It is easy for people living here in Cairo to pop in to the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square and visit the glorious objects discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 by Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter.
We can gaze raptly at the glorious golden mask, the superb golden sarcophagus or the magnificent golden throne and appreciate what a wonderful discovery the tomb was when it was opened.
Tutankhamun (c) Metropolitan Museum of Art
As we look at the boy-king’s toys, his linen clothes and the 139 ebony, ivory, silver and gold walking sticks he used, we can understand how the world was captivated when the treasures were first brought to light almost 92 years ago.
Clasped hands (c) Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
By 1907, Carter had become an experienced archaeologist and was employed by George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, to lead his excavations of ancient tombs on the Theban west bank, opposite modern day Luxor.
Howard Carter (c) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford
In 1914, the opportunity to dig in the Valley of the Kings presented itself and both men jumped at the chance to search for one of the last royal tombs to be located, that of Tutankhamun.
Lunch in the tomb of Ramesses XI (c) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford
Years of fruitless excavation followed, and by 1922 Lord Carnarvon could no longer afford the costs and decided to terminate the work.
Carter persuaded him to undertake one more season, and within days of the renewed digging Carter wrote in his diary, on 5 November: “Discovered tomb under tomb of Ramses VI – Investigated same & found seals intact.”
Carter opens shrine (c) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford
The discovery caused a sensation, and when The Times of London gained exclusive access to the excavation, other newspapers were frantic to get news and photographs of the breath-taking objects as the tomb was slowly excavated of its treasures.
Guardian Statues (c) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford
Soon photographs of the tomb and its spectacular contents taken by the excavation’s photographer, Harry Burton, were seen around the world.
Tourists (c) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford
Reporting on the story in February 1923, a New York Times correspondent wrote: “There is only one topic of conversation…One cannot escape the name of Tut-Ankh-Amen anywhere.”
King Tut Lemons (c) Brier-Remner Collection
“It is shouted in the streets, whispered in the hotels, while the local shops advertise Tut-Ankh-Amen art, Tut-Ankh-Amen hats, Tut-Ankh-Amen curios, Tut-Ankh-Amen photographs. There is a Tut-Ankh-Amen dance tonight at which the piece is to be a Tut-Ankh-Amen rag.”
Carter the Great (c) Brier-Remner Collection
The public was in the grips of what became known as ‘Tutmania’.
Old King Tut (c) Brier-Remner Collection
Throughout the 1920s, Egypt and its boy-king were celebrated in film, advertising, popular music, fashion, and design.
Jacket (c) Museum of London
This summer the exhibition “Discovering Tutankhamen” at the Ashmolean museum displays objects from ancient Egypt’s Amarna Period (about 1350–1330 BC), with material from the archives of Oxford’s Griffith Institute, celebrating its 75th year in 2014.
Princesses (detail) _ Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
The exhibition tells the story of the discovery of the tomb, its popular appeal, and to explore how modern Egyptologists continue to interpret the evidence.
On display are Harry Burton’s iconic photographs, Carter’s hand-written diaries, and the sketches and records made in the tomb as it was cleared from 1922–32.
Horse sketch drawn by Howard Carter (c) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford
Much of this material, from the Tutankhamun archive in the University of Oxford’s Griffith Institute, has never before been exhibited in public.
Horus (c) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford
Other highlights include some of the finest art from the Amarna Period, on loan from major international museums and from the Ashmolean’s own superb collections.
Nefertiti Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Akhenaten from the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Objects which illustrate the frenzied enthusiasm for ancient Egyptian art and culture, including 1920s jewellery and fashion, decorative arts, and vintage posters and advertisements, explore the 1920s ‘Tutmania’ and the fascination with Tutankhamun that endures today.
Cartier brooch (c) Private Collection
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford, England is the world’s first university museum and was built in 1678–1683. In November 2011, new galleries focusing on Egypt and Nubia were unveiled.
The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford
Professor Christopher Brown CBE, Director of the Ashmolean, says: “Discovering Tutankhamun tells a thrilling story of archaeological discovery and explores its impact on both scholarship and popular culture. The exhibition shows archival material which has never been seen in public before, with major loans from around the world, and provides the opportunity to re-examine pivotal moments in both ancient and modern history.”.
Novel – Private Collection
For more details about this fascinating exhibition please check out the museum’s website: www.ashmolean.org/