HOWARD CARTER Biography - Famous Scientists


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Name: Howard Carter                                                                     
Born: 9 March 1874                                                                     
Died: 2 March 1939                                                                     
"ÖOne of the greatest figures in the history of archaeology," wrote C.W. Ceram         
in the book, Gods, Graves, and Scholars, about Howard Carter. Those that               
recognize the name, Howard Carter, usually associate it with the discovery of           
King Tutankhamunís tomb. The amount of preserved artifacts provided information         
to piece together key pieces of an archaeological puzzle, whilst the richness of       
the treasures caused the media to make King Tutankhamun a household name. As           
excavator and discoverer of the famous tomb of King Tut, Howard Carter has won a       
place in the archaeologistís hall of fame. However, few people know anything           
more about Howard Carter than his exploits involving the tomb.                         
Howard Carter was born on March 9th, 1874 in Kensington, London, the youngest           
son of eight. He grew up in the county of Swaffam, North Norfolk, England with         
no formal education although his father, Samuel Carter, an artist, trained him         
in the fundamentals of drawing and painting. Although Howard Carter developed a         
well above average skill, he had no ambition to continue the family business of         
painting portraits of pets and families for the local Norfolk landowners.               
Instead, Howard Carter sought the opportunity to go to Egypt and work for the           
Egyptian Exploration Fund as a tracer, a person who copies drawings and                 
inscriptions on paper for further studying. In October of 1891 at the age of 17,       
Howard Carter set sail for Alexandria, Egypt, which was his first journey               
outside of Britain.                                                                     
Howard Carterís first project was at Bani Hassan, the gravesite of the Sovereign       
Princes of Middle Egypt during 2000 B.C. Carterís task was to record and copy           
the scenes from the walls of the tomb. At this early age, Howard Carter was a           
diligent worker with much enthusiasm. He would work the day through and then           
sleep with the bats in the tomb.                                                       
In 1892, Carter joined Flinders Petrie, at El-Amarna. Flinders was a strong             
field director and one of the most credible archaeologists of his time. Petrie         
believed Carter would never become a good excavator, but Carter proved him wrong       
when he unearthed several important finds at the site of El-Amarna, the Capital         
of Egypt during the sovereignty of Akhenaten. Under Petrieís demanding tutorage,       
Carter became an archaeologist, while keeping up with his artistic skills. He           
sketched many of the unusual artifacts found at el Amarna.                             
Carter was appointed Principle Artist to the Egyptian Exploration Fund for the         
excavations of Deir el Babri, the burial place of Queen Hatshepsut. This               
experience allowed him to perfect his drawing skills and strengthen his                 
excavation and restoration technique. In 1899, at the age of 25, Carterís hard         
work paid off, when he was offered the job of First Chief Inspector General of         
Monuments for Upper Egypt by the Director of the Egyptian Antiquities Service,         
Gaston Maspero. Carterís responsibilities included supervising and controlling         
archaeology along the Nile Valley.                                                     
Carterís employment at the Egyptian Antiquities Service came to an end in an           
unfortunate incident between the Egyptian site guards and a number of drunken           
French tourists. When the tourists became violently abusive to the guards,             
Carter allowed the guards to defend themselves. The French tourists, enraged,           
went through some high officials including the Egyptian Consul General Lord             
Cromer and called for Carter to make a formal apology. Carter refused, standing         
by his belief that he made the right decision. The incident gave Carter a bad           
name and caused him to be posted to the Nile Delta town of Tanta, a place with         
very little archaeological involvement. This forced Carter to resign from the           
Antiquities Service in 1905.                                                           
From 1905-1907, Carter sustained a hard existence after resigning from the             
Antiquities Service. He had to make a living by working as a commercial                 
watercolorist or sometimes a guide for tourists. In 1908 Carter was introduced         
to the fifth Earl of Carnarvon by Gaston Maspero. The partnership proceeded             
happily, as each partnerís personality seemed to compliment the others.                 
Carter became the Supervisor of the Excavations funded by Carnarvon in Thebes           
and by 1914 Carnarvon owned one of the most valuable collections of Egyptian           
artifacts held in private hands. However, Howard Carter had still more ambitious       
aspirations. He had his eye on finding the tomb of a fairly unknown pharaoh at         
the time, King Tutankhamun, after various clues to its existence had been found,       
Carter tore up the Valley of the Kings looking for Tutankhamunís burial place,         
but season after season produced little more than a few artifacts. He worked in         
the field with Lord Carnarvon in the west valley at the tomb of Amenophis III in       
1915 and in the main valley from 1917-1922. Carnarvon was becoming dissatisfied         
with the lack of return from his investment and, in 1922, he gave Carter one           
more season of funding to find the tomb.                                               
Carter was confident and the challenge went on as work began on November 4, 1922.       
It took only three days before the top of a staircase was unearthed. Almost             
three weeks later the staircase was entirely excavated and the full side of the         
plaster block was visible. By November 26, the first plaster block was removed,         
the chip filling the corridor was emptied, and the second plaster was ready to         
be taken apart. At about 4 P.M. that day, Carter broke through the second               
plaster block and made one of the discoveries of the century, the tomb of King         
The tombís artifacts took a decade to catalogue. During this time, Lord                 
Carvarvon died in Cairo of pneumonia. After the media got wind of the treasures         
of King Tutankhamun and the death of Lord Carnarvon, the hype about a mummyís           
curse set the media on fire. Much to Carterís displeasure, letters poured in           
from spiritualist from around the world, selling advice and warnings from "beyond       
the grave."                                                                             
Finally, the artifacts were sent to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and the corpse         
of the young king was studied and laid back to rest. After his work was done           
with King Tutankhamun, Carter no longer worked in the field. He retired from the       
archaeology business. He took up the pursuit of collecting Egyptian antiquities         
and, indeed, became a very successful collector. Often, toward the end of his           
life, he could be found at the Winter Palace Hotel at Luxor, sitting by himself         
in willful isolation. He died in Albert Court, Kensington, London on March 2,