In November 1922, as Egypt became an independent nation, the archaeological world was turned upside down with the discovery of one of the most culturally significant ancient Egyptian royal burials. The discovery of the largely intact tomb of Tutankhamun would propel its excavator, Howard Carter, and photographer Harry Burton to international fame.
In celebration of 100 years since the discovery of the tomb of this young king, the Bodleian Libraries are pleased to announce a special exhibition covering this momentous event in Egypt’s history with fresh eyes. The exhibition will include photographs, letters, plans, drawings and diaries from an archive that was originally created by the excavators, and then presented after Carter’s death to the Griffith Institute, the centre of Egyptology at the University of Oxford. The archive enables a view of the complexities of both the remarkably well-preserved ancient burial and the modern excavation, including the often overlooked Egyptian members of the archaeological team and their crucial role in the discovery.
Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive will run from 13 April 2022 to early February 2023 at the Weston Library. Egyptologists Professor Richard Bruce Parkinson and Dr Daniela Rosenow have curated a selection from the archive, working in close collaboration with the Bodleian Library. This stunning range of original documentation from the discovery has never before been presented in such a comprehensive overview of the excavation. It presents a vivid and first-hand account of the discovery and of the meticulous work that went into documenting and conserving them.
The exhibit will spotlight the original pocket-diary of Carter himself, describing the moment of discovery, and the diary of Minnie Burton, wife to the photographer Harry Burton. This recent acquisition by the Griffith Institute documents several work-seasons in Egypt, and provides insight into the life of a woman involved in an archaeological expedition at the time. A wide array of original plans and record cards, featuring Carter’s own notes and illustrations of the artefacts will be displayed to showcase the value of the archive in re-assessing one of the world’s most famous archaeological discoveries.
The exhibition is committed to foregrounding Egyptian participants and their many accounts of the find. It is complemented by the publication of a companion book, Tutankhamun: Excavating the Archive, which provides a comprehensive selection from the archive and incredible detail about the collection.
Professor Richard Bruce Parkinson, co-curator, said:
There is so much more to the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun than ‘golden treasures’: the excavator’s archive lets us see beyond the colonialist popular stereotypes, and it documents the humanity of the modern and ancient people who worked on the tomb. The excavation was not achieved by a solitary heroic English archaeologist but by the modern Egyptian team-members, who have so often been overlooked and written out of the story. We hope the exhibition will contextualize, celebrate, interrogate and criticize the famous discovery that it commemorates.
Dr Daniela Rosenow, co-curator, said:
Having worked on excavations in Egypt for more than 20 years, I am particularly excited to be able to relive this biggest archaeological discovery through the records of the archaeological processes with all its different types of documents, and to get a sense of the diversity of the team members involved."
Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, said:
We are delighted to be working with the Griffith Institute on this important exhibition marking the centenary of the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. The wide range of documentation will provide visitors with a compelling insight into the academic, personal and physical journeys undertaken by Carter’s team to excavate and catalogue one of the most famous archeological finds in history. We hope visitors to the show can become immersed in this momentous project, especially through exploring the hidden voices from the team, and will join us in celebrating the work of everyone involved with the discovery.