The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen Essay - Critical Essays

A. C. Mace


Although his friend A. C. Mace is listed as coauthor in recognition of his contribution toward preparing the book, this archaeological work is Howard Carter’s, and full credit for the discovery belongs to him. Through the book, Carter sought to describe his discovery to an excited public, to justify his own controversial career in archaeology, and to explain the careful, systematic treatment of the site.

Like many important explorers, Carter was a maverick of sorts—in his case, an abrasive one. Before his quest for Tutankhamen’s tomb began, he had made minor discoveries in the Valley of the Kings, only to have his work halted through disagreements with superiors. His meeting with Lord Carnarvon was fortuitous, for the two formed a lasting bond of friendship and mutual respect. Carter was to try his patron’s patience and draw heavily on his support as he worked fruitlessly for six years before his momentous discovery.

The book reveals his courage in the pursuit of an improbable hypothesis—that he could find a tomb that had eluded grave robbers and archaeologists for centuries. In addition, Carter himself understood that experts were almost totally united against the effort. Just when he began to think that he had been beaten, the discovery was made. Carter refers to his discovery in a personal sense as “The Freedom,” meaning that his long quest was successfully concluded, thus freeing him from his obsessive determination. In a...

(The entire section is 558 words.)