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A project of the American Research Center in Egypt

Carter, Howard


Artist-archaeologist, best-known for discovering and clearing KV 62, the tomb of Tutankhamen. Born 9 May 1874 in Kensington, London, he was the youngest of eleven children of Samuel John Carter and Martha Joyce Sands. Because of poor health, Carter did not attend school and was educated privately at home. His father, a well-known painter and draughtsman, taught him to paint and draw. In 1891, Carter joined the Archaeological Survey of the Egypt Exploration Fund under Percy Newberry and traveled to Egypt for the first time. He received training from Flinders Petrie, Francis Llewellyn Griffith, and Édouard Naville.

In 1892, Carter joined Petrie excavating at Amarna, and between 1892 and 1893 he did drawings for the Egypt Exploration Fund's survey at Bani Hasan and El Bersheh. Between 1893 and 1899, Carter worked as a draughtsman in the Dayr al Bahari expedition under Naville, and along with other artists, he copied all of the visible scenes and inscriptions on the temple of Hatshepsut; his drawings were published in six volumes.

Carter was appointed Chief Inspector of Antiquities of Upper Egypt in the Antiquities Service of the Egyptian Government in 1899, and he reorganized the administration of the Service under Sir William Garstin and Sir Gaston Maspero. One of his first accomplishments as Chief Inspector was to install lighting in the Tombs of the Kings and at Abu Simbel. In 1902 Carter began work in the Valley of the Kings supervising Theodore Davis's excavations, and two years later he was given the inspectorate of Lower Egypt. He served as Chief Inspector of Lower Egypt for only one year; after an incident with a group of rowdy tourists at Saqqara he was moved north to Tanta. Carter soon resigned from his office and decided to devote himself to painting, which occupied his time from 1905-1907.

Howard Carter met Lord Carnarvon in 1907 and the two men began a long-lasting, close, and successful working relationship and friendship. Between 1907 and 1917, Carter and Carnarvon conducted excavations in Thebes and at several sites in the Delta: at Dira’ Abu al Naja they discovered burials from the Middle Kingdom to the Ptolemaic period; in Thebes they conducted excavations at the temple of Hatshepsut at Dayr al Bahari and a temple of Rameses IV; in the Delta they excavated at Sakha and Tall al Balamun. Carter discovered the tomb of Amenhetep I (tomb AN B in Dira’ Abu al Naja); he also excavated an unused tomb of Hatshepsut and the tomb of Amenhetep III (KV 22). Carter also researched and purchased antiquities from local dealers for Carnarvon's personal collection. In 1910, with financial assistance from Lord Carnarvon, Carter built a new excavation house and residence for himself at ‘Ilwat al Diban at the northern end of Dira’ Abu an Naja.

Between 1917 and 1922, Carter spent his time exploring the wadis of Western Thebes, making notes on the graffiti and the possible locations of lost tombs and searching for the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings. Carter's search ended after seven years of hard work on 4 November 1922. The discovery of the tomb with nearly all of its original tomb furnishings was called the most important archaeological discovery of the century and it took Carter and his staff ten years to clear it. Carter catalogued the contents of the tomb, making copious notes on the locations of the objects, and saw to the necessary restoration work and the shipment of the objects to the Cairo Museum. The discovery drew international media attention.

Dealing with the press was difficult for Carter, especially after the death of Lord Carnarvon in 1923. But he also reaped benefits from his international fame: he was given the honorary degree of Doctor of Science from Yale University, the only academic degree he ever received and one of which he was very proud. Carter was disappointed that he was never able to publish a full scientific report of the discovery, and only published a popular account of the discovery with Arthur Mace and Percy White. Objects from the tomb are still being studied and published.