10 February 1923
The Illustrated World The Adventure of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen
It is a very singular and disconcerting thing that the same act can, according to time and circumstances, be seen as criminal or meritorious, provoke celebration or reprobation. Be met with unlimited reprobation or universal celebration.
An example of this contradiction, apparently incompatible, is provided to us by this ‘great event’, which just occurred in Egypt, and which the international press does not cease to entertain its readers with at every possible opportunity.
The story is about a violated burial. An execrable sacrilege, which all populations, at all ages of History, would have condemned, but, this time, those who dared to perpetuate it were rewarded with unanimous praise.
Once, when audacious thieves without any scruples, succeeded in the exhumation, at night, at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, of the corpse of a young actress, who had died tragically after a short successful career on the boulevard, the strongest vituperations were written to describe this act , which ended up being not so profitable as the disappointed perpetrators did not find the rich jewels she was supposed to have been buried with.
The public opinion is rather different in the case of Mr Howard Carter, who leads the excavations on the borders of the Nile, and of Lord Carnarvon, who seems to have assumed the financial responsibilities of this enterprise.
As for the discovery they just made of the burial chamber of a pharaoh, who, it is said, exposed his 3 thousand years corpse and treasures to the curiosity of inspectors and archaeologists – it provoked an unanimous concert of elegies and congratulations.
The juxtaposition of these two similar acts, appreciated so differently, as one is shown as a reprehensible act whilst the other is presented as a memorable exploit, seems to illustrate the Einstein theory on time and space, as our associate Clement Vautrel said recently in one of his films, time , like space, transforms the aspects of men, objects and human gestures (translator’s note: this paragraph is very obscure even in its original French. The writers seem to have been rather pedantic).
The remarkable prologue of a book by Theophile Gautier which once won a great success under the title Le Roman de la Momie (The Mummy’s tale) appears to have predicted every detail now provided to us on the violation of the tomb where the corpse of Pharaoh Tutankhamen , despite the precautions taken by this pharaoh so that his corpse would never be found and, according to the rites it could enjoy eternal peace under the guard of Osiris and of the 42 ‘Amenti’ Judges until the day of his rising.
Lord Evendale and Rumpluins, precursors of Lord Carnarvon and Mr. Carter, have had the unexpected fortune of discovering a tomb which had never been excavated neither by the Pastor Kings nor by the Medes of Cambyse nor by the Greeks, nor by the Romans nor by Arabs, which left its riches intact and its ‘virgin mystery’, that of the adorable Tahoser, daughter of the Great Priest Petamounoph and contemporary of Moise.
King Tutankhamen just provided the same prodigious surprise to the modern explorers of the Valley of the Kings, as in the antechamber of the still walled crypt, which kept the pharaoh’s mummy, they were met with an accumulation of marvels: one can describe these objects as such, left intact and revealing a lost civilisation: statues, coffers, containing royal robes and quantities of jewels. alabaster vases in lotus and papyrus forms . Furniture in animal shapes and wheels and a complete chariot.
Without a doubt, they felt the same emotions as the characters of the novel we mentioned, at the opening of the “Chambre Dorée” (The Golden chamber), as it seemed that, according to Shakespeare’s saying ‘the wheels of time had left their rut’ and that the notion of modern life seemed to disappear.
Such miraculous discovery attracts such an interest that we can forget all consideration, as if Tutankhamen recovered life and voice again and would absolve his looting academics in love with antique culture.
Since he would have long been instructed in the vanity of this world, he would have without doubt proclaimed that he is no longer attached to his remains resting in the shadows of the tomb but must now be exposed in some London museum – which is no doubt their intended fate.
Translated from the original French Article in “Le Monde Illustré”
Translation by Stephanie Taylor King, MA In Modern History, freelancer at Cameo web media.