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 dicovery;
- Examine who King Tutankhamun was and what his life was like in ancient Egypt;
- Compare how contemporary and historic finds are/were recorded;
- Consider ethical dimensions of archeological practice.
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, Howard Carter, with the funding of Lord Carnarvon, uncovered the best preserved royal tomb ever discovered to date. This discovery unearthed the mysteries of ancient Egypt and the artifacts within offered explanations about the culture and their beliefs regarding power, death and the afterlife. In this lesson, students will learn more details about the discovery and the demanding process involved.
- Provide students with an original article from 1923 describing the finding of King Tut's tomb.
- Remind students that primary sources not only retell a specific event but can also be read for deeper insights into the audience, cultural biases, and/or perspective of a specific time period. As students read the 1923 article about the unearthing of King Tut's tomb, they will learn more about the great discovery and make inferences about the thinking at the time.
- Have students organize their ideas under the following headings: word choice, expert sources/quotations, cultures included/mentioned in the article, cultural biases, and other. Students will re-visit this organizer after reading a contemporary article about a similar archaeological discovery to compare the tone, and wording.
- After analyzing the original article, compare the language and tone using a current article about a recent archaeological finding. Some suggestions include:
- "Egyptian Dentists' Tombs Found by Thieves", written by Stefan Lovgren for National Geographic News
- "Egypt's Largest Pharaoh-Era Fortress Discovered, Experts Announce", written by Dan Morrison in Cairo, Egypt for National Geographic News
- "False Doors for the Dead Among New Egypt Tomb Finds", written by Steven Stanek in Cairo, Egypt for National Geographic News
- Discuss with students the differences and similarities they notice between the two articles. Encourage students to share their ideas and questions. Consider the ethical and/or moral issues associated with the discovery of the tomb including taking and displaying artifacts from one country/culture in other countries.
- Students can take an on-line interactive tour of the tomb through Unraveling the Mysteries of King Tutankhamun
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 Tut's tomb mark both sacred and secular life in ancient Egypt. By examining these artifacts as primary sources, students can discover more details regarding King Tut's personality/identity along with the overall beliefs about death and the afterlife in ancient Egypt.
1. Present students with various images of artifacts found in King Tut's tomb. Some recommended sites are:
- Exhibition Preview of King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs
- Images from Discovering Tutankhamun: The Photographs of Harry Burton at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Images from the BBC Treasures of Tutankhamun Gallery
2. Explain to students that these artifacts were included in the pharaoh's tomb to help him in the afterlife. Use one artifact as an example to further explain this notion. Model the observation, analysis, and inference skills involved using the following structure:
- Artifact: Describe the object and its purpose.
- Observation: What do you notice about the artifact?
- Inference: What they can you infer?
- Draw a sketch of the object.
For example: Shabtis were small figurines that ancient Egyptians believed would come to life in the afterlife and relieve the deceased of any work duties. In King Tut's tomb, 413 shabtis were discovered: 365 workers for each day of the year, 36 overseers, and 12 directors for each month. What does this tell us about Egyptians belief in the afterlife, notions of power, etc.?
3. Have students work in groups, asking each group to analyze two individual artifacts from King Tut's tomb using photographs. Encourage students to record their observations about the object as well as what inferences they can make about the beliefs and lifestyle of ancient Egyptians. Students can organize their ideas using the structure outlined above.
- Ask each group to present one artifact and their findings to the class.
- A student or the teacher can create a mind map or visual organizer on chart paper or the board summarizing the findings of each group.