Howard Carter [1873-1939] -- By: Milton C. Fisher

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 05:3 (Summer 1992)
Article: Howard Carter [1873-1939]
Author: Milton C. Fisher


Howard Carter [1873-1939]

Milton C. Fisher

Many and baffling were the twists and turns in the events leading to and following the November 1922 discovery of the first, and still singular, treasure-filled tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh. Egyptological patron, George E.S.M. Herbert, known as Lord Carnarvon, and artist-excavator Howard Carter worked in tandem for 16 years. Their primary aim was locating the not-yet-found resting place of Tut-ankh-Amen, successor to the so-called monotheist, Akh-en-Aten (or Ikhnaton).

Howard Carter pauses in his “break-in” of the sealed sepulchral chamber to give Lord Carnarvon a glimpse. [Sketch from a Harry Burton photo in Carter’s first volume.]

Words flew and tempers flared in Egypt, England, and elsewhere over claims and counter-claims to ownership of the incredibly rich find. This began upon its discovery, and even before the actual burial chamber with its triple gold coffin was entered. Most shocking and distressing was a shouting match in March, 1923, between the two principals at Carter’s house in the Valley of the Kings (across the Nile from Luxor — ancient Thebes), which resulted in a breach in their long friendship. Within a month Carnarvon lay dead from complications following an infected insect bite suffered at the site.

All was forgiven, however, at the Cairo hospital before Carnarvon succumbed, and Carter wrote a heartfelt dedication to the first volume of The Tomb of Tut-ankh-Amen (Howard Carter and A.C. Mace, London: Cassel & Co., Ltd., 1923). It reads, in part, “I dedicate

this account to the memory of my beloved friend and colleague, LORD CARNARVON, who died in the hour of his triumph. But for his untiring generosity and constant encouragment our labours could never have been crowned with success. His efforts, which have done so much to extend our knowledge of Egyptology, will ever be honored in history, and by me his memory will always be cherished.”

Howard Carter, the “commoner” of the highly interdependent pair, had been privately educated in England. Following his father’s steps, he was a budding artist at age 17, and seized an opportunity to work as a draftsman for the Egyptian Exploration Fund. He was then trained in archaeological surveying by no less a master than Sir W.M. Flinders Petrie, for whom he also copied wall paintings. Through his fine training and competence he became inspector general of the Egyptian antiquities department within ten years. By 1902 he was supervisor of excavations in the Valley of the Kings for the wealthy American enthusiast, Theodore M. Davis. His finds includ...

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