Today (May 9) is Howard Carter‘s birthday, so we thought we would share some of our favourite facts about the discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
1. Family man
Howard Carter was born in Earls Court, London, and his father was a gifted painter. Carter and his seven siblings all inherited their father’s love of art.
2. An artist, not an archaeologist
Carter entered the field of Egyptology as a draftsman, not a digger. His first archaeological job – aged just 17 – was as a ‘tracer’, copying tomb inscriptions by hand at Beni Hassan in Egypt.
3. Petrie’s protégé
Howard Carter might have remained an archaeological artist and never excavated Tutankhamun’s tomb had he not met Flinders Petrie at Amarna. Petrie mentored the young man and gave him his first introduction to digging.
It wasn’t only archaeological features that Carter drew while out in Egypt; he also produced many beautiful paintings of birds and natural scenes.
5. War work
During the First World War, Carter worked as a translator, interpreting clandestine messages between French and British officials and their Arab contacts.
6. A last-minute discovery
After years of fruitless searching in the Valley of the Kings, Carter’s wealthy patron Lord Carnarvon decided to withdraw his funding from the excavation. Carter persuaded the Earl to finance one least season of digging – and within days his team found Tutankhamun’s tomb.
7. Fame and fortune?
Following his spectacular discovery, Carter became the most popular public speaker since Oscar Wilde – but he hated his new-found fame and was shunned by the academic community for his lower-class background and lack of university education. He died without receiving any British honour for his discoveries.