, and the men themselves became infected with a mysterious virus and died.
Later, sand storms and the invasion of scarabs were added to these legends, with which those researchers who dared to disturb the dead supposedly have to fight … But we will talk about this in detail in another material.
The very image of ancient Egypt is a derivative of the Egyptomania that swept the whole world after the discoveries of archaeologists in 1922.
Whether it was masquerade dressing up as Cleopatra or films about the curse of a mummy, none of this would have happened if it were not for the excavations of Carter and Carnarvon, who were already ready to turn off the expedition right a few meters from the discovery of the century.
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