Chapter 22 - A Farewell to Thebes

Tutankhamun's Treasure


The tomb of Tutankhamun was found in 1922 by the archaeologist Howard Carter. He spent the next ten years clearing the tomb of its treasures, most of which ended up in the Cairo Museum, where you can see them today. It took Carter such a long time for several reasons. Partly it was because he was extremely careful to preserve the objects, to make detailed notes and drawings, and to take photographs of them.


Gold pectoral in the form of Horus

It was also partly because they had to construct a special railway (see above) to take the objects to the Nile, which took 15 hours each time because of the small number of rail-lengths provided by the antiquities service. Partly it was because of the huge number of visitors and press, and partly it was the heat (up to 29C). But one important reason the clearance took so long was because there were over ten thousand objects in the tomb.

Now all that remains there are the sarcophagus, one of the gold coffins, and the mummy. Everything else went to Cairo, except for a few bits and pieces Carter and Carnarvon took.





Carter wraps up a statue of Tutankhamun for transport to Cairo

Why didn't Carter get more of the objects?

Under the rules of the Egyptian Antiquities service, if the tomb was intact - meaning it hadn't been burgled - then everything in it belonged to the Egyptian government. If it had been broken into, then Carter and Carnarvon were entitled to a share - which they clearly hoped for.

On 5 April 1923 Lord Carnarvon died, and Carter was now left to deal with the government himself. Unfortunately, although Carter was a great archaeologist, he was a terrible diplomat. He rubbed almost everyone up the wrong way, including the Antiquities Service. One way he did this was by allowing only the London Times newspaper to enter the tomb and interview him. He got in lots of arguments with the Egyptian government (at one point he even staged a strike, locking the tomb!). Eventually they decided that they were going to take all the treasures. And so they now sit in their splendour in the Cairo Museum.


Ceremonial fan (missing its ostrich feathers)

The Treasures

Tutankhamun's treasure is one of the most amazing things I have seen in my life. Certainly there were many golden objects like the famous mask, the coffins, and the jewellery. But most of the objects are of other materials such as wood or stone. What is so amazing about them is (a) how many there are - thousands - and (b) how beautifully made they are. As pharaoh Tutankhamun naturally had the most finely skilled craftsmen to hand, and they did him proud. Here is a list of the types of objects found in the tomb, and some photos (there's more on this in chapter 23 and 24).



Bows and arrows

Boat models

Boomerangs and throwsticks

Boxes and chests

Canopic jars and chest

Chairs and stools



Gold statue of Sekhmet

Cosmetic objects (e.g. ointment)


Figures of gods

Flowers and other plants

Food (e.g. fruit, vegetables, honey, meat, bread, wine, beer)


Gold mask

Granary model

Jewellery (many examples)

Lamps and torches


Musical instruments (sistrum, trumpets)


Regalia (symbols of kingship)

Ritual couches

Ritual objects

Royal figures






Swords and daggers



Writing equipment






Tutankhamun fishing in the marshes

Senet game

Tutankhamun Exhibit

Some of Tutankhamun's treasures have been on tour around the world over the last couple of years. They will be in the Millennium Dome in London from November 07 to August 08. Go and take a look if you can! But be warned, the famous gold mask is NOT part of the touring collection. Here's the link: