Today in history... Tutankhamen's burial chamber is unsealed

Today, the image of Tutankhamen's burial casket is so entwined with the iconography of ancient Egypt that is today hard to believe that he remained unknown until the early 20th century.

It is understood that the pharaoh disappeared from the Egyptian public conscious a short time after his death, and the location of his tomb lost as it became buried beneath stone chips.

Tutankhamen remained unknown
until the early 20th century

This changed in 1922, following the discovery of his tomb by Howard Carter, the London-born archaeologist and Egyptologist.

So forgotten was Tutankhamen, that workmen's huts from subsequent generations had been built over his tomb's entrance.

It was actually Carter's water carried who found the steps leading to the pharaoh's burial chamber - henceforth known as KV62 (an abbreviation of 'Valley of the Kings').

Carter's discovery and unsealing of the tomb the following year garnered worldwide press, and sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt which continues to this day.

KV62 was particularly remarkable for the wealth of treasures it contained - including garlands of flowers which disintegrated when touched, photographed by Carter.

It would take a whole decade to transport the contents of the tomb to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Meanwhile, Western newspapers fuelled the public's imaginations with stories of pharaoh curses befalling those who entered the tombs - still common in horror films and stories today.

This Egyptian mummy's head sold
at Heritage, in January

Carter's discovery remains the most famous Egyptian excavation - yet our fascination with ancient Egypt actually stems back to the early-18th century.

In the 1700s, Napoleon's army conquered Egypt and the returning soldiers plundered countless treasures from the pyramids, including the mummified remains of ancient Egyptian dignitaries and the treasures with which they were buried.

Later, during the Victorian era, mummies were eagerly collected by museums and private individuals fascinated by their mystery and prestige.

That fascination still resonates in the collectors' markets today, most recently when an authentic Egyptian mummy's head was sold at Heritage Auction Galleries' Natural History sale on January 17.

The head was consigned by a New York collector, in whose collection it had remained since the 1960s.

Believed to have once belonged to an important individual between the New Kingdom and the Ptolemaic period, it was estimated at $25,000-$35,000.

It realised a final hammer price of $31,070.


Images: Tutankhamen (Bjorn Christian Torrissen); Mummy (Heritage)



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