January 21, 2005

Anatomy of an excavation contains Howard Carter's written journals and records concerning the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the 1920s. It also contains a database of written records and/or Harry Burton's b/w photographs for nearly 600 objects entombed with the boy king (number to the right of the slash indicates number of photos).

Someone needs to reproduce these lovely, ancient flip-flops. Tutankhamun was apparently buried with a lot of interesting sticks. The coffins, the mask, and his mummy are here.

  • ((((( Great post, bibliochick. Have bookmarked for perusal over the weekend. Thanks!
  • Fascinating links, bibliochick -- and of course the more one sees, the more questions seem to come to mind. How and when did King Tut's head come to be removed from the rest of him? It looks as if they dismantled the whole mummy and took pictures of pieces of it. Was this standard procedure at the time?
  • This is fantastic. Hours worth of reading material here.
  • A warning- this site is addictive. Don't even start looking if you have something else to do. Mothninja is wise to mark it for the weekend! beeswacky- I found the pictures of the unattached head very troubling. I wonder if it came off while they were removing the mask? Either it was pulled off or they lifted the body without supporting the head and 25 lbs of gold just snapped the neck? Similarly, did the body fall apart under incautious hands looking excitedly for more loot? We cringe now at some of Carter's methods, but back then I think they did the best they could. I have trouble teaching some of this to my students. On the one hand, this is grave robbing. On the other, we would know next to nothing about many ancient cultures if not for grave goods.
  • Read elesewhere the head was damaged when the mask was removed, but it never occurred to me by damaged they meant a beheading took place. I assumed it was Tut's flattened-looking nose which was damaged by rough handling. Don't believe archaeaologists regard examining interments or mummified remains much differently from examining the debris in a mound-builder's midden or excavating the site of Troy, really. Seems as if, in the case of a historical but old site like this, where no immediate relatives are (presumably) known, that it would be the government of the country which would permit the excavation of a site. Who gave permission to open the tomb? And if permission was officially granted by the authorities, would that be considered grave robbing?
  • In reading Carter's documentation of uncovering the mummy, it sounds like what they really needed was a giant spatula- he was completely stuck to the inner coffin and his wrappings and it sounds like his embalmer didn't do as thorough a job as he should have. He seems to have, erm, leaked a bit, and it sounds like the pitch used to seal the body wasn't given enough time to set up. I don't recall the procedures for permission to excavate in the 1920s. I do know that when Auguste Mariette discovered some of the greatest tombs of the Old Kingdom in the 1860s, he had to pressure Egyptian officials to get them to establish the National Antiquities Service to protect these kinds of artifacts. It seems that once the tourist trade started to boom in the 19th century, it was all too convenient and lucrative to sell off potential national treasures as souvenirs. I assume that by the time Carter got there he had to get some sort of permission, but I'd bet the procedure was nowhere as rigid as it is today. One of my dissertation committee members is an archaeologist during the summer months (tough gig, that). She tells me that even rubble is sometimes sifted through very carefully, depending on the dig site. Conversely, another committee member talks about his travels in Macedonia and seeing children throw rocks at Byzantine mosaics in hopes of knocking chunks down to hawk to tourists (a repeated act in several locations). I guess sometimes governments need to be told to protect these kinds of things. Odd. The museum in Cairo has refused to let certain items travel in the upcoming Tut exhibit because they are not willing to risk damage. The mask, alas, will not be coming to the U.S.
  • This is neat. The large artworks and furniture are eye candy, but what I find facinating are the little touches like the loaves of bread/cakes. Cool.
  • I don't think that you can make an omlet without breaking a few eggs (i.e. damage the mummy by removing it from the coffin) but more than likely they would be more careful today than they did in the 1920s. What I find facinating (and applaud) are the robotic remote camera methods they are using which do minimal damage to the tombs and are still able to record valuable information. Even letting a small amount of contemporary air will disturb these tombs and ruin valuable evidence (dust and pollen particles in the tomb's atmosphere). I love this stuff.
  • squidranch- somewhere in there is the record: "some seeds" (with pictures, too). Also pics of a bunch of garlic (and it still looks like garlic!) Lots of bundles of food. He was set to eat for a good while.
  • Holy smokes... great find. I got to see the Tutankhamun exhibit in Seattle on vacation in 1978 and it was awesome. Gonna spend some serious time at these links! Thanks.
  • Tutty Goodness, indeed! I've been browsing since this was posted and still haven't gotten to the end of it. (not much time this weekend)