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Discovery of the Tomb

In these two lessons, students will:

  • Learn about Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922;

  • Analyze the events of Carter’s discovery;

  • Examine who King Tutankhamen was and what his life was like in ancient Egypt.

Lesson 1: Flashback to 1922

Uncover the details about the discovery of King Tut’s tomb and understand the significance of this historical event.

In November of 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter, with the funding of wealthy land ownder Lord Carnarvon, uncovered the best preserved royal Egyptian tomb ever discovered to date. This discovery unearthed the mysteries of ancient Egypt and the artifacts within offered insights into ancient Egyptian culture and beliefs. In this lesson, students will learn details about the discovery and understand the significance of this historical event.

  1. Have students work in pairs to read the Discovery of Tut's Tomb, written by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, who hosted the exhibition Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.  Students can read this article only or they can also explore the other chapters of The Story of King Tut.
  2. Have students examine black and white photographs of the discovery taken by photographer Harry Burton through the exhibition Discovering Tutankhamun: The Photographs of Harry Burton hosted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
  3. Instruct pairs to record questions they have for the various people involved in the discovery including archaeologist Howard Carter, Lord Carnarvon, and the young boy who found the top of a step cut into the bedrock when he delivered jars of water for the workers.  Have students research their roles in the discovery as well as imagine the discovery from their particular perspective.
  4. Visit the exhibition King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs at the AGO and/or direct students to applicable websites listed on More Links to King Tut to conduct additional online research in order to find answers to their initial questions.
  5. Based on their research, have each pair of students write a dialogue they would have if they were to interview one of the people involved in the discovery.  Have each pair stage and act out their interview, demonstrating what they have learned about the discovery.
  6. What would happen if your classroom was buried, and 3000 years later it is discovered?  Have the students choose an object in the classroom, draw the object, and write a description of that object from the perspective of the dicovering archeologist.  What is it called?  What was it used for? What does that object say about the people who used it?

Lesson 2: Artifact Investigation

Analyze artifacts to discover details about the boy king and understand ancient Egyptian cultural beliefs around death and the afterlife.

The various artifacts found within King Tutankhamun’s tomb demonstrated both sacred and secular life in ancient Egypt. By analyzing these artifacts as primary sources, students will discover details about the boy king and understand ancient Egyptian cultural beliefs around death and the afterlife.

1.     Have students work in pairs or small groups to view images of artifacts found in King Tut’s tomb.  Some recommended sites are:

2.     Instruct groups to arrange the artifact images into the following categories:

Objects of Worship             Objects of Work/Life               Objects for Burial/Afterlife

Some artifacts may fit into more than one category.  To illustrate, shabtis were small figurines buried along with the deceased that ancient Egyptians believed would come to life in the afterlife to relieve the deceased of work duties.  Shabtis could be categorized as sculptures, as objects that reference work life, or as objects associated with burial and afterlife.

3.     Model for students how to analyze the artifact images in each category in order to understand the cultural beliefs and lifestyles of ancient Egyptians.  Encourage students to think like an Egyptologist and to record their observations and inferences about the artifact.  Students can organize their information using the following headings:

Artifact: What is the object and what does it look like?

Observation: Upon close observation, what do you notice about the artifact?

Inference: What can you infer about ancient Egyptian life from the object?

4.     Sketch the object

  • Have each group choose one artifact and present their observations and inferences about the object to the class.

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