10 secrets of Tutankhamun’s tomb on the 100th anniversary of its discovery

The tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun was first discovered in 1922, in the Valley of the Kings, near Thebes, Egypt (Yui Mok/PA Wire)
The tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun was first discovered in 1922, in the Valley of the Kings, near Thebes, Egypt (Yui Mok/PA Wire)

Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered in 1922 and provided some great insight into ancient Egypt. There is plenty to learn about the discovery, including when and how the tomb was found, and why it had such an impact.

For example, it may come as a surprise that Tutankhamun has no heart or that the tomb had actually been broken into twice previously.

Tutankhamun, or King Tut, was born in 1342 BC, in the ancient city of Amarna. He ruled Egypt as pharaoh for 10 years from the age of just nine, until his death at age 19, around 1324 B.C.

He wasn’t well known to the modern world until 1922 when British archaeologist Howard Carter chiselled into the intact tomb of King Tut.

There are different theories as to what killed King Tut. He was tall but physically frail, with a crippling bone disease in his clubbed left foot. Traditional inbreeding in the Egyptian royal family also likely contributed to his poor health and early death. DNA tests published in 2010 revealed that Tutankhamun’s parents were brother and sister.

His remains revealed a hole in the back of the skull, leading some historians to suggest that the young king had been assassinated, but recent tests suggest that the hole was made during mummification.

CT scans in 1995 also showed that the king had an infected broken left leg, while DNA from his mummy revealed evidence of multiple malaria infections, all of which may have contributed to his early death.

10 secrets of Tutankhamun’s tomb

1. King Tut’s tomb was very well concealed

Tombs were usually covered, to protect them from discovery by looters, and the tomb was eventually found under more than 150,000 tonnes of rock, including debris from a tomb dug into the hillside above his.

2. It was believed that the tomb wouldn’t be found

Experts believed that every tomb in the valley had already been raided in antiquity or uncovered more recently by archeologists.

3. Howard Carter went against public opinion to find the tomb

Before King Tut’s tomb was found in November 1922, from the top step of a staircase leading down to the tomb, the team was close to giving up. Carter dug for years prior to this, including during World War I.

4. This wasn’t the first time King Tut’s tomb had been broken into

Though the door at the base of the stairs was sealed shut, the tomb had been broken into twice before.

The robberies had taken place shortly after the burial, 3,000 years before Carter’s discovery. Thieves had stolen mostly smaller objects, such as precious stone beads.

Ancient officials had patched the openings in the outer door with plaster and imprinted it with new seals after the last breach. An inner door down a sloping corridor had also been broken and resealed.

5. Tutankhamun was buried in the world’s most expensive coffin

Two of Tutankhamun’s three coffins were made of wood, and covered with gold foil. The inner part of the coffin was made from thick sheets of beaten gold. This coffin measures 1.88m in length, and weighs 110.4kg.

If it were to be scrapped today it would be worth well over £1m.

6. It created new standards for archeology

Carter carried through techniques he had learned in previous work, setting a new bar for meticulousness and comprehensiveness.

The team used electric lighting (which was an innovative tool at the time), installed by Harry Burton, the world’s most accomplished archeological photographer.

And numbered cards were placed next to individual artifacts in photos before any object was moved. Carter also took detailed notes and sketches before packing up the inventoried treasures.

7. The discovery enhanced our understanding of Egyptian history

The tomb provided valuable insight into Egyptian history, with chariots, weapons, clothing, and artwork reflecting methods of warfare and who Egypt deemed its enemies.

And the undisturbed coffins helped archeologists to understand elaborate burial practices.

8. “Tutmania” spread across the world

Burton’s detailed photos meant that the news could reach a worldwide audience.

Egyptian and Tutankhamun motifs appeared in popular music and fashion, architecture and décor, and even in brands of fruit.

9. Egypt retained control of Tut’s antiquities

King Tut’s treasures didn’t leave the country. Lord Carnarvon had expected to claim a large share of the antiquities but, because Egypt was asserting its independence from Britain at the time of the discovery, the government insisted that they all remain in Egypt.

10. Today, King Tut still inspires a new generation of archaeologists

Tut quickly became a symbol of Egyptian identity at the time of discovery. Now more than 5,000 treasures from the tomb will be the centerpiece of a new Grand Egyptian Museum, in Cairo.