November 2022 marks the 100th anniversary of what may be considered the world’s greatest archaeological discovery. On 26 November 1922, in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor, Egypt, British archaeologist Howard Carter looked through a hole in a door to a room in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. When asked if he saw anything, his response was “Yes, wonderful things!”. Finding a pharaonic tomb of the Eighteenth Dynasty that had escaped either scientific discovery or pillaging by thieves in over 3,200 years had never occurred.
The thousands of objects found in the tomb took Carter and his team of foreign and Egyptian specialists ten years to catalogue, photograph, repair or stabilize, pack, and transport to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Items included furniture, statues, model boats, full-size chariots, textiles, tools, weapons, and everything else the pharaoh would need for his afterlife – both simple and ornate. The mummy and its set of sarcophagi were the prized discoveries, but the most recognized artifact is undoubtedly the pharaoh’s solid gold and jewelled funerary mask. All the tomb treasures have been held in the Cairo Museum until this year when a new museum, the Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza will open (scheduled for November). The Tutankhamun artifacts have already been moved there, by a middle-of-the-night transport truck convoy under heavy guard by the Egyptian Army.
While one must go to Egypt to view the Tutankhamun collection, portions of it have been on several international tours. Three “Tut tours” have come to Canada: Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto (Royal Ontario Museum), Ottawa, and Montreal in 1961-67; Toronto, November to December 1979; and Toronto again, from November 2009-May 2010.
I attended the two later Toronto exhibits, both at the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 1979, my mother’s birthday present to me was a trip to “The Treasures of Tutankhamun”, and in 2010 I returned the favour for her birthday and we went to “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs”. Although these shows displayed only a small number of the objects found in the tomb, I certainly concur with Howard Carter that they contained many “wonderful things”.
By: Don Willcock,
The Peterborough Museum & Archives,
300 Hunter St E, Peterborough