Discovering the king
Cut into the Thebes mountains in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor in Egypt, the cavernous tomb of the Boy King was filled with priceless artefacts.
Tutankhamun died young but has left a rich legacy of tomb treasures.
THE GOLDEN MASK: A likeness of the king Tutankhamun.
With mounting excitement, Howard Carter, an English archaeologist, financed by Lord Carnarvon, opened the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. The first mortal who laid eyes on Tutu's tomb treasures was amazed by the grand and intricate design of the objects found within. It took years to sort out and catalogue the over 3,500 objects. The cavernous tomb was cut into the Thebes Mountains in what is known as the Valley of the Kings, near the town of Luxor, Egypt.
Tutankhamun (Tutu), known as the "Boy King" became a pharaoh at a young age and ruled Egypt from 1333 - 1323 B.C. of the 18th Dynasty in the "New Kingdom". He died in his teens but has left a rich legacy unmatched by any other pharaoh in so far as tomb treasures are concerned. Most of these objects are on display at the Cairo Museum. It was one of the very few tombs which was not robbed. These artefacts leave the visitor impressed by the advances made by the ancient Egyptians in the concept of life after death, tomb construction, making gold and precious stone jewellery and others.
Intricate and grand
Tutu's tomb design is complicated and grand. It had a huge granite sarcophagus with three gold gilded wooden enclosures telescoped one inside the other that hold the inner solid gold casket containing the king's mummy. The most impressive object inside the tomb is undoubtedly the solid gold internal coffin with semi-precious stones and vitreous paste. It contained the mummified body of Tutankhamun and weighed 110.4 kg. The outer case shows the facial features of the boy king holding a staff and chaff, symbols of royal power. The case is beautifully decorated with colourful and intricate designs. The mummy had a death mask made of solid gold with the king's features, weighing 10 kg. The belief was that the king would be reborn with the same features.
Egyptians believed that after a person dies, he/she has needs similar to terrestrial life. That is the reason why Tutu's burial chamber contained objects of daily use. The throne is made of wood with gold leaf and semi-precious stones covered with vitreous paste for decoration and for protection. Fixed in front, to guard the throne, are the faces of two lions. Rich, intricate designs in paint mark the uniqueness of the royal throne.
A dead person's internal organs such as brain, liver and viscera were removed before mummification. These were preserved in containers known as canopic jars of alabaster with stoppers of decorative heads of goddesses. Hieroglyphics, pictures representing alphabets, would describe the person and his/her rank. These jars were enclosed in a big gilded wood cabinet guarded by angels. Pectoral jewellery shows Goddess Mut in gold and vitreous paste. Another object of intricate design and great beauty was that of Goddess Isis with her outstretched wings protecting the mummy.
Curse of the mummy
The Egyptians mummified the bodies of kings and commoners and placed them in tombs filled with all the necessities of life. To protect the deceased in the afterlife and to prevent robbers or political enemies from desecrating the burials, the tombs were hidden in out-of-the-way places and a curse was invoked against violators
The belief in the mummy's curse was rekindled when Lord Carnarvon, died five months after the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. He died of blood poisoning following a mosquito bite that became infected.
Prior to his death, Carter's yellow canary perished under strange circumstances. Carter had bought a canary in a gilded cage with the idea that its song would cheer up his lonely house. Within a week of purchasing the canary, Carter discovered Tut's tomb. Not knowing whose tomb they had found, the workers nicknamed it "The tomb of the Golden Bird".
The death of the canary at this most propitious moment was seen as a bad omen.