From an Automobile to King Tut’s Chariot

Post by Darci Clark

Statue of King Tutankhamen

Most people have heard the famous story of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by Howard Carter and his benefactor Lord Carnarvon in November 1922. What may not be so well known are the events that caused them to meet and become part of the greatest archaeological discovery in history.

Lord Carnarvon was an avid motorist, one of the first in Britain, and perhaps a bit of a speed demon. In 1901 he was involved in an automobile accident that changed his life. He was known to have had a weakened constitution, and the crash only exacerbated his condition. His lungs were extremely weakened and he was advised by his doctor to leave England during the cold and damp winter months. He traveled to Egypt for the first time in 1903 and developed an interest in Egyptology.

Howard Carter went to Egypt in 1891 as an artist with the Egypt Exploration Fund. He assisted in the excavation and recording of tombs in Beni Hasan, and even worked with the famous Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie. After spending the next several years recording the temple walls of Hatshepsut, he was appointed chief inspector for the Egyptian Antiquities Service until 1905.

Carnarvon had not had much luck with his excavations when he met Carter in 1907. He decided to hire Carter to supervise digs in Thebes until 1912. In 1914 they received a license to dig in the Valley of the Kings from the Egyptian Antiquities Service. Carter was convinced the tomb of Tutankhamen was still undiscovered, and excavations continued in the Valley of the Kings into 1922, but with no results. Carnarvon told Carter he would only be able to finance excavations for one more season. On November 4, 1922, the first step to Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered.

Five chariots were actually found in the tomb, including one particularly worn chariot that may have been used by Tutankhamen for hunting expeditions. One theory of Tutankhamen’s death is he died from an infection after breaking his leg. And how did he likely break his leg? Falling from his chariot while hunting of course. Perhaps King Tut was a bit of a speed demon too.

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