People you will read about: Tutankhamun: an Egyptian king around 1358 B.C.
Howard Carter - the archaeologist who discovered the tomb of King Tut.
Things you will read about:
Pharaohs: kings of ancient Egypt.
Valley of the Kings: an area on the west bank of the Nile River which was used as a cemetery for Pharaohs.
The magnificence of Egyptian culture is reflected by the treasure of
The procession wound its way slowly across the dry wasteland of the Valley of the Kings, past limestone cliffs that concealed the tombs of Egypt's greatest rulers. At last, it reached the head of the Valley and halted before the entrance to a small, four-room tomb. There the coffin was taken from the great sled that had carried it across the sandy waste and the final ceremonies began.
The heavy coffin of the young king, the Pharaoh, was taken carefully through the narrow doorway and placed within a golden shrine. The young widow placed a last gift on the coffin, a small wreath of spring flowers. The shrine was closed, and into the outer rooms were crammed the furniture, jewels, food, chariots and weapons that the king would need for eternal life. Then the small tomb was sealed, the last obstacles put in the way of robbers, and for more than 3,000 years Tutankhamun was left in darkness.
In a time of violence his very name was almost forgotten. Then, centuries later, two men burst into world headlines when they announced the finding of the tomb. King Tut, as the newspapers called him, became famous. His body now rests in its tomb in the Valley of the Kings, but his golden treasure is in an Egyptian museum, and some of the most exciting pieces have traveled abroad to the world's greatest museums. People flock to see them, sometimes standing in line for hours. Although Tutankhamun was not an important Pharaoh, the beauty of his fabulous treasure has enchanted people on all continents.
Few facts are known about Tutankhamun. He began his reign when he was about nine years old. We know that he was married to a beautiful princess, that he loved sports and hunted from his chariot, that he wore rich clothes and that he played board games. His reign lasted about ten years, so he was only nineteen when he died. We do not even know the cause of his death. His health was delicate, but a hunting accident or even murder in those times of violence in Egypt was not impossible.
Why, then, has the name of this not very important king become so well known? One reason is that his was the only tomb to keep its secret for so long. Other royal tombs may have contained greater treasure but they were plundered very early, perhaps soon after the burials. Whole villages lived by stealing from royal tombs, so that modern archaeologists have found only what thieves did not want or could not carry away. King Tut's tomb did not escape the ancient grave robbers and they probably carried away a small fortune in valuables. They must have been interrupted before reaching the inner shrine. So Tutankhamun rested in darkness and for many years no one suspected that his tomb lay under the pile of rubbish discarded from the building of a later tomb. Then came modern archaeologists seeking the royal tomb.
One was Howard Carter, with many years of digging experience in Egypt. He was convinced that Tutankhamun's tomb lay somewhere in the Valley of the Kings, but much of the area had been dug up already. He formed an alliance with Lord Carnavon, a wealthy Englishman, whose hobby was archaeology. They dug for several years without finding anything important.
Now it was late 1922. The digging season had to be short, for the summer sun made the valley a furnace, while the winds blew gusts of choking sand. Only one promising area was left. but it was small, covered by tons of dirt left by ancient workers building a later pharaoh's tomb. To reach the rock beneath the sand, workers would have to carry out basket after basket of earth. It would be a long job but worth trying.
To add to Carter's troubles, Lord Carnavon, discouraged by the failure to find anything important, was about to cut off funds for the work. Carter persuaded him to continue for just a little while longer, then put men to work on the huge mound of dirt and rocks. Meanwhile, Carnavon returned to England.
It was November 4th and digging was about to be halted, perhaps forever, when Carter was told that a stone step had been discovered directly beneath the tomb of the later pharaoh. Excitedly, the men uncovered more steps, sixteen in all. At the bottom was a sealed door. Carter cautiously made a small hole near the top of the door and when he flashed a light through it, he saw a slanting corridor blocked with rocks and dirt. He went no further but had his men cover the steps again. After posting trusted sentries on guard duty, he cabled Carnavon, telling him to return as soon as possible.
When Carnavon arrived, the steps were cleared and the door, which bore the seal of Tutankhamun, was opened. The piles of dirt that filled the corridor were the last obstacle before the second door. These were removed and while Carnavon stood by, Howard Carter made a small opening in the door and held a candle to the opening. As the stale air rushed out, the flame flickered, then steadied. Carter could not speak, dazzled by the gold the small light revealed.
They removed the door carefully and stood in the midst of treasure over 3,000 years old. Heaped in every part of the room were all the things the king would need for eternal life. The room had been plundered, but only of jewels and easily carried valuables. Chariots, furniture, bows and arrows, chests of clothing and food were everywhere. And everywhere was the gleam of gold. But had the robbers reached the mummy, or body of the king? If not, this would be the first royal body never disturbed.
Each treasure had to be removed with extreme care for everything was so fragile that it could crumble at a touch. Months passed before Carter was able to work through to the great golden shrine that nearly filled the burial chamber. When at last they could see that the doors of the glittering shrine had not been opened, the archaeologists breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, they allowed themselves to believe that they would actually see the mummy of the Pharaoh.
Much work still lay ahead, for the body had been placed in three nested coffins and the coffins in a great stone box. Each lid had to be removed carefully in turn. The third coffin struck everyone speechless for it was of solid gold,as was the funeral mask covering the head of the mummy. On one coffin was a tiny wreath of spring blossoms, faded and fragile, perhaps placed there by the young widow.
Lord Carnavon, sad to say, died before the mummy itself came to light. Sensation seeking newspapers promptly blamed his death on "the mummy's curse," and played up the deaths of some other expedition members during the several years the work was going on. Yet Howard Carter, who had the most to do with the whole project, lived until 1939. The doctor who handled the body most was over eighty when he died.
When Carter held that candle up to the door, he never dreamed that it would take him ten years of hard work to clear and study the tomb. However, his work revealed much about the Egyptians, who might consider Tutankhamun the only pharaoh to live a happy, eternal life; his body safe and surrounded by all he needed for comfort and happiness.
Comprehension Check. Choose the answer and place it in the text box below.
1. One thing we do know about Tutankhamun is that ______
a. he liked simple things.
b. he liked sports.
c. he liked spicy foods.
d. he became king at nineteen.
2. Howard Carter believed he would find Tutankhamun's tomb in _____
a. the Nile Delta.
b. a tomb far from the other tombs.
c. the Valley of the Kings.
d. England,near his own home.
3. Below the tomb of a later pharaoh, Carter ______
a. found a map that he interpreted.
b. discovered a flame.
c. found remains of thieves.
d. saw sixteen steps and a sealed door.
4. The coffin that left everyone speechless was ______
a. the first one.
b. the second one.
c. the third one.
d. the only one.
5. The author's purpose for writing this selection was to ______
a. indicate why digging in summer is best.
b. inform us about what was in different tombs.
c. explain how Tutankhamun's tomb was found.
d. encourage students to become archaeologists.
6. We know from this selection that Tutankhamun's tomb _____
a. was impossible to locate.
b. was built below a later tomb.
c. made all the archaeologists die.
d. was found before most other tombs.
7. This selection leads us to believe that Howard Carter _____
a. was a failure.
b. was experienced and lucky.
c. knew all along where the tomb was.
d. died at a young age.
8. This was the only royal body ______
a. with gold around it.
b. never disturbed.
c. buried with the furniture.
d. buried by the Egyptians.
9. Another name for this selection could be _____
a. "How to Find a Tomb."
b. "The Life of Howard Carter."
c. "Discovering an Ancient Tomb."
d. "Clearing Away 3,000 Years of Dirt."
10. This selection is mainly about ______
a. the discovery of King Tut's tomb.
b. the problems faced by an archaeologist.
c. treasures of Egypt.
d a mysterious mummy.
This story is an article from a series of Reading Comprehension Workbooks by Edcon Publishing Group. Edcon Publishing has a very large selection of different types of readings and other
materials for learning. I highly recommend this company. - The Teacher
Tutankhamun in Wikipedia
Tutankhamun at Digital Egypt
The first of a series of 9 videos about the history of Tutankhamun from
the BBC (British Broadcasting Company)