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Exploring the story of one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century.

Howard Carter came to Egyptology through his skills as a draughtsman and artist, having been commissioned to copy hieroglyphic inscriptions and tomb paintings at the age of 17. After establishing himself as a successful archaeologist he was employed by George Herbert, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, to lead excavations of ancient tombs on the Theban west bank.

In 1914 the men jumped at the chance to search for one of the last royal tombs to be located; that of Tutankhamun. Little was known about him at the time, with most reports suggesting he was a king of minor historical importance.

Unfortunately for the team, their excavations were largely unsuccessful and by 1922 Lord Carnarvon could no longer afford the costs to continue the work. Carter was able to persuade him to undertake one more season of digging, and just days later on 5 November the archaeologist recorded in his diary: “Discovered tomb under tomb of Ramses VI / Investigated same & found seals intact”. What they found caused a sensation.

The Times of London was given exclusive access to the excavation and soon photographs of the tomb and its contents appeared around the world. An enthralled public quickly became swept up in by ‘Tutmania’, and Egypt and its boy-king were celebrated in film, advertising, popular music, fashion, and design.

This exhibition brings together objects, photographs and archive material that reveal not only the story of the discovery, but also the significance of the tomb and its contents and how modern historians continue to interpret the evidence.

Ashmolean Museum

Beaumont Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 2PH

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Last Friday of the month until 8pm

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