Howard Carter: Castle Carter II

Castle Carter II

Castle Carter II in 2006


Howard Carter

Howard Carter

When you ask the average person (with an interest in Ancient Egypt) if he or she can mention a dig house in Egypt, nine times out of ten the name Carter House will emerge.

No other excavation house in Egypt appeals to a person’s imagination as much as the house, occupied by the discoverer of the most famous Pharaoh of them all, Tut-Ankh-Amen.

Now, this would lead you to think that a lot of the history of this house can be found in books or on the Internet, but the opposite is true. Most of the information here, comes from the books by T.G.H. James (The path to Tutankhamen) and Reeves’ & Taylors “Howard Carter, before Tutankhamen”.

And so will most of this article.


Castle Carter II as seen from Google Earth, 2012

Castle Carter II as seen from Google Earth, 2012

Obviously Carter has live in various places, throughout Egypt. As an Inspector for the Antiquities Service he lived in a house near Medinet Habu, called Castle Carter (hence the name for his last domicile “Castle Carter II”)

Castle Carter II stands only a few kilometres away from the first Castle Carter, on the crossroads between the desert and the road, leading to the Valley Of The Kings. For those, interested in exact data:

Latitude: 25°44’19.97″N
Longitude: 32°37’39.70″E

The place were it stands has the little appealing Arabic name “Elwat el-diban” or “Mound of flies”.

In 1910 Carter and Carnarvon had established a real tight relationship and were very confident as to what their future together would bring. So tight, even, that Carter decided to build his own house. In view of future activities, the chosen location was near the Valley of the Kings.

The design was local; Solid, spacious, build of four square parts with a central domed hall. Maybe Carters inspiration for the design came form the house that Somers Clarke build for himself earlier, near the River Nile at el-Kab.

One of the bricks, used for Castle Carter II

One of the bricks, used for Castle Carter II
(Although no traces could be found while reconstructing the house in 2008/2009)

Carnarvon encouraged the building of the new house. It’s unsure whether Carnarvon supported Carter financially, but he surely did so in a practical sense. At the time the Carnarvon Family not only owned an estate in Bretby (Derbyshire), but also a stone factory in Newhall (near Burton-on-Trent). It was in this factory that in 1910 a large amount of foundation stones were made, baring the inscription:

 

MADE AT BRETBY
ENGLAND
FOR HOWARD CARTER
A.D. THEBES 1910

In 2009, we wrote (as found in our source books): “Not all stones have survived, but those that did, show that they were made from a reddish material, while the outside was blackened. The stones were definitely used for the construction of Castle Carter II. We may assume that the stones were donated by Carnarvon for the construction of Carter’s house. Carter could have easily used local stones; sun baked as they still are in use today, but this would not have made the house half as strong as it still is today! By using these foundation stones, one could say that Carter followed in the footsteps of his Pharaonic predecessors. After all, they also left there names in the temples they build”.

Now, today we are not too sure anymore about that statement. When they renovated the house in 2008/2009, not one single thread of evidence could be found of these famous stones, neither in the foundation, nor in the structure itself!

Carter moved into his house at the beginning of 1911. It wasn’t long after, that he was visited by many to admire his new dwellings:

Arthur Weigall

Arthur Weigall

Emma B. Andrews

Emma B. Andrews

Alan Gardiner

Alan Gardiner

Carter has build himself a delightful house at north end of the necropolis and moves into it soon Theo and I had a charming afternoon with Mr. Carter in his new house – so well built and arranged and pretty – it looked like the abode of an artist and a scholar By noon we had reached the new house that Carter had build for himself … and, it being warm, we determined to call upon Carter and take drinks off him.I was glad to have an opportunity of looking over his house, which is quite delightful; simple mud walls, not rendered conspicuous by any plaster; very little furniture, but what there is artistic. In the middle is a little domed hall quite in the ancient Arabic style.Carter seems well, but has a dreadful greenish colour; he is quite sociable and decent towards us, and in a way I am always quite pleased to have his company
(Arthur Weigall)

(G.I. Gardiner Correspondence AHG/42.355.21, dated 10 January 1911)

(Mrs. Emma B. Andrews)

(Metropolitan Museum transcript, for 19 February 1911)

(Alan Gardiner)

(Gardiner letter of 4 October 1911, in the possession of Margaret Gardiner, died January 2 2005)


Apparently, there the information on Carter House stops.

It is sure that Carter did not live alone all the time in is house. Carnarvon lived there from time to time during the season, as did Callender, Carter’s most important assistant at the time, but eventually Carter stayed behind alone, trying to find some company in the evenings at the Old Winter Palace Hotel or at the Metropolitan House. I suppose, some of the staff lived at the house as well.

When Carter eventually left his house for the last time, he left it well provisioned with mostly tin-canned food, so, should he return, he would have enough for quite some time.

In his testament, Howard Carter left the house and it’s content, to the Metropolitan Museum (“I give and devise all rights I may possess in the land and building at Goorna of Luxor known as Eluat-El-Diban at the time of my decease with all rights of preemption attached thereto and contents thereof to the said Metropolitan Museum of Art New York”.)

The fact that this eventually did not happen, was due to a law in Egypt that says, that by law, all houses built on Egyptian Antiquities land belong to the Egyptian state (mail from the Metropolitan museum of Art, 3 September 2009)

For a while, caretakers of the Antiquities Service have lived in the house, but eventually it was abandoned and remained so for a long time. And there was a rumour that the Theban Mapping Project would obtain the lease to the house and make it into their dig house, but eventually the Egyptian Government decided to renovate the house and make it into a rest house. Quoting Dr. Zahi Hawass, former Minister of Antiquities in Egypt on his (previous) website:

Another important future event will be the opening of Howard Carter’s rest-house after the completion of its restoration and transformation into a museum. Two rooms will contain displays about the discoveries of Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon; one room will contain items that Carter left at the house in 1922; and one room will be a bedroom that will be rented out ten times a year to lucky couples. There will also be a kitchen and a photography lab. Next to this we will have a cafeteria for people to eat lunch, and visitors will be able to enter the rest-house for free. We are planning the grand opening on November 4th to which every scholar who has ever excavated in the valley will be invited, first to give a twenty minute lecture at the Mummification Museum in the morning, and then to attend the celebration in the afternoon.

A separate article about the opening festivities you can find here.


Conclusion.

Oh, If only walls could talk.

Imagine what they would have to say. They would talk about happiness or sadness, after a successful or lost season of hard work. The would talk about anger, as Howard Carter could get very angry and unpleasant at times. The would speak about the many conversations Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon must have had before they found the tomb. About friendship, hostility, loneliness, love, happiness and sorrow.

Walls can’t talk, but walking through Castle Carter II (accompanied by two or three caretakers, of course, I can almost hear Howard Carter’s voice, saying the magic words:

Yes, it’s Wonderful


To finish this article (Although our research is still ongoing), we would like to show you some photographs of what the house looked like, both inside and out), when Howard Carter was living there. Now, although they have done a great job in restoring the house, It doesn’t quite look today, as it used to look!

The original photos were, unfortunately, sold in 2010 by John Carter through an auction house to a commercial collector who sold them to a private collector, along with some other of Howard Carter’s belongings, probably making them unavailable to the rest of the world forever.

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Status of Research: Ongoing

Status of article: Open

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