History Embalmed

Biography of Howard Carter

Short Biography & facts about the life of Howard Carter, the famous Egyptologist. The following biography information provides basic facts and information about the life Howard Carter.

  • Nationality: English

  • Father: Samuel Carter

  • Mother: Martha Joyce (Sands) Carter

  • Lifespan: 1874 1939

  • Born: 9 May 1874

  • Education: Privately educated at home. Did not attend a University. Became an Egyptologist through study and practical experience at archaeological sites in Egypt

  • Married: Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
  • Died: 2 March 1939

  • Character of Howard Carter : Ambitious, autocrat, determined, introvert, perfectionist

  • Famous for his excavations in Egypt which were financed by Lord Carnarvon and the discovery of the tomb and fabulous treasures of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun

Biography of Howard Carter
Information, Facts & History about the life of Howard Carter. The following are additional facts and a timeline about the life and history of Howard Carter the famous Egyptologist who discovered the tomb of the Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamun:

Biography of Howard Carter - the Early Years
Howard Carter was the son of a successful artist, Samuel Carter. He was born in London but was a sickly child. Due to his ill health he was sent to live with two unmarried aunts in Norfolk. He had a private, home education and displayed an artistic streak and his father taught him in the fundamentals of drawing and painting. His father worked on a painting for William Amherst of Didlington Hall near Swaffham and Howard accompanied him. William Amherst was an Egyptologist who collected Ancient Egyptian artefacts and Howard became interested in this subject. William Amherst arranged an interview for Howard with Mr Percy Newberry, who had been working on a site at Beni Hasan in Egypt and needed an artist to help with some drawings. The interview was successful and Howard Carter was appointed as a trainee tracer. He travelled to to Egypt with Percy Newberry working with the Egypt Exploration Fund on the excavation of Beni Hasan and and El-Bersheh. He was just 17 years old when he went to Egypt.

Biography of Howard Carter - Life in Egypt
After a year in Egypt Howard Carter was appointed Principle Artist to the Egyptian Exploration Fund for the excavations of Deir el Babri, the burial place of Queen Hatshepsut and during this time he worked with the famous Egyptologist Flinders Petrie. A year later he joined Professor Naville at Deir el-Bahri where he spent six years drawing the famous temple. Six years later he was hired by Gaston Maspero, Director-General of the Department of Antiquities at Egypt's Antiquities Service, as the Inspector General of Monuments for Upper Egypt working at Thebes and Edfu and even installing electric light at Abu Simbel. He then worked for Theodore Davis in the Valley of the Kings using a systematic grid block searching system for new tombs. Their discoveries included the tombs of the pharaohs Thutmose I and Thutmose III. In 1907 Howard Carter was introduced to George Herbert (Lord Carnarvon) an amateur archaeologist, by Gaston Maspero thus starting their successful partnership excavating at Thebes. The had some minor successes but their luck changed in 1914 when Carter and Carnarvon obtained a licence to dig in the Valley of the Kings from the Egyptian Antiquities Service.

Biography of Howard Carter - The Valley of the Kings
The outbreak of World War I halted their plans but in 1917 Howard Carter started his excavations. He was convinced that the Tomb of Tutankhamun was hidden in the Valley of the Kings. He was not just working on a hunch as he knew that a box, a cup and some jars had been discovered with Tutankhamun's name on them. He embarked on his systematic grid block searching system for the hidden tomb of King Tut. He searched for 5 years to no avail. In 1922 Lord Carnarvon requested him to go to Highclere Castle. Carter was given just one more season of funding by Lord Carnarvon to find the tomb of the boy-king. He hurriedly returned to Egypt and on his first day of digging decided to clear some old huts. Three days later on 4 November 1922 Carter and the workers find the steps leading to Tutankhamun's tomb. The next day on 5 November 1922 he cabled Lord Carnarvon saying "At last have made a wonderful discovery in Valley; a magnificent tomb with seals intact; re-covered same for your arrival; congratulations."  and asks Lord Carnarvon to come to Egypt. Lord Carnarvon, accompanied by his daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert, travel to Egypt.

Biography of Howard Carter - The Tomb of Tutankhamun
On 26 November 1922 Howard Carter makes the famous "tiny breach in the top left hand corner" of the tomb doorway accompanied by Lord Carnarvon and his daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert. Carnarvon asks him if he can see anything, Carter replies: "Yes, wonderful things" and goes on to say: "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." They saw unbelievable treasures including furniture, chariots, vases and caskets all covered with gold. The next day Carter, Carnarvon and Lady Evelyn Herbert explore the Antechamber and Annexe and find a sealed door to another chamber - there was even more to come... 

Biography of Howard Carter - The Treasures in the Tomb of Tutankhamun
They had to follow the correct procedures and inform the Egyptian government of their discovery. Carter hired a photographer called Harry Burton to photograph the room exactly as they had found it. All the treasures were carefully removed one at a time. After seven weeks the first room was emptied. The press go into a frenzy about the discovery of the tomb, disturbing the work being conducted at the tomb.  Lord Carnarvon then strikes an exclusive deal with The Times newspaper. Carnarvon had signed a 5,000 pound contract with the London Times, plus 75 percent of all profits from the sale of Times articles to the rest of the world. Other journalists are furious about the deal, especially Arthur Weigall a correspondent from The Daily Mail. On 16 February 1923 they opened the sealed doorway leading to the burial chamber which contained  the sarcophagus of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun with its fabulous golden mask and solid gold coffin.

Biography of Howard Carter - The Death of Lord Carnarvon & the Curse of King Tut
During February & March things start to go wrong. Howard Carter, argues with key members of the excavation team and some are sacked. He then argues with Lord Carnarvon regarding his attitude and his 'friendship' with Lady Evelyn but excavation work continues. Not long after the first room was cleared Lord Carnarvon was bitten by a mosquito on his cheek. A few days later he nicked mosquito bite with his cut-throat razor whilst shaving. The bite became infected. Lord Carnarvon returned to the tomb but felt worse. Within three weeks on 5 April 1923 Lord Carnarvon died. On the day he died all the lights went out in Cairo. His pet canary was killed by a cobra. And home in England his dog howled and then also died at the time of his master's death. The cobra was synonymous in Egypt with the protection of the pharaohs and before long the newspapers were talking about the Curse of the Pharaohs. The legend of the Curse of King Tut was born. The press frenzy escalates with tales of the Curse of King Tut. The Curse of the Pharaohs idea was fuelled by a novelist named Marie Corelli. Then Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, announces that Lord Carnarvon's death had been the result of a "Pharaoh's curse". Speculation about the Curse of Tutankhamun continued for years (and still does today). Within 6 years after the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, twelve of those present when the tomb was opened were dead. Within a further 7 years only two of the original team of excavators were still alive, including Howard Carter. The half-brother of Lord Carnarvon half-brother apparently took his own life while temporarily insane, and a further 21 people connected with the excavation of the tomb were also dead.

Biography of Howard Carter - The Treasures of King Tut
After the death of Lord Carnarvon Howard Carter continued exploration of the tomb which lead to the discovery of the solid gold coffin and death mask of Tutankhamun. The tomb contained 4 gilded shrines nested one inside the other. These contained the red quartzite sarcophagus which protected three anthropoid coffins (man-shaped) which were all painted with the likeness of Tutankhamun. The first two coffins were made of gilded wood but the final coffin was made of solid gold. The solid gold coffin housed the mummy of King Tut and his fabulous golden death mask.

Biography of Howard Carter - The Death of Howard Carter
Howard Carter took years to catalogue the contents of the tomb of Tutankhamun. The treasures of the tomb were sent to the Cairo museum. Howard Carter returned home to England in 1932. On 2 March 1939 Howard Carter died of natural causes at the age of 65. He is buried in Putney Vale Cemetery in London.

Biography of Howard Carter
Each section of this website addresses all topics and provides interesting facts and information about the Golden Age of Pharaohs and of Egypt. The Sitemap provides full details of all of the information and facts provided about the fascinating subject of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

Curse of King Tut

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