Stunning Colorized Photographs of the Discovery of the Tutankhamun’s Tomb in the 1920s

Tutankhamun, commonly referred to as King Tut, was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who was the last of his royal family to rule during the end of the 18th Dynasty (ruled c. 1332 – 1323 BC in the conventional chronology) during the New Kingdom of Egyptian history. His father is believed to be the pharaoh Akhenaten, identified as the mummy found in the tomb KV55. His mother is his father’s sister, identified through DNA testing as an unknown mummy referred to as “The Younger Lady” who was found in KV35.

Tutankhamun took the throne at eight or nine years of age under the unprecedented viziership of his eventual successor, Ay, to whom he may have been related. He married his paternal half-sister Ankhesenamun. During their marriage they lost two daughters, one at 5–6 months of pregnancy and the other shortly after birth at full-term. His names—Tutankhaten and Tutankhamun—are thought to mean “Living image of Aten” and “Living image of Amun”, with Aten replaced by Amun after Akhenaten’s death. A small number of Egyptologists, including Battiscombe Gunn, believe the translation may be incorrect and closer to “The-life-of-Aten-is-pleasing” or, as Professor Gerhard Fecht believes, reads as “One-perfect-of-life-is-Aten”.

Tutankhamun restored the Ancient Egyptian religion after its dissolution by his father, enriched and endowed the priestly orders of two important cults and began restoring old monuments damaged during the previous Amarna period. He reburied his father’s remains in the Valley of the Kings and relocated the capital from Akhetaten back to Thebes. Tutankhamun was physically disabled with a deformity of his left foot along with bone necrosis that required the use of a cane, several of which were found in his tomb. He had other health issues including scoliosis and had contracted several strains of malaria.

The 1922 discovery by Howard Carter of Tutankhamun’s nearly intact tomb, in excavations funded by Lord Carnarvon, received worldwide press coverage. With over 5,000 artifacts, it sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun’s mask, now in the Egyptian Museum, remains a popular symbol. The deaths of a few involved in the discovery of Tutankhamun’s mummy have been popularly attributed to the curse of the pharaohs. He has, since the discovery of his intact tomb, been referred to colloquially as “King Tut”.

Some of his treasure has traveled worldwide with unprecedented response. The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities allowed tours beginning in 1962 with the exhibit at the Louvre in Paris, followed by the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art in Tokyo, Japan. The exhibits drew in millions of visitors. The 1972–1979 exhibit was shown in United States, Soviet Union, Japan, France, Canada, and West Germany. There were no international exhibitions again until 2005–2011. This exhibit featured Tutankhamun’s predecessors from the 18th Dynasty, including Hatshepsut and Akhenaten, but did not include the golden death mask. The treasures 2019–2022 tour began in Los Angeles and will end in 2022 at the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which, for the first time, will be displaying the full Tutankhamun collection, gathered from all of Egypt’s museums and storerooms. (Wikipedia)

Harry Burton’s photographs capture Tutankhamun’s tomb at the moment of its discovery have enthralled the world for generations, enabling the viewer to witness the ‘Wonderful Things’ the discoverers of the tomb, Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon, were fortunate to experience first-hand.

Burton’s iconic black and white photographs have illustrated the imagination of millions for almost a century, and now a selection of the original negatives and photographs, housed in the archive of the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford, has been digitally colourised by Dynamichrome on behalf of SC Exhibitions and the Griffith Institute.

29th/30th October 1925, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Carter and an Egyptian workman examine the third (innermost) coffin (Carter no. 255) made of solid gold, inside the case of the second coffin. (Carter no. 254).
December 1922, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Objects, including the cow-headed couch (Carter no. 73) and boxes containing joints of meat (Carter nos. 62a to 62vv) piled up against the west wall of the Antechamber.
December 1922, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | View of the northern wall of the Antechamber showing the sentinel statues (Carter nos. 22 & 29) guarding the sealed doorway leading to the King’s Burial Chamber.
December 1922, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Objects stacked under the lion couch (Carter no. 35) against the west wall of the Antechamber included an ivory and ebony chest (Carter no. 32), black ‘shrine-shaped boxes’ (Carter nos. 37 and 38) and a child’s chair made of ebony (Carter no. 39).
December 1922, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | The rectangular white box (Carter no. 50), in front of the lion couch (Carter no. 35) in the Antechamber, contained, amongst other items, linen garments (shirts, shawls and loin cloths), 18 sticks, 69 arrows and a trumpet.
29th November 1923, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Howard Carter (on the left) working with his friend and colleague Arthur Callender on wrapping one of two sentinel statues of Tutankhamun (Carter no. 22) found in the Antechamber, before their removal to the ‘laboratory’ set up in the tomb of Sethos II (KV 15). These statues had been placed either side of the sealed entrance to the Burial Chamber.
December 1923, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | The linen pall, decorated with bronze ‘rosettes’ (Carter no. 209) inside the walls of the first (outermost) golden shrine (Carter no. 207) in the north west corner of the Burial Chamber.
October 1926, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | A line of chests down the centre of the Treasury, ending with the canopic chest (Carter no. 266) which housed the king’s linen-wrapped stomach, intestines, liver and lungs in miniature gold coffins, inside an alabaster canopic box.
October 1926, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Three wooden chests (the middle one in the shape of a cartouche) on the floor of the Treasury (Carter nos. 267, 269 and 270). Amongst other items these contained earrings, sandals and a wax model of a heron.
October 1925, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Howard Carter working on the lid of the second (middle) coffin, still nestled within the case of the first (outermost) coffin in the Burial Chamber.
November/December 1923, Sethos II’s Tomb (‘laboratory’) | Arthur Mace (left) and Alfred Lucas working outside the ‘laboratory’ set up in the tomb of Sethos II (KV 15), stabilizing the surface of one of the state chariots (Carter no. 120) found in the Antechamber.
30th December 1923, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Howard Carter (left), Arthur Mace and an Egyptian workman standing on scaffolding, roll back the linen pall (Carter no. 209) which lay over a gilded, wooden frame (Carter no. 208) between the first (outermost) and second shrines.
November 1926, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Objects, including numerous model boats (Carter nos. 284 to 287), stacked against the southern wall of the Treasury.
December 1922, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Sealed alabaster ‘unguent’ vases (Carter nos. 57, 58, 60 and 61) between the cow-headed (Carter no. 73) and lion (Carter no. 35) couches against the west wall of the Antechamber.
October 1926, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | The Anubis shrine (Carter no. 261) on the threshold of the Treasury viewed from the Burial Chamber. The figure of Anubis was covered with a linen shirt inscribed with the cartouche of Akhenaten.
4th January 1923, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Howard Carter (kneeling), Arthur Callender and an Egyptian workman in the Burial Chamber, looking through the open doors of the four gilded shrines towards the quartzite sarcophagus.
January 1924, Sethos II’s Tomb (‘laboratory’) | Arthur Mace (standing) and Alfred Lucas (sitting) working inside the makeshift ‘laboratory’ (set up in KV 15, the tomb of Sethos II) on the conservation of one of the two sentinel statues from the Antechamber (Carter no. 22). The statue shows the King wearing the nemes headdress, kilt and sandals, and carrying a mace and a staff.
29th/30th October 1925, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | The gold mask (Carter no. 256a) in situ on the mummy of the King, still inside the third (innermost) solid gold coffin (Carter no. 255).
December 1923, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Howard Carter (centre), Arthur Callender and two Egyptian workmen lifting one roof section from the first, outermost shrine (Carter no. 207). With its double sloping roof, the shape of this shrine resembles that of a ‘sed festival pavilion’; it was made of from twenty separate oak sections, held together by a variety of different joints.
2nd December 1923, Tutankhamun’s Tomb | Howard Carter (at the top of the stairs), Arthur Callender and Egyptian workmen removing the wall between the Antechamber and the Burial Chamber to enable the dismantling of the four golden shrines enclosing the sarcophagus.
Herbert George Edward Stanhope Molyneux, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, reading on the verandah of ‘Castle Carter’, Carter’s house at Elwat el-Dibbân on the Theban West Bank.

(All photographs © Griffith Institute, University of Oxford; colorized by Dynamichrome)

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