26 November, 1922 at Luxor: the antechamber to Tutankhamun’s tomb is found, and the tomb is “officially” inspected the following day.
Carter wrote: “Slowly, desperately slowly it seemed to us as we watched, the remains of the passage debris that encumbered the lower part of the doorway were removed until at last we had the whole door clear before us. The decisive moment had arrived. With trembling hands I made a tiny breach in the upper left hand corner. Darkness and blank space, as far as an iron testing-rod could reach, showed that whatever lay beyond was empty, and not filled like the passage we had just cleared. Candle tests were applied as a precaution against possible foul gases, and then, widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in, Lord Carnarvon, Lady Evelyn, and Callender standing anxiously beside me to hear the verdict.”
“At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold – everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by – I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, ‘Can you see anything?’ it was all I could do to get out the words ‘Yes, wonderful things.”
The accounts are equivocal, and the evidence slim, but it is hard to resist the idea that Carter and Carnarvon failed to resist the temptation to enter the chamber of Tutankhamun that evening, before the Chief Inspector of Upper Egypt had officially sanctioned this. After all, they’d been scouring dirt in the Valley of Kings for 30 years, what a triumphant moment it must have seemed! The taking of ‘souvenirs’ is rather less admirable – it wasn’t till 2010 for example that the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York returned some 19 trinkets filched from Tut’s tomb. Nevertheless, it seems that after the success of that season’s dig, a curious run of bad luck ensued – bad health, bad weather, bureaucratic resistance, lack of funds, premature death. A curse, perhaps?