Highclere and TutankhamunSeptember 30, 2014
Tutankhamun was buried in 1325 BC and his tomb discovered by the 5th Earl of Carnavon and Howard Carter in 1922 AD.
George Edward Stanhope Molyneaux Herbert was born in London in 1866 as the son and heir to the Estates and Earldom of Carnavon. As 5th Earl, upon his father’s death in 1891, he inherited Highclere Castle.
The Earl seemed to have a need for speed and enjoyed horse racing, car racing and in the early 20th century was fascinated by the new airplanes. Following a series of car crashes, in one of which he nearly died, Carnavon was advised by his doctors to spend winters in a warm climate away from the chills of England. The Earl decided to go to Egypt.
In 1905, the Earl decided to spend 3 months in Egypt and applied for a concession to excavate in Thebes. He was given an unpromising site and at the end all he had to show for his efforts was mummified cat case. He returned the following year, arranged for a better site, and returned each year for the next 17 years, except for the World War I (Great War) years.
Howard Carter had moved from London to Egypt at age 17 to work as an archeological draughtsman. By 1999, at age 25, Carter was working for the Antiquities Service (jointly run by the British, Egyptians and French) in Egypt as Inspector-in-Chief for Upper Egypt and Nubia with a headquarters and house at Luxor.
In the early 1900’s Carter and Carnarvon met and began a collaboration that lasted some 17 years with Carter becoming Carnarvon’s man and partner in Luxor.
In 1914, Carnarvon acquired the concession to excavate in the Valley of the Kings from an American – Theodore Davis. The American believed that there was nothing more to find in the Valley of Kings. A few months later came the outbreak of World War I and Carnarvon was unable to return to Egypt until the end of the war in 1919.
By the spring of 1922, Carnarvon was coming under increasing financial pressures. He had sole his Nottinghamshire house and estate and was now selling land in Somerset around Highclere and Newbury, trying to pay post war taxes. The Egyptian archeological digs were becoming a significant financial burden. Carnarvon had decided to cease his involvement with the digs and sell his rights to dig in the Valley of the Kings. But Carter was very persuasive and Carnarvon agreed to support one last year in the Valley. There was one last area that the two men wanted to explore in the Valley.
In November 1922, Carter wrote in his diary
“Presently my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, gold… everywhere the glint of gold… for the moment an eternity… I was struck dumb with amazement and, when Lord Carnarvon… enquired anxiously ‘Can you see anything’. It was all I could do to get out the words: ‘Yes, wonderful things’.”
“3000 – 4000 years maybe have passed and gone since human feet last trod the floor on which you stand… and yet, the blackened lamp, the fingermark on the freshly painted surface, the farewell garland dropped upon the threshold you feel it might have been yesterday… time is annihilated by little intimate details such as these.”
By February 1923 Carter and Carnarvon were able to climb down in to the burial chamber that was completely occupied by the first of four huge Golden Shrines nested around the sarcophagus.
Carter and Carnarvon knew they had made a historic archeological discovery. Carnarvon left for London to meet with experts from the Metropolitan Museum of New York and the British Museum, while Carter travelled to Cairo to acquire supplies and assemble a team needed to record, document, photograph, preserve and manage the excavation. They also needed to manage the press because the news of the discovery had become a world event.
Lord Carnarvon’s health was already poor. He had returned to Cairo in March 1923 to begin the process of negotiating with the Egyptian government on the details of his excavation when he was recuperating on a dahabayah on the Nile and was bitten by a mosquito.
The Earl began to suffer from recurring high fevers. His daughter Evelyn was nursing him. Howard Carter rushed to Cairo to be with him. His wife flew out from England and nursed him night and day. Carnarvon’s health was reported around the world. However, he died from pneumonia brought on by septaecemia on April 5, 1923.
Tutankhamun’s small, but crowded tomb in the Valley of the Kings yielded 5,398 artifacts. Howard Carter spent five years after the death of Lord Carnarvon clearing and cataloging the contents of the tomb.
This is how an English manor home became forever linked with the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh.
Bill Powers is author of The Pharm House a debut suspense/thriller from DonnaInk Publications.
Visit my website at https://www.authorbillpowers.com
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