An Interview with Howard Carter
Updated: May 31
We were luckily enough to be joined by the famous archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter for a chat. We quizzed him on how he discovered the Tomb of Tutankhamun, why it took so long to do so, and just what was in the tomb that made it so gosh darn important.
Imagining History: Who are you?
Howard Carter: My name is Howard Carter. I was born in Kensington, England on 9 May 1874 and died on the 2nd of March 1939. I was, and indeed am, one of the most well- known Egyptologists of all time.
IH: Are you famous then?
HC: I should say so! It was I who discovered the perfectly preserved tomb of the boy king himself, Tutankhamun!
IH: Was that tricky? Finding a tomb and all? I found a "Tom" once, but that wasn’t that hard because he’s my brother and he was sat next to me at the time.
HC: It took many, many years to find Tutankhamun’s tomb. I was employed to lead the excavations of the Valley of the Kings in 1914 by Lord Carnarvon himself –
IH: Does this Lord own a successful caravan business?
HC: Carnarvon! Not caravan! Now where was I? Ah yes, we began a series of excavations and digs in 1914 but we were soon interrupted by the start of the Great War. I served for the next three years working for the British Government as a diplomatic courier before finally returning to my digging in 1917. Sadly, despite our best attempts, we didn’t make a single meaningful discovery for the next five years.
IH: Oh dear, I beat Lord Caravan was not impressed… I doubt he gave you a discount on the Bailey Pegasus GT65 after that.
HC: I have no idea what you’re talking about. But you’re right, he was not best pleased and told me in 1922 that I only had one more season to make an amazing discovery. Luckily, that 'amazing discovery' happened shortly after, when I investigated a line of huts and asked my crew to clear both the huts and rock debris beneath. And that’s when we found it - On 4 November 1922, we discovered a flight of steps cut into the bedrock, leading to a sealed mud coated doorway. I sent for Lord Carnarvon at once and he arrived two and a half weeks later.
IH: Two and a half weeks? He really must have been travelling by caravan!
HC: I’ll ignore that. It was on 26 November 1922, that I made a tiny breach in the top left-hand corner of the doorway. At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker. But, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist; strange animals, statues, and gold - everywhere the glint of gold. I heard Lord Carnarvon ask me, "Can you see anything?" and I replied: "Yes, wonderful things!" You’ve probably heard that quote before, it’s rather famous.
IH: Erm, no. I haven't. But I do know some other pretty famous quotes, “Jack, I’m flying!’ comes straight to mind.
HC: Oh dear.
IH: What fabulous treasure did you find in the tomb?
HC: We found over 5,398 items in the tomb and it took over a decade to catalogue them all. We found two thrones, archery bows, chalices, an incredible dagger made from meteorite (not that I knew that at the time), trumpets, canopic jars, a sun scarab pendant, a royal chariot, some fresh linen underwear, and, of course, the mummified remains of King Tutankhamun held within his famous sarcophagus.
IH: Fascinating. Do you have time for any more questions before you go?
A big thank you to Howard Carter for taking the time out of his busy schedule for this interview. We can report that he did indeed have a fabulous moustache. And no, he didn't let us touch it.