Tomb of Tutankhamun
History and museums
KV62 is the standard Egyptological designation for the tomb of the young pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, now renowned for the wealth of valuable antiquities it contained. The tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter, underneath the remains of workmen's huts built during the Ramesside Period; this explains why it was largely spared from desecration and from the tomb clearances at the end of the 20th Dynasty, although the tomb was robbed and resealed twice in the period after its completion.
The tomb was densely packed with items in great disarray, partly due to its small size, the two robberies, and the apparently hurried nature of its completion. Due to the state of the tomb, and to Carter's meticulous recording technique, the tomb took eight years to empty, the contents all being transported to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Tutankhamun's tomb had been entered at least twice, not long after he was buried and well before Carter's discovery. The outermost doors of the shrines enclosing the king's nested coffins were unsealed, though the inner two shrines (three and four) remained intact and sealed.
In 1907, just before his discovery of the tomb of Horemheb, Theodore M. Davis's team uncovered a small site containing funerary artifacts with Tutankhamun's name and some embalming parts. Assuming that this site, numbered finally as KV54, was Tutankhamun's complete tomb, Davis concluded the dig. The details of both findings are documented in Davis's 1912 publication, The Tombs of Harmhabi and Touatânkhamanou; the book closes with the comment, "I fear that the Valley of the Kings is now exhausted." But Davis was to be proven spectacularly wrong.
The British Egyptologist Howard Carter (employed by Lord Carnarvon) hired a crew to help him excavate at the site of KV62. Carter went back to a line of huts that he had abandoned a few seasons earlier. After clearance of the huts and rock debris beneath, they found a stone step cut into the bedrock. A flight of steps was partially uncovered, leading to the top of a mud-plastered doorway stamped with indistinct oval seals, called cartouches. Carter ordered the staircase to be refilled, and sent a telegram to Carnarvon, who arrived two-and-a-half weeks later on 23rd November along with his 21-year-old daughter, Lady Evelyn Herbert.
The excavators cleared the stairway completely, which allowed clearer seals lower down on the door to be read, seals bearing the name of Tutankhamun. However, further examination showed that the door blocking had been breached and resealed on at least two occasions. Clearing the blocking led to a downward corridor that was completely blocked with packed limestone chippings, through which a robbers' tunnel had been excavated and anciently refilled. At the end of the tunnel was a second sealed door that had been breached and re-sealed in antiquity. Carter then made a hole in the door, and used a candle to check for foul gases, before looking inside.
‘At first I could see nothing,’ he would later write, ‘the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, 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’.
The first step to the stairs was found on November 4, 1922. The following day saw the exposure of a complete staircase. The end of November saw access to the antechamber and the discovery of the annex, and then the burial chamber and treasury. On November 29, the tomb was opened, and the first announcement and press conference followed the next day. The first item was removed from the tomb on December 27.
On February 16, 1923, the burial chamber was opened, and on April 5, Lord Carnarvon died.
On February 12, 1924, the granite lid of the sarcophagus was raised. In April, Carter argued with the Antiquities Service and left the excavation for the United States.
In January 1925, Carter resumed activities in the tomb, and on October 13, he removed the cover of the first sarcophagus; on October 23, he removed the cover of the second sarcophagus; on October 28, the team removed the cover of the final sarcophagus and exposed the mummy; and on November 11, the examination of the remains of Tutankhamun started.
Work started in the treasury on October 24, 1926, and between October 30 and December 15, 1927, the annex was emptied and examined. On November 10, 1930, eight years after the discovery, the last objects were removed from the tomb.
In design, the tomb appears to have originally been intended for a private individual, not for royalty. There is some evidence to suggest that the tomb was adapted for a royal occupant during its excavation. This may be supported by the fact that only the burial chamber walls were decorated, unlike royal tombs in which nearly all walls were painted with scenes from the Book of the Dead.
Starting from a small, level platform, 16 steps descend to the first doorway, which was sealed and plastered – although it had been penetrated by grave robbers at least twice in antiquity.
Beyond the first doorway, a descending corridor leads to the second sealed door, and into the room that Carter described as the Antechamber. This was used originally to hold material left over from the funeral and material associated with the embalming of the king. After an initial robbery, this material was either moved into the tomb proper, or to KV54, and the corridor was sealed with packed limestone chippings which covered some debris from the first robbery. A later robbery broke through the outer door and excavated a tunnel through the chippings to the second door. The robbery was discovered and the second door was resealed, the tunnel refilled, and the outer door sealed again.
The undecorated antechamber was found to be in a state of "organized chaos", partly due to ransacking during the robberies, and contained approximately 700 objects (articles 14 to 171 in the Carter catalogue) amongst which were three funeral beds, one decorated with the heads of lions (the Goddess Mehet), one with the heads of spotted cattle (representing the great flood, or Mehet-Uret) and one featuring a composite animal with the body of a lion, the tail of a hippopotamus, and the head of a crocodile (representing the corpse-devourer Ammit). Perhaps the most remarkable item in this room were the components, stacked, of four chariots of which one was possibly used for hunting, one for "war" and another two for parades.
This is the only decorated chamber in the tomb, with scenes from the Opening of the mouth ceremony (showing Ay, Tutankhamun's successor acting as the king's son, despite being older than he is) and Tutankhamun with the goddess Nut on the north wall, the first hour of Amduat (on the west wall), spell one of the Book of the Dead (on the east wall) and representations of the king with various deities (Anubis, Isis, Hathor and others now destroyed) on the south wall. The north wall shows Tutankhamen being followed by his Ka, being welcomed to the underworld by Osiris.
Some of the treasures in Tutankhamun's tomb are noted for their apparent departure from traditional depictions of the boy king. Certain cartouches where a king's name should appear have been altered, as if to reuse the property of a previous pharaoh—has often occurred. However, this instance may simply be the product of "updating" the artifacts to reflect the shift from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamun. Other differences are less easy to explain, such as the older, more angular facial features of the middle coffin and canopic coffinettes. The most widely accepted theory for these latter variations is that the items were originally intended for Smenkhkare, who may or may not be the mysterious KV55 mummy. This mummy, according to craniological examinations, bears a striking first-order (father-to-son, brother-to-brother) relationship to Tutankhamun.
The entire chamber was occupied by four gilded wooden shrines which surrounded the king's sarcophagus. The outer shrine (1 in the cross-section) measured 5.08 x 3.28 x 2.75 m and 32 mm thick, almost entirely filling the room, with only 60 cm at either end and less than 30 cm on the sides. Outside of the shrines were 11 paddles for the "solar boat", containers for scents, and lamps decorated with images of the God Hapi.
The fourth and last shrine (4) was 2.90 m long and 1.48 m wide. The wall decorations depict the king's funeral procession, and Nut was painted on the ceiling, "embracing" the sarcophagus with her wings.
This sarcophagus was constructed in granite (a in the cross-section). Each corner of the main body and lid were carved from stone of different colours. It appears to have been constructed for another owner, but then recarved for Tutankhamen; the identity of the original owner is not preserved. In each corner a protective goddess (Isis, Nephthys, Serket and Neith) guards the body.
Inside, the king's body was placed within three mummiform coffins, the outer two made of gilded wood while the innermost was composed of 110.4 kg of pure gold. The mummy itself was adorned with a gold mask, mummy bands and other funerary items. The funerary mask is made of gold, inlaid with lapis lazuli, carnelian, quartz, obsidian, turquoise and glass and faience, and weighs 11 kg.
The treasury was the burial chamber's only side-room and was accessible by an unblocked doorway. It contained over 5,000 catalogued objects, most of them funerary and ritual in nature. Also found within the chamber were thirty six wine jars, containing the residue of vintage wines. The two largest objects found in this room were the king's elaborate canopic chest and a large statue of Anubis. Other items included numerous shrines containing gilded statuettes of the king and deities, model boats and two more chariots. This room also held two mummies of fetuses that some consider to have been stillborn offspring of the king.
The "annex", originally used to store oils, ointments, scents, foods and wine, was the last room to be cleared, from the end of October 1927 to the spring of 1928. Although quite small in size, it contained approximately 280 groups of objects, totaling more than 2,000 individual pieces.
During the excavation it quickly became apparent that the tomb had been robbed at least twice. The first and second doors had both been breached in the top left-hand corner and subsequently resealed at least twice. The descending corridor had been filled with a packing of limestone chippings, presumably after the first robbery as the inner plaster door was unmarked by the chippings, and this filling had been tunneled through in a later robbery, or series of robberies.
The robberies had been discovered at some point, and the outer doors had been resealed, and the robbers' tunnel refilled. The limestone chippings in the descending tunnel also covered some fragments of looted articles including jar lids, razors and wood fragments that had been presumably removed from the antechamber and stored in the tunnel during the first robbery. Some remnants appear to have been from a funerary meal, which was discovered by Davis in jars in KV54, which indicates that KV54 may have been used as a store for items recovered after the first re-closing of the tomb.
The Annexe was probably worst affected by the first robbery. The room was small and full of densely-packed items, which had been ransacked by a robber who had entered through a small hole in the outer door. The robber hurriedly disturbed the contents of the Annexe, emptied boxes and removed items. The robber or robbers seem to have been looking for metals, glass (then a valuable commodity), cloth, oils and cosmetics. The theft of oils and cosmetics suggests that the robbery was fairly contemporary with the burial, as the lifespan of these articles would have been limited. After this robbery was discovered, the doors were resealed and it is likely that the descending tunnel was filled with packed limestone chippings to deter future robberies.
The second robbery required much more organisation to clear the descending corridor - a tunnel was dug in the top-left-hand corner of the tunnel, and the outer door was penetrated by a large hole in the blocking. Carter estimated that it would have taken a team of men around eight hours to excavate the tunnel by passing back baskets of rubble. The second robbery penetrated the entire tomb, and Carter estimated that around 60% of the jewelry in the Treasury had been looted, along with precious metals. At some point, a knotted scarf containing a number of looted rings was dropped back into a box in the Antechamber, which led Carter to the conclusion that the robbery had perhaps been discovered whilst it was in progress, or that the thieves had been pursued and caught.
The tomb may have been hurriedly resealed (possibly to avoid drawing attention to the tomb) by the official Maya, as the signature of his assistant Djehutymose was found by Carter on a calcite stand in the Annexe. Upon resealing the tomb,the first and second resealings were marked with the same seal, bearing a design of a jackal over nine bound captives, which may indicate that they both took place within a short time interval after the closure of the tomb.
Research by prominent Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves (attached to the University of Arizona) has suggested that there may be further areas of the tomb worthy of further analysis. Reeves investigated high-resolution digital scans of the tomb taken by Madrid-based company Factum Arte that were used in the process of creating a facsimile of the tomb. Reeves noted markings in the plaster of the burial chamber that appeared to suggest the possibility of a small door in the west wall of the burial chamber, of the same dimensions as the Annexe door. According to Reeves, markings on the north wall could also suggest that the wall itself may partly be a blocking wall covering a void, possibly indicating that the "Antechamber" continues as a corridor beyond the north wall. Although the "doors" may just be uncompleted construction work, one possibility that has been suggested is that Tutankhamun is actually buried in the outer section of a larger tomb complex (similar to the tomb of Amenhotep III) that has been sealed off by the north wall, and that a further burial (possibly that of Nefertiti) may exist elsewhere in undiscovered areas of the tomb. At the moment, this is just unconfirmed speculation, though Reeves has suggested that future work such as the use of ground-penetrating radar might confirm if further areas of the tomb remain to be discovered. In March 2016, a radar scan revealed two empty spaces and what appear to be organic and metallic materials within them.
The tomb is open for visitors, at an additional charge above that of the price of general access to the Valley of the Kings. The number of visitors was limited to 400 per day in 2008. In 2010 the tomb was closed to the public while restoration work was undertaken by the Getty Conservation Institute, and was once again open to the public by 2014. The tomb is expected to be definitively closed to public in the near future, but a reproduction will be placed nearby at the Valley of the Kings and will be available to the public.