King Tut Uncovered

-Norma Jean Garriton

I will be comparing the following three sites:
“The Search for King Tut”, is the premiere site for looking at Howard Carter, the head archeologist’s, notes of the five seasons he spent excavating King Tut’s tomb. It provides a small biography of Howard Carter and information about the two note books he penned during the dig. The website is all transcribed; none of the original documents have been digitized. One of the benefits of the site, however, is it provides maps of the dig, drawn or utilized by Carter, to provide a frame of reference for the locations he speaks of.
This photo archive is sponsored by BBC and provides detailed images and descriptions of many of the artifacts found during the excavation of King Tut. Narrated by Bob Patridge, an Egyptologist, it provided commentary and photo imagery for those who are unable to see the artifacts in person.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has digitized its collection of photos for the public to create an online exhibit in conjunction with the one housed at the Museum. The photo archive has images of King Tut’s excavation, along with a description of each picture. The exhibition was on display at the Met from December of 2006 until April of 2007, but the archive remains on the Museum’s website.

The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s (King Tut) tomb in 1922 has been considered one of greatest finds of the 20th century; it was the only tomb found completely intact after 3,000 years. Howard Carter became the director of the excavation in Thebes funded by Lord Carnarvon in 1914 and began looking for the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Carter was convinced that the tomb of the unknown Pharaoh existed, lying in wait for him to find. After several years of unsuccessful excavation Carter was granted one more season to find the tomb before his funding would be recalled. Several weeks later on November 26th of 1922, King Tut’s tomb was found on the exact spot Carter had predicted. The archeologist was the first person to step inside for a few thousand centuries. Carter and his team worked tirelessly recovering hundreds of Egyptian artifacts. The lavish treasure he unearthed made the young boy Pharaoh a household name.

The site itself gained even more notoriety when several members of Carter’s team, including his financer Lord Carnarvon, died within a decade of the discovery. Public outcry claimed a mummy’s curse had settled upon the excavation. In more recent years, advancements in forensic science have once again brought King Tut to the forefront of history. Scientists have circulated theories regarding the untimely demise of the boy Pharaoh, attempting to unravel the mystery that many feel shrouds his death. Contemporary theorist speculate that King Tut was murder by a member of his inner circle, a theory championed by the Discovery Channel’s made for television miniseries, The Assassination of King Tut.

King Tut was not an important Pharaoh in Egyptian history, having reached more notoriety in death then he ever received in life. Becoming Pharaoh at the age of nine after his older sibling drowned, Tut spent ten years in power before his death. It is assumed that his regime, at least the first several years of it, was controlled by his advisors. The ten years Tut was in power were a peaceful time for Egypt, so not much has survived from the past, even from his tomb, which could provide concrete clues regarding his reign, lineage or burial. Similarly, mysteries also surround the discovery of the tomb, because proper documentation concerning the dig site has not been very accessible to the public, even ninety years later.

In truth, archaeology of the early 20th century wasn’t as developed as it has become in later years. Artifacts, along with King Tut’s mummy, were mishandled and the records which emerged from the Valley of Kings are sparse. What was left are some photos taken during the dig, a few journals written by Howard Carter’s and of course the collection of artifacts unearthed with Tut. The three websites that follow, give viewers a glimpse into these primary documents and photos.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has digitized a collection of photos in conjunction with a special exhibition entitled, Discovering Tutankhamun: The Photographs of Harry Burton. The photo archive has images of King Tut’s excavation, including pictures of the artifacts. The Search for Tutankhamun is another website that has transcriptions of Howard Carter’s journals which documented daily findings during the excavation. Lastly, The Treasures of Tutankhamun Gallery, provides detailed images and descriptions of many of the artifacts found during the excavation of King Tut, most of which rest in the Egyptian Museum at Cairo. Narrated by Bob Patridge, an Egyptologist, the BBC, British Broadcast Corporation, provides commentary and photo imagery for those who are unable to see the artifacts in person.

Site goals

The Search for Tutankhamun
This site is the only online database that presents original documents from the King Tut excavation. Created by the Griffith Institute, at Oxford, in its own words the site “demonstrates that the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter in November 1922 was not accidental but the result of a combination of a well-reasoned systematic search and exceptional archaeological intuition.” This site hopes to bring Howard Carter’s words to the public, providing a look at one of the only primary resources to emerge from the excavation. The creation of this database was funded by The Theban Foundation and is dedicated to presenting a public-friendly website where Carter’s notes and materials are available for viewing. The hope is that viewers will for an appreciation and even admiration for Carter’s archeological talents.

Discovering Tutankhamun: The Photographs of Harry Burton:
The goal of this digital archive is to display photographs taken by Harry Burton, which compliments special exhibit presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art entitled Discovering Tutankhamun: The Photographs of Harry Burton. At the time that the exhibit was showing, December 19, 2006 until April 29, 2007, the Met distributed a publication that commented on the photographs and their historical relevance. Harry Burton was on staff for the Metropolitan’s Egyptian Expedition, when he was “lent” to Carter as were many of his co-workers. The Metropolitan doesn’t site a specific goal in relation to this site, but it is apparent on the main page how important they feel the photographs are for the historical record. Burton documented every stage of the excavation, just as Howard recorded his finding in his journals. In general, as mentioned above, there are not too many primary resources that emerge from the tomb’s excavation. Fortunately, Burton was able to capture the first look inside the tomb, the unveiling of artifacts and the emotion of those who worked on the dig. Unlike prior archeological digs, capturing this discovery gives the artifacts a sense of immortality; an ability to last forever on film. In their natural state said artifacts will eventually deteriorate or could be destroyed and the people who worked on the site will eventually pass, but the photographs allow a more concrete method of preservation. The website itself allows viewers more accessibility.

Treasures of Tutankhamun Gallery:
Sponsored by BBC, this website is a collection of photographs of some of the artifacts found buried with King Tut. It has very little information on the main page in regards to the photos, when they were taken, were, who took them, ect. However, it does explain that the objects are housed mostly in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and gives a brief description of each photograph authored by Bob Partridge. This website’s goal is to give viewers, who have not had the opportunity to see the artifacts, a chance to interact with the materials that came from “the best known and most spectacular archaeological find anywhere in the world”.

Range of materials offered

The Search for King Tutankhamun:
This site offers the most diverse range of material in the form of photographs, maps, scanned journal entries and transcriptions. Howard Carter kept a series of journals thorough the seven years he spent in Egypt. The two housed here are from his last years when the excavation of the tomb began. Notebook D (Griffith Institute's Archive I.J.386) is written in pencil and ink and consists of 29 numbered pages. The book itself is 32 by 20 cm and is titled “Journal of Lord Carnarvon's Excavations in the Valleys of the Tombs of the Kings. Giving the order and position of objects found. “Most of the notes are listings of the findings of the day. Carter neatly translates this material along with information from the first four excavation seasons into his sixth Journal in pen. The Griffith institute marks this Notebook E (Griffith Institute's Archive I.J.387). This notebook is the one that is scanned and transcribed. Notebook D is mentioned on the website to reference where the material from the fourth season came from. The pages are available for viewing in there original format and are also transcribed, probably do in part to Carter’s sloppy hand writing. In addition, this digital archive includes photographs of the site, some which are numbered and dated by Carter, but all of which were used by the archaeologist. The pictures are scanned so one can see Carter’s handwritten, but no further information, with the exception of a title are given. Three maps have also been added to the database, with indications of where some of the artifacts were found, also used by Carter and an important part of the archive. This site by far has the widest range of material and while it can be compared in professionalism with the Metropolitan photo archive, this database can be more useful for understanding Carter’s thoughts as he makes the biggest find of his career.

Discovering Tutankhamun: The Photographs of Harry Burton:
For this website, which is an extension of the Metropolitan’s “special exhibitions webpages” fourteen images were digitized, presented in thumbnail versions. The introduction page talks about Burton’s career as an archeological photographer and his professional relationship with the Met. There is a link to provide more about the exhibition which includes added materials for the viewers, including a Map of the Necropolis, a Plan of the Tomb, information about the exhibit and designers, a timeline of art history, links to suggested reading and also links to a collection of essays inspired by the exhibit. The website also lists a general description of the photograph collection in addition to individual descriptions presented with the metadata of each picture. This is one positive that it holds over the website created by the Griffith Institute. The pictures scanned from Carter’s collection aren’t labeled with any information and for the average viewer this is confusing.

The following is pulled directly from the site and is a great introduction:
“The exhibition includes Harry Burton's spectacular black-and-white images of the entrance passage to the tomb, the opening of the sealed chambers inside, the first view of the contents and removal of the objects, and the beautifully made and decorated treasures that were found. The four chambers of the tomb were crammed with objects such as gold-covered chariots; elaborately inlaid furniture and chests; a vast array of the king's personal belongings, including jewelry; a series of shrines and coffins that protected the king; and the famous solid-gold mask that adorned his mummy—one of the most iconic examples of ancient Egyptian art ever to have come to light.”

Treasures of Tutankhamun Gallery:
The range of primary material at this site is much more limited than the others. The photographs are ideal if one wants to view the artifacts, but very little is mentioned about them in relation to the excavation; where they were found for example. The BBC does do a great job however, of giving descriptions about the artifact’s purpose in Egyptian culture. One of the other positive aspects of this site is ts added value content. It has links to a historical timeline, current events from that area of the world, other articles that discuss Ancient Egypt and external websites of organizations that relate to the photos, like the British Museum and even the Griffith Institute. Lastly, there is the ability post any of these pictures on individual websites like facebook being one example, which is extremely convenient.

Creators and audience

The Search for Tutankhamun:
This site was created by the Griffith Institute, of Oxford, who has claims to the archive, with funds donated by the Theban Foundation. The small staff which helped to design the website and maintain it includes designers and transcribers under the direction of the project leader. The site definitely caters to a wide audience, scholarly and non- scholarly, which is evident by the attempts at simplify the material; there are transcriptions and the designers have included their own commentary under the transcriptions, which are in italics, to help explain Carter’s transcribed notes. The site is interesting in the sense that it is unique in its existence and because it has a wide range of material it can be very helpful to the student/teacher or an interested public. The creators also made a clear statement that they created the site to prove Howard Carter’s discovery was not a fluke but the product of hard work, talent and archaeological skill and the audience will definitely be impacted by the material, whether they agree with the purpose for which it is displayed.

Discovering Tutankhamun: The Photographs of Harry Burton:
This site was digitized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The original photographs had a large following, especially considering Harry Burton himself was deeply intrigued by the excavation and it shows in his pictures. In the early 1900s, the excavation in the Valley of the Kings was part of a movement that revived interest in Egyptian art culture in modern society. Harry Burton was already on an assignment for the Metropolitan Museum of Art photographing Theban tombs. The Theban project lent many of its workers, including Burton, to Carter when the archeologist realize what a daunting task cataloging and uncovering Tut’s tomb would be. The audience has not changed; the website draws Egyptian enthusiast in a similar vein that the original photographs drew in the 1920s. For those less interested in Egypt and more in art and photography, the collection caters to that audience as well. All of the aforementioned added material also give the site substance and appeal to the Egyptian or art scholar.

Treasures of Tutankhamun Gallery:
This gallery was created by BBC, British Broadcast Corporation, to allow viewers access to photographs of Egyptian artifacts without having to visit them in Cairo. Britain had a unique relationship with Egypt, declaring it a protectorate until 1919 when its status changed after a surprise revolution. Nonetheless, Britain has held a vested interested in excavating the area, and has a great deal of Museums which house artifacts excavated from various sites throughout the 18th and 19th century. The site was authored by popular Egyptian lecturer Bob Patridge, but does not seem to be singularly dedicated to one audience.

How Documents are Treated

The Search for Tutankhamun:
The documents on this site are both transcribed and digitized. Once you enter the database, by passing introductory material, the main page divides documents and supporting material by excavation. Since Notebook E is the culmination of all six seasons, it is the only notebook digitize. This is a little misleading from the introductory material which seems to suggest that both notebooks are digitized. Under each excavation is a listing of page numbers and a list of correlating supporting material (i.e. maps and pictures). Next to each page number, the number of the find is also listed. For example the 1st Excavation Season has two maps, one of the Valley of the Kings nd the second showing locations of the foundation deposits. Also listed under 1st Excavation Season are pages 1-8 and artifact finds 1-105. (Each artifact is identified by a number) At the bottom of the page there is a long index of pictures and a separate listing of pictures found in Carter’s collection that wer not labeled by his hand. To view a page you click on the link (page 1) which brings you to the transcription and also the designers italicized notes. To view the original document you can then click on a small thumbnail of Carter’s handwriting and it brings you to a scanned copy of a notebook page. Photographs and maps are clearly labeled under the excavation season they were used and are viewed separately from notebook pages. The creators have also labeled all material with identification numbers that correlate with the actual archive. The following is the list of material in the format it is organized in on the site:
• 1st Excavation Season
February 8 to March 1915.
Pages 1-8
Map of the Valley of the Kings
Map showing locations of foundation deposits
• 2nd Excavation Season
December 1, 1917 to February 2, 1918
Pages 14-17
Map of the excavation area, after Porter-Moss
Panoramic views of the excavation: December 3, 12, 23
General views showing progress of excavation
Excavation photographs, in chronological order
• 3rd Excavation Season
December 19, 1919 to March 16th, 1920
Pages 13-18
Maps, after Porter-Moss: February 19, 1919, January 2, 1920, January 10, 1920, February 17, 1920 and February 21, 1920
Excavation photographs, in chronological order
• 4th Excavation Season.
December 1, 1920- March 3, 1921
Pages 17-24
Maps, after Porter- Moss: December 1, 1920, January 3, 1921 and March 3, 1921
Excavation photograph
• 5th Excavation Season.
February 8 to March, 1922
Map, after Porter- Moss: February 8, 1922
• The beginning of the 6th Excavation
November 1, 1922-
Map, after Porter-Moss: November 1, 1922
• The maps are labeled sometimes with what was excavated during certain days or what finds were made where. They are organized with the journal they correspond to.

Discovering Tutankhamun: The Photographs of Harry Burton:
This site offers a great deal of information to coincide with the photo archive, including identifying the subjects of the photograph. The photos are also labeled with detailed metadata including Metropolitan’s name, as they own the photograph collection, the photographers name and an identification number. Some photographs have additional references. For example, MMA Burton photo TAA2, has an added value, a map of the necropolis is linked as a frame of reference for the picture. While this is a small exhibit it is extremely detailed, and sometimes can be more effective in its message then a written archive. In all likelihood the pictures displayed by the Griffith institute located at the aforementioned site could be some of the shots that Burton took during the time he spent at the dig. Unfortunately, that archive cannot identify the photographer.

Treasures of Tutankhamun Gallery:
As the least professional of the sites, The Treasures of Tutankhamun offers little information about the pictures with the exception of added value descriptions. The pictures have no metadata or identification. It is unclear as to who took the pictures or even when they were taken. The site mentions in its introduction that there were hundreds of artifacts recovered by the site, which now rest in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum. However, it is never mentioned if that is the setting for these photographs. Context clues would definitely suggest that it is a museum setting, something which should be mentioned by BBC. Unfortunately, this is definitely a negative of this site.


None of the sites are searchable, although The Search for King Tut does have a disclaimer on its front page that search options will be available. The sites created by both the BBC and the Met allow for searching of their main sites, but not of the individual archives.

Rating the sites

In conclusion, in order to rate these sites it is important to understand their existence in relation to the total information on the internet regarding archival material linked to King Tut. It would be negligent not to admit that in general, the resources dedicated to this historical event are not extensive and are far from adequate in scholarship. It was extremely difficult to find resources that offer documentation from the excavation, which surprised me since the dig has been making headlines continually for over ninety years. The three sites thoroughly discussed above are far from perfect, but should be acknowledged and even commended for being the first of their kind. In relation to each other the Metropolitan site is probably the best. A close second would be the Griffith Institute site, which has a wide range of material and is equally professional. The last site, created by BBC is the worst of the three, though its photos are engaging. The following is individual rating scores giving for the various reasons discussed above.

The Search for Tutankhamun:
This website provides a very unique opportunity to look at primary documents. It even went the extra mile of transcribing the documents and including notes. Its introduction about Howard Carter and about the database is a great feature that introduces the archaeologist and the collection and really provides viewers with the opportunity to understand the archive. It was also extremely organized and easy to navigate, including not only the written journal entries, but maps and labeled photographs that Carter used. I also liked how they stated their goal and purpose upfront. However, I wonder if their statement of proving that Carter’s find was not accidental but the product of his archeological genius is an ambiguous one. I don’t think a statement of that nature can be addressed by an archive, but seems better suited for a thesis or scholarly paper. I wonder if such a strong statement actual deters viewers from entering. There was no search ability, although it is advertised that it will be available soon. There was also no metadata available for the pictures. For these reasons it received a 3/5, because it can still use some improvement.

Discovering Tutankhamun: The Photographs of Harry Burton:
I felt that this site was actually done particularly well, with labeled pictures, an introduction and interesting added value that provided great resources for the viewer. Although it is small, it is an interesting photo archive that is a great primary resource. The one critique is that it had no searching ability. For this reason it received a 4/5.

Treasures of Tutankhamun Gallery:
The last gallery was a bit of a disappointment on many levels, which I discovered after further investigation. The site has great added value, but the archive itself is mismanaged, not labeled and confusing. Although the descriptions of the photographs are great, one is left in the dark as to the details about the photos themselves. There is much room for improvement here and thus this site gets a 2/5

Ideally a combination of all three sites would be great; the added value from Treasures of Tutankhamun Gallery, the pictures and metadata from Discovering Tutankhamun: The Photographs of Harry Burton: and the written material and organization from The Search for Tutankhamun. This would create the perfect website.

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