November 4, 2022, marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings, a watershed moment for the world of archaeology. The spectacular nature of the tomb and its treasures provided an unprecedented insight into what a New Kingdom royal burial was like and made Tutankhamun one of the most famous pharaohs in history.
Harry Burton (1879-1940) was the official photographer for the opening of Tutankhamun’s Tomb by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1922. Burton was regarded as the most outstanding archaeological photographer of his era, and here we share some of his original photographs of the momentous occasion when King Tut’s tomb was opened and explored for the very first time.
The Valley of the Kings where Tutankhamun’s tomb was uncovered. Several tombs in the Valley of the Kings lay open continuously from ancient times onward, but the entrances to many others had remained hidden until the 19th century.
Harry Burton’s photograph records the intact necropolis seal and cord fastening on the third (of four) great gilded shrines surrounding Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus in the Burial chamber. The unbroken seal confirmed that the King’s body remained undisturbed, despite the tomb having been broken into and robbed several times in antiquity (Public Domain).
The descending corridor leading to the Antechamber of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
This photograph was taken on the spot where the sealed entrance doorway was uncovered on 5th November 1922. Harry Burton’s camera lens looks up the sixteen-step staircase, towards the top step found on 4th November.
Howard Carter (kneeling), Arthur Callender and an Egyptian workman in the Burial Chamber, looking through the open doors of the four gilded shrines towards the quartzite sarcophagus of Tutankhamun (Public Domain).
Howard Carter working on the lid of the second (middle) coffin, still nestled within the case of the first (outermost) coffin in the Burial Chamber of Tutankhamun. The gold mask of Tutankhamun in situ on the mummy of the King, still inside the third (innermost) solid gold coffin.
Tutankhamun’s tomb. View of the northern wall of the Antechamber showing the sentinel statues guarding the sealed doorway leading to the King’s Burial Chamber.
An ornate trunk and other objects found in Tutankhamun’s tomb. The items were numbered as part of the cataloguing process. It took 10 years to complete the cataloguing of the more than 5,000 artifacts found in the tomb.