Howard Carter believed he would eventually find the lost tomb of the obscure boy-king Tutankhamen. He managed to convince Lord Carnarvon to fund his search, and he diligently slaved away for six years without success. Carnarvon built him a small house near the entrance to the Valley of the Kings and visited him there on several occasions.
All the possible sites had already been explored, except the ground under the worker’s huts near the excavated tomb of Ramses VI. With funding about to be cut off, Carter made one last attempt and uncovered the first step on what was a flight of stairs leading to a sealed doorway. It was November 4, 1922. Carter wired Carnarvon to join him in Luxor immediately, for the opening.
The intact tomb yielded such great treasures that the name Tutankhamen is probably the most well known in Egypt’s long history. Only Cleopatra’s name rivals King Tut’s. Carnarvon was there waiting for word from Carter as he peered into the small opening he had made in the sealed door.
The rest, as they say, is history.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We didn’t visit the tomb of Tutankhamen when we toured the Valley of the Kings because we had learned that there is really very little to see in the small, unembellished vault. Tutankhamen was the son of a minor wife of Akhenaten’s, he ruled for only nine years and died suddenly while still young. He had led no great battles nor built any monuments, so there was little opportunity to construct a tomb for himself.
The treasures were carefully catalogued and eventually moved to the Cairo and Luxor Museums. We had toured the Cairo Museum in 1977 and had just seen the Luxor Museum a couple of days earlier. However, at the urging of Fareda, our host at the Desert Paradise Lodge, we walked the short distance to the Carter House Museum. The house has been restored and is filled with the personal belongings of Howard Carter.
It’s fascinating to see how simply he lived and worked. I particularly enjoyed seeing his darkroom and the detailed drawings of the placement of the artifacts filling the tomb of Tutankhamen. However, an even greater delight was waiting for us in one of the larger rooms of the house, one he had used as an archeological office.
We were told there was a 20-minute film we could watch explaining how Carter discovered and opened the tomb and the aftermath of the fame that descended upon him and on the Valley of the Kings. Now this was no ordinary film. An actor had been hired to impersonate Howard Carter, and he was filmed performing a monologue, dressed in a wrinkled linen suit, against a dark BACKGROUND.
The film was then projected on a large sheet of glass, which stood on its side in the middle of the room. The effect was mesmerizing. We sat spellbound watching the ‘ghost’ of Howard Carter explain to us the events leading up to the opening of the tomb and also the difficulties he experienced dealing with the hundreds of reporters and thousands of Victorian tourists who flooded into Luxor to see the treasurers for themselves.
At first, we had great difficulty understanding the actor’s heavy accent, so when the film was over, we asked the attendant to run it for us again, and we were happy we did, because we hadn’t realized that we had entered halfway through the screening and had missed the first part of the film.
The actor did a terrific job, but I have to hand it to the museum director, because at one point, the actor perches on the edge of an invisible stool, and the sheet of glass was placed in such a manner that it appeared to us that the ‘ghost’ was seating himself on a very real desk standing against the back wall of the room.
Once again, we were so happy that we had taken Fareda’s advice. The Lonely Planet describes the house briefly and mentions that a café was about to open at the museum, but nothing is said about the unusual film we were treated too. I have to say, the actor and the film, really helped to make the Carter House come ‘alive’.