The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen Analysis

A. C. Mace

Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Although it represents a scientific report and a classic study of archaeology, The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen includes a varied array of prose genres. The book is dedicated to the earl of Carnarvon, who sponsored the excavations of Howard Carter; it opens with a biography of that nobleman written by his sister Winifred, Lady Burghclere. This account is followed by eleven chapters arranged chronologically but varying greatly in contents and level of generality. These chapters are divisible into two major sections. The first five narrate the history of the reign of Tutankhamen, describe his burial site in the Valley of the Kings, explain archaeological work in the valley, and report the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb. The second part, consisting of six chapters, explains in detail the work of Carter and his team during the first season of excavating the tomb.

Primary credit for discovery of the tomb must be accorded to Carter, who, against all expert opinion, had the courage to pursue an improbable hypothesis. By the time that he began, he was thoroughly steeped in archaeology, having served an apprenticeship under the exacting archaeological pioneer Flanders Petrie. Before the idea of searching for Tutankhamen developed, Carter had explored widely in the Valley of the Kings near Thebes and had made significant discoveries.

Before Carter began his search, historians had already accounted for almost all dynastic rulers of Egypt. Their tombs had been identified, and the few objects overlooked by grave robbers from antiquity had been discovered. Yet, the boy king of the eighteenth dynasty, the successor of Akhenaten, remained a mystery. Before his death at the age of eighteen, Tutankhamen had ruled Egypt for nine years in the mid-fourteenth century...

(The entire section is 731 words.)