100 years since the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb: a timeline of the boy king's treasures

As Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh presented by Viking Cruises arrives in London, follow the story of the 1922 discovery.

Published 31 Oct 2019, 10:26 GMT, Updated 30 Dec 2021, 17:06 GMT
The Canopic Coffinette of Tutankhamun, one of the 150 ancient marvels featuring in the upcoming Tutankhamun: ...
The Canopic Coffinette of Tutankhamun, one of the 150 ancient marvels featuring in the upcoming Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh exhibition, presented by Viking Cruises.

The first of its kind, the Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh exhibition will take visitors on an evocative journey to Ancient Egypt using a vast collection of his items — all of which were placed around his royal tomb, and lay in darkness for thousands of years in the Valley of the Kings.

The hoard of 150 items, thought to help him in his final resting place and on his journey into the afterlife, tell the story of the legendary golden king, brought to life with digital content and audio soundscapes through nine galleries. Part of an unmissable 10-city world tour, its final destination will be in Cairo’s new Grand Egyptian Museum, where all objects excavated from King Tut’s tomb will remain in a permanent collection.

Why now? It’s 100 years since archaeologist Howard Carter first peeked through a dusty hole and gazed into the clandestine chamber, whispering the words ‘wonderful things’ at the golden chariots, the paintings, and the iconic gilded coffin he found inside. 

To celebrate, we take a look back at some of the key moments since the monumental discovery.

After years of research, British Egyptologist Howard Carter stumbles across a rubble-strewn stairway and unearths Tutankhamun’s almost-intact burial chamber, hidden from the world for more than 3,000 years. Financed by Lord Carnarvon, the discovery in the Valley of the Kings goes down as one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century and the legend of the boy king, Tutankhamun, is born.

The door to the burial chamber is finally opened in February 1923, revealing a room filled with shrines. Beyond these lay a series of gold sarcophagi, concealing the boy king’s final resting place and the masterful golden funerary mask. Obscured behind another wall was ‘the treasury’, a hidden corner that eluded grave robbers for thousands of years and stored Tutankhamun’s most prized royal possessions.

Lord Carnarvon dies from an infected mosquito bite on his cheek — an event that sparked rumours of the mythical Mummy’s Curse, as reported by the Daily Mail. The newspaper makes several false claims: that Cairo is plunged into darkness following his passing; that Carnarvon’s stepbrother mysteriously dies several days later; that the mummified King Tut has a cheek wound identical to the aristocrat; and that several others associated with the discovery have also died.

Carter and his expert team transfer all 5,398 items from the tomb to Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. Evidence of ancient looting comes to light after they notice two re-openings and re-closings of the sealed doorway; Carter surmises thieves broke in shortly after King Tut’s funeral, stealing fragrant balms and some valuable items. Carter receives an honorary doctorate from Yale University, and passes away from cancer in 1939.

The unsolved mystery of how the pharaoh died continues — but thanks to modern science, speculation is rife that King Tut may have been killed with a blow to the head. The techniques also reveal Tutankhamun was related to the mummified pharaoh Thutmose IV. In 1972, a sensational world tour featuring many of the treasures arrives at the British Museum, with 17 of the exhibits having never previously left Egypt. The show is immensely popular, attracting 30,000 visitors in its first week, and becomes the British Museum’s most successful exhibition in history.

A scan contradicts the previously held belief that Tutankhamun was murdered; it’s now believed the 19-year-old king died from an infected leg wound. Another mystery is solved, too — after extensive DNA investigations, evidence indicates the two stillborn babies also discovered in the tomb with the king are his daughters

DNA analysis confirms King Tut was the son of pharaoh Amenhotep IV/Akhenaton and that his mother (an anonymous mummy known by the name ‘Young Lady’) and father were, in fact, brother and sister.

The Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh exhibition begins a world tour, arriving at London’s Saatchi Gallery in November 2019. Three times the size of any past travelling Tutankhamun collection, the 150 pieces range from jewellery to furniture. The exhibition comes almost a century after Howard Carter first gazed into the famous burial chamber, and the legend of the Boy King has captivated the world ever since. This once-in-a-lifetime event allows visitors to admire the artefacts on tour before they return to their new home at Giza’s Grand Egyptian Museum. 


Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh presented by Viking Cruises opens at London’s Saatchi Gallery on 2 November for a limited run. General adult admission from £24.50, plus fees. For tickets, please visit tutankhamun-london.com

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