Howard Carter

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Howard Carter

Howard Carter (9 May 1874 – 2 March 1939) was an English archaeologist and Egyptologist, noted as a primary discoverer of the tomb of Tutankhamun.

In 1891, at the age of 17, Carter, a talented young artist, was sent out to Egypt by the Egypt Exploration Fund to assist Percy Newberry in the excavation and recording of Middle Kingdom tombs at Beni Hasan. Even at that young age he was innovative in improving the methods of copying tomb decoration. In 1892 he worked under the tutelage of William Matthew Flinders Petrie for one season at Amarna, the capital founded by the pharaoh Akhenaten. From 1894 to 1899 he then worked with Edouard Naville at Deir el Bahri where he recorded the wall reliefs in the temple of Hatshepsut.

In 1899, Carter was appointed the first chief inspector of the Egyptian Antiquities Service (EAS). He supervised a number of excavations at Thebes (now known as Luxor) before he was transferred in 1904 to the Inspectorate of Lower Egypt. Carter resigned from the Antiquities Service in 1905 as a result of an affray between Egyptian site guards and a group of French tourists, in which he sided with the Egyptian personnel.

Tutankhamun's tomb

In 1908, after three hard years, Carter was employed by Lord Carnarvon. In supervising Carnarvon's excavations Carter imposed modern archaeological methods and systems of recording.

Carnarvon financed Carter's work in the Valley of the Kings from 1914, but it was interrupted by World War I until 1917, when serious work was resumed. After several years of fruitless searching, Carnarvon became dissatisfied with the lack of results and, in 1922, he gave Carter one more season of funding to find the tomb he was searching for.

On November 4, 1922, Carter's water carrier found the steps leading to Tutankhamun's tomb (subsequently designated KV62), by far the best preserved and most intact pharaonic tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings. He wired Carnarvon to come, and on 26 November 1922, with Carnarvon, Carnarvon's daughter, and others in attendance, Carter made the famous "tiny breach in the top left hand corner" of the doorway, and was able to peer in by the light of a candle and see that many of the gold and ebony treasures were still in place. He did not yet know at that point whether it was "a tomb or merely a cache", but he did see a promising sealed doorway between two sentinel statues. When Carnarvon asked him if he saw anything, Carter replied: "Yes, wonderful things".

The next several months were spent cataloging the contents of the antechamber under the 'often stressful' oversight of Pierre Lacau, director general of the Department of Antiquities of Egypt.[1] On 16 February 1923, Carter opened the sealed doorway, and found that it did indeed lead to a burial chamber, and he got his first glimpse of the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun. All of these discoveries were eagerly covered by the world's press, but most of their representatives were kept in their hotels; only H. V. Morton was allowed on the scene, and his vivid descriptions helped to cement Carter's reputation with the British public.

Carter's own notes and photographic evidence, indicate that he, Lord Carnarvon and Lady Evelyn Herbert entered the burial chamber shortly after the tomb's discovery and before the official opening.[2]

Later work and death

The clearance of the tomb with its thousands of objects continued until 1932. Following his sensational discovery Howard Carter retired from archaeology and became a part-time agent for collectors and museums, including the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Arts. He visited the United States in 1924, and gave a series of illustrated lectures in New York City and other cities in the United States which were attended by very large and enthusiastic audiences, sparking Egyptomania in the United States.

He died of lymphoma, a type of cancer, in Kensington, London, on 2 March 1939[3] at the age of 64. The archaeologist's death, so long after the opening of the tomb despite being the leader of the expedition, is the most common piece of evidence put forward by sceptics to refute the idea of a "curse of the pharaohs" plaguing the party that violated Tutankhamen's tomb.

Carter is buried in the Putney Vale Cemetery.[4] On his gravestone is written: "May your spirit live, May you spend millions of years, You who love Thebes, Sitting with your face to the north wind, Your eyes beholding happiness"[5] and "O night, spread thy wings over me as the imperishable stars".[6]

In popular culture

Film and Television

Carter has been portrayed by the following actors in film and television productions;[7]


He appears as a character throughout most of the Amelia Peabody series of books by 'Elizabeth Peters' (a pseudonym of Egyptologist Dr Barbara Mertz). He appears as a character in much of Arthur Phillips's The Egyptologist.

In the book The Tutankhamun Affair by Christian Jacq he is a key character.[8]

He appears as a main character in A Cloudy Day on the West Side, a novel by Egyptian writer Muhammad Al-Mansi Qindeel [9]

He is a main character in James Patterson and Martin Dugard's The Murder of King Tut

He is referenced in "The Adventures of Tintin, The Seven Crystal Balls." Herge. Published in 1944 by Le Soir. ISBN 2-203-00112-7

He is referenced in "Wedding of the Season," by Laura Lee Guhrke. In the historical romance novel, Carter's telegram to the fictional Egyptologist Duke of Sunderland of England reports discovering "steps to a new tomb" and creates a climatic conflict. Published 2011 by Avon Books. ISBN 978-0-06-196315-5


In Search of the Pharaohs - a 30-minute cantata for narrator, junior choir and piano by composer Robert Steadman, commissioned by the City of London Freemen's School which uses extracts from Carter's diaries as its text.[citation needed]

Finnish metal band Nightwish mentions Carter in the song Tutankhamen on their debut album Angels Fall First: "For Carter has come / To free my beloved"


A paraphrased extract from Howard Carter's diary of 26 November 1922 is used as the plaintext for Part 3 of the encrypted Kryptos sculpture at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.[10]


  1. Wikipedia - French edition
  2. Reeves, C.N., Valley of the Kings 'Kegan Paul, (1990) p.63
  3. "Howard Carter, 64, Egyptologist, Dies". The New York Times. 
  4. Putney Vale cemetery Retrieved 16 February 2010
  5. from the Wishing Cup of Tutankhamun
  6. C.f the prayer to the Goddess Nut found on the lids of New Kingdom coffins: "O my mother Nut, spread yourself over me, so that I may be placed among the imperishable stars and may never die." (
  7. Howard Carter (Character). Retrieved on 8 May 2008.
  8. hello people of 2day Tutankhamun Affair Retrieved 23 May 2009
  9. Book reviews Retrieved 17 March 2010
  10. Redmond J and Ensor D Cracking the code: Mysterious 'Kryptos' sculpture challenges CIA employees at CNN, 19 June 2005

Further reading

  • James, T.G.H. Howard Carter: The Path to Tutankhamun. London: Kegan Paul International, 1992 (hardcover, ISBN ); London: Tauris Parke, 2001 (paperback, ISBN )
  • Reeves, Nicholas; Taylor, John H. Howard Carter: Before Tutankhamun, London: British Museum Press, 1992 (hardcover, ISBN ); New York: H. N. Abrams, 1993 (hardcover, ISBN )
  • Carnarvon, Fiona; Carnarvon & Carter - The story of the two Englishmen who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, Highclere Enterprises LPP, 2007.
  • Vandenberg, Philipp. The Forgotten Pharaoh: The Discovery of Tutankhamun. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980 (hardcover, ISBN )
  • Winstone, H.V.F. Howard Carter and the Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Manchester: Barzan Publishing, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN ; paperback, ISBN )
  • Peck, William H. "The Discoverer of the Tomb of Tutankhamun and the Detroit Institute of Arts", Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, Vol. XI, No. 2, March, 1981, pp. 65–67

External links

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.