Tutankhamun’s gold funerary mask triggered my love of archaeology.
King Tut and me.
It began in Tonawanda, NY, in the early 60’s, when my dad brought home a full-color coffee table book about the discovery of pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb. This amazing photo of Tutankhamun’s funerary face mask made of gold and lapis lazuli graced the cover.
British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the untouched tomb in 1922.
By 1929, 11 members of Howard Carter’s excavating team had died, including Lord Carnarvon, the financial backer of the expedition. This inspired all the scary Curse of the mummy movies we loved as kids.
It was rare even in 1922 to find an Egyptian tomb that hadn’t already been plundered by tomb-raiders.
The discovery received world-wide attention and inspired a new interest in Egypt’s ancient civilization. It also sparked “Tut-mania,” and infiltrated modern culture in the 20’s and 30’s in fashion, design, jewelry, and music, among other things.
The boy-king Tutankhamun lived 3,000 years ago.
He became pharaoh at nine years of age, and ruled Egypt for ten years, dying at the age of nineteen.
When his tomb was opened for the first time, the glint of “gold, gold, everywhere gold…” stunned the observers. How exciting it must have been for Carter. “The best day of my life,” he said later.
I was instantly hooked.
Devoured the book. And that was that. I wanted to be an archaeologist. I read every book I could find on Egypt, the pyramids, the Valley of the Kings, and mummies. From there I branched out to ancient Rome and the catacombs. My love of ancient history widened and deepened from there.
What do you think of this recreation of Tut’s face? A French team worked with National Geographic, using 21st century techniques, to recreate it.
It’s said that when they opened Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus, a circlet of faded blue cornflowers around the mummy’s neck still gave off a faint perfume. Perhaps, Ankhesenamun, Tutankhamun’s young wife, lingered there alone after the funeral to place it on her beloved’s mummy.