Lord Carnarvon: “The find is Extraordinary”
In an aged “Newspaper Cuttings” album, compiled by the great Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner, one unexpectedly finds two envelopes neatly attached to a page, seemingly at odds with the rest of the material.
A tantalizing clue to their contents are the adjacent clippings announcing the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, and when the first envelope contents are lifted out and unfolded, one is immediately compelled to read further when greeted with ‘Most private’!
This is Lord Carnarvon’s own account of the discovery, the elation flowing through his words is tangible, the inventory of the King’s treasures reading like a modern day ‘Wish List’.
This is one of two letters written shortly after the discovery, both addressed to Gardiner whom Carnarvon wanted to entice with “a box with a few papyri in”, which disappointedly later proved to be rolls of linen
My dear Gardiner,
I wrote to my wife yesterday & asked her to give you a message.
The find is extraordinary. It is a cache & has been plundered to a certain extent but even the ancients could not completely destroy it after some slight plundering the inspectors shut it again.
So far it is Tutankamon beds boxes & every conceivable thing. There is a box with a few papyri in – the throne of the King the most marvellous inlaid chair you ever saw – 2 life size figures of the King bitumenised (sic) – all sorts of religious signs hardly known up to date[.] The King[‘s] clothing rotten but gorgeous. Everything is in a very ticklish state owing to constant handlings & openings in ancient times (I reckon on having to spend 2000£ on preserving & packing)[.] The most wonderful ushabti in wood of the King [,] wood portrait head[,] ditto endless staves etc. [,]some with most wonderful work[.] 4 chariots, the most miraculous alabaster vases ever seen
—End of first page—
3 colossal beds of honour with extraordinary animals[.]
There is a further room so packed [or ‘hacked’?] one cannot see really what is there – Some of the boxes are marvellous chairs numerable a wonderful stool ebony & ivory [.]
Then there is a bricked up room, which we have not yet opened [.] Probably containing the mummies I should not be surprised to find therein Tut & his wife & Smenkara & his, but so far it[’]s all Tut.
There is enough stuff to fill the whole Egyptian section upstairs of the B.M.
I imagine it is the greatest find ever made.
Tomorrow the official opening [Wednesday 29th November 1922] & before I leave we peep into the walled chamber.
I some how fancy it is the whole of the Amarna outfit as on the throne the King & wife are represented with sun disk[.] I hope to be back soon. Carter has weeks of work ahead of him[.] I have between 20 & 30 soldiers police & gaffirs to guard.
This Letter By Lord Carnarvon was published with the kind permission of the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford
Gardiner MSS, Newspaper Cuttings Album, Lord Carnarvon letter, 28th November 1922
Copyright Griffith Institute, University of Oxford.