Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Monday, January 18, 2010

My thanks to Vincent Brown for spotting this story in Spiegel.  If anybody has missed the background to the allegations of theft against Howard Carter, then it's worth reading.

There is no proof, but the circumstantial evidence that Howard Carter removed items from Tutankhamun's Valley of the Kings tomb is substantial.  Articles from King Tut's tomb are in a number of museums around the world, not just in the Egyptian Museum.  The largest and best known collection of other objects is in the Met and their existence has been in the public domain since the 70s when advertised by Thomas Hoving.  The Spiegel article also identifies an object in the Louvre which is one I hadn't heard about.

It is true that Carter had permisson to remove some items, but the number in circulation seems inconsistent with this. However the complex legal status of the tomb in the 1920s muddies the water enough that an amateur like me is unable to understand whether the allegations against Carter are well-founded; however, nor do I feel able to exonnerate him.   What is perhaps most surprising is that Egypt is not pressing for the return of these articles.  That suggests that Carter did obtain them legally.  (The conspiracy theorists have an alternative explanation which suggests that Carter removed papyrii relating to the Exodus and that there is therefore a reluctance to re-open the question of the clearance of KV62.  The story was covered by Andrew Collins in his book, Tutankhamun - The Exodus Conspiracy.)

If Carter did illegally obtain items from KV62, and enter the tomb in advance of the offical opening, then we no longer know the state of the tomb at discovery.  Archaeologically that may be more important than the removal of a small number of items.  Read the article and make your own mind up.


tim said...

Hi Kate

I have written about this myself and certainly anyone who wishes can pick up a copy of Thomas Hoving's "Tutankhamun: The untold story" will find it is a good read.

Anonymous said...

But is it likely? Between the opening of the tomb in 1922 and the end of sorting, cataloguing and transporting in 1932, the possibilities for thievery are endless. I think Carter, with his meticulous mind and, for his time, uncharacteristic concern for the values of modern archeology, is an unlikely candidate. Some europeans certainly were thieves and grave robbers, but no-one ever beats the locals.


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