Each excavator carrying an ancient, sacred object from the burial chamber is purposely leaving the artifacts uncovered so they can be seen by the throngs of tourists lurking outside the tomb, straining for a glimpse of something—anything—related to King Tutankhamun, dead these 3,200 years.
Tourists at King Tut’s tomb
The archaeologists are worried that the retaining wall near the tomb’s entrance is going to collapse from those pressing against it.
Some of the visitors are too important or famous to be turned away, including three U. S. Congressmen on their way with 250 other Americans on the SS Adriatic.
Chief archeologist Howard Carter, 48, and the project’s sponsor, George Herbert, Earl of Carnarvon, 56, are sealing up the tomb today and blocking the entrance with debris and sand, to keep it safe until they can resume excavations in the milder weather of autumn.
Ten days ago, with the antechamber nearly cleared out, Carter and Lord Carnarvon, along with 20 guests invited to serve as witnesses, broke the seal on the inner burial chamber and found the young pharaoh’s gold coffin, surrounded by thousands of precious items.
Howard Carter and King Tut
Attached to that room is one they call “the treasury,” where there is a chest holding King Tut’s embalmed organs. Carter has had that entrance closed to keep wandering souvenir hunters away.
Local workmen pack up each object cleared from the burial chamber and send it along a railway track to the Nile River where everything is being shipped to Cairo.
Tourists not engaged in rubber necking at the tomb are in nearby Luxor at the Winter Palace Hotel dancing to the “Tutankhamen Rag.”
In America, those not lucky enough to make the trip to Egypt are creating their own Egyptian atmosphere at home by snapping up all kinds of household goods re-designed with scarabs, obelisks and hieroglyphics—furniture, clothing, fabrics, jewelry, soap. They flock to Egyptian-themed movies and hum along to the hit song, “Old King Tut.”
“Old King Tut” sheet music
“Tutmania” has taken hold of the United Kingdom, too.
The country is so bored with news stories about conferences being held to cement the peace and punish Germany for the Great War, the silly season has taken over the tabloids. Page One: A farmer has grown a gooseberry the size of a crab apple!
As other archaeological teams have done before, Carter signed a contract last month with a London Times reporter to give him exclusive media rights to access the tomb. Not surprisingly, other newspapers are responding with negative stories about Carter, Lord Carnarvon. and the whole project.
These stories don’t stop the British public from buying items like “Egyptian” toffee, a Hunter and Palmer biscuit tin shaped like Tut’s funeral urn, and a “Pharonic” Singer sewing machine.
Someone even suggested that the new Underground line from Tooting to Camden Town be called the “Tutancamden Line.”
Lord Carnarvon, his daughter, Lady Evelyn Herbert, and Howard Carter
Now that you’ve got that tune in your head, you can watch the full Steve Martin performance here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYbavuReVF4
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I through III, covering 1920 through 1922 are available at Thoor Ballylee in Co. Galway, and as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA. They are also on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in print and e-book formats. For more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This summer I will be talking about F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Carnegie-Mellon University.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.
Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.