Howard Carter's account of the examination of Tutankhamun's mummy
by Dr D. Derry and Dr Saleh Bey Hamdi,
and his drawings of items found on it, November 11-19, 1925

Concept and direction: Jaromir Malek
Transcript: Sue Hutchison
Editing: Elizabeth Fleming and Jaromir Malek
Scanning: Junghwa Choi and Jenni Navratil
Coordination: Elizabeth Fleming

This is an abridged version of Carter's diary entries

In consequence of the fragile and powdery nature of the outer layers of the wrappings, the whole of the exposed surface of the mummy except the mask, was painted over with melted paraffin wax of such a temperature that it chiefly congealed as a thin coating on the surface and did not penetrate the decayed wrappings more than a very short distance.

As soon as the wax had cooled, Dr. Derry made a longitudinal incision down the centre of the outer wrappings to just below the depth to which the wax had penetrated, thus enabling the consolidated outer layers of the wrappings to be removed in large pieces. The under bandages which were very voluminous were found to be equally decayed and fragile, in fact, as it eventually proved the deeper and nearer the body, the worse the condition.

C and D

Almost immediately below the outer crust of decayed wrappings, were found, in the left flank, two sheet gold amulets ( C. bracer D. oval plaque). After removing the outer layer of wrappings, it was still found impossible to withdraw the mummy from the mask & coffin, the pitch-like material having collected in large quantity underneath.

It was decided therefore to remove layer by layer the remainder of the wrappings. Here & there where the linen was slightly better preserved it was possible to recognise that the work of binding was as usually practised upon mummies of the New Empire. Here & there were a number of lightly wrapped pads of linen, beyond these facts, little else could be recognised, the linen being reduced to the consistency of soot.

As the operation progressed the following objects in layers were gradually exposed: -

E to H

Sometimes an object was partly included in several layers of lower linen bandages.

High up upon the breast, immediately below the collarette of the mask, and superimposed upon one another, were the following: amuletic ornaments of chased sheet gold: (E) vulture, (F) vulture & serpent, (G) the serpent Buto, (H) collarette, one above the other in the order mentioned.

Just below the knees there was a group (I [view 1], I [view 2]) of numerous segments of a large inlaid gold collarette, which had been doubled up - its segments one upon the other - the inlay of which was much deteriorated and partly fallen out. These latter were removed ...

Further layers of wrappings still in bad condition were removed, which exposed another group of objects: (J) Seven sections of a long inlaid gold ornament such as are depicted on the front of the skirt of a pharaoh. This extended from above the pubis to the knees. (K) A highly ornamented gold dagger with crystal knob, lying along the right thigh. (L) A narrow band of decorated sheet gold around the waist, similar to those depicted on the monuments. (M) A T-shaped amulet of sheet gold, lying over the abdomen & reaching down to the pubis. (N) A large gold inlaid bracelet, open, lying over upper part of left thigh. (O [view 1], O [view 2], O [view 3]), A (?) object of gold and beadwork, at slightly lower level, over left side of abdomen. This being in fragile condition was consolidated with melted paraffin wax. (P) A large amuletic chased sheet gold hawk with outspread wings, stretching over the upper part of abdomen - (this was several layers of cloth bandages below, E. F. G. and H.). (Q) Lying over the umbilicus and pendent from the upper part of the body by means of a gold wire, was a large (?) black resin scarab. (R) A solid gold uraeus (Buto) along the left thigh. (S) The head and neck of a gold vulture (Nekhbet), on the right thigh. Note orientation N. & S. of the body.

When (J) was removed, it was seen that underneath was a layer of bandage of corresponding length and width. Also under (J) was the remainder of (I) ...

Under group E. F. G.and H., higher up and under the mask, apparently covering the face, was a fifth amulet (T) a hawk of chased sheet gold, similar in type and belonging to that group, ... being completely hidden by the collarette of the mask.

The bracelet (N).

Gradually, as the work proceeds, one is able to detect among these objects, that which is purely religious and amuletic and that which was real and personal property. For instance in all probability the uraeus (R) , the vulture head (S) , the dagger (K) , the bracelet (N) , and possibly the collarette (I) , are more personal than the series of sheet gold objects of amuletic type above mentioned. ...

It is to be much regretted that the wrappings were found in such critical condition - a condition preventing any reliable record of them, even their approximate system of binding.

Note orientation of certain objects such the vulture head and uraeus.

Further layers of decayed wrappings were carefully removed from the lower part of the mummy which revealed the following named objects: -

(U) A gold inlaid circlet, lying over the umbilicus.

(V) A similar gold circlet, above the right knee.

(W) " " " " " " left ".

(X) A massive bracelet of gold and carnelian, on the right forearm near the elbow (this will be referred to again in later stage with a group of similar objects).

(Y) Mingled with the two circlets V and W were parts of necklace composed of faience and gold beads.

At this stage photographic records were again taken, and various objects already mentioned were removed.

(Z) A large hawk (?) plaque, comprising numerous sections of finely inlaid gold-work, connected by small beadwork between the separate sections, and acting like hinges. This was lying over the chest apparently just below the neck, and was covered with a plain sheet of papyrus. As both the incrustation and the beadwork were in bad condition they were coated with melted paraffin wax to consolidate them.

(AA [view 1], (AA [view 2]) Lying over the front of the thighs was a collarette formed of similar workmanships and segments as group (I). This being also in fragile condition it was similarly treated with wax.

(BB) A mesh of gold and other beads of various forms lying over the pubis. These were so mixed up and their strings decayed, for the moment it is not possible to recognize their significance. With these beads were further portions of (O). To reconstruct these bead-work objects will be a difficult, if not impossible, task - not merely on account of the threads which have decayed, but also the jumbled manner in which they occurred. They were treated with paraffin wax with the hope of preserving some kind of record of their order of threading.

(CC [view 1], (CC [view 2]) Just below (BB) was a gold circlet corresponding to (U, V, and W.)

(DD) Resting on the front of the abdomen was a finely inlaid filigree gold dagger. This lay in a diagonal position, with the top towards right and the bottom point to the left. When removed this dagger proved of much heavier and elaborate workmanship than the previous one discovered yesterday.

(EE) A girdle of sheet gold, similar to (L), in probability belonging to the dagger (DD). It was fastened by a small golden pin. This girdle and its dagger, were several layers of wrappings lower than the former girdle & dagger afore mentioned.

... further layers of wrappings over this part of the mummy were removed, thus exposing: -

(FF) A group of five massive rings of various designs and materials. They were lying in a small group on the lower part of the left thorax, and probably belong to that hand. They are of very fine workmanship and are respectively composed of lapis lazuli coloured (?) faience, gold, translucent green chalcedony and milky coloured chalcedony. Their designs were of double cartouches, solar bark, and scarab type.

(GG) An amuletic chased sheet gold collarette lying over the upper part of the chest, under (Z).

(HH) Lying just below the collarette (GG) was a group of three amuletic bracelets bearing amulets of obscure meaning. With them was a portion of a bead necklace, the remainder of which has not been uncovered.

(JJ) Lying about the centre of the thighs was a group of four gold inlaid circlets similar to those already recorded.

(KK) (See HHH) Under sheet gold amulets not yet clear, they being hidden by the mask collarette, a number of large amulets of various materials became visible. They appear at present to be attached to something round the throat.

... This enabled the body to be bared down to the skin, from the top of the abdomen to the feet. The feet were fitted with gold sandals (LL), the toes with gold stalls, upon the right ankle was a gold wire circlet (MM).

Tail. Between the shin bones near towards the ankles was a small amulet of gold, beads, and (?) hair.

Throughout these proceedings the wrappings, though much rotted and carbonized, showed evidence of having once been of fine cambric like quality. Again, whenever it was possible, to discern details of method of wrapping, the evidence was suggestive of hastiness - that was the consensus of opinion among the scientific element present.

(OO, PP, QQ, RR, SS) (X) So as to complete this stage of examination the afternoon was devoted to uncovering the right arm and hand which was flexed across the abdomen, with the result that the forearm was found to be encircled with five magnificent bracelets, which taken in order of sequence of discovery received the following lettering - (OO, PP, QQ, RR, and SS.). In this particular group the bracelet (X) must be included. Upon the fingers of this hand were gold finger-stalls. The details of these bracelets are somewhat intricate, and will be described in due course.

(TT) Lying over the upper wrappings of the left arm, and reaching down to the forearm, was a sheet gold amuletic knot.

Near the flesh of the King the wrappings were nothing more than charred powder.

(UU) While clearing away debris from the left side of the body, among this was found a small finely carved carnelian sa3 bird, beside the trochanter which in sequence of discovery took the letter (UU).

The lower limb and body having been thoroughly cleaned, Drs Derry and Saleh Bey proceeded to take as many measurements as it was possible at this stage, and on account of its fragile condition the whole of the exposed parts were saturated with hot paraffin-wax.

Following this the last portions of the wrappings were removed from the left-forearm and hand exposing another important group of bracelets as well as a group of finger-rings. These were: -

(VV) A group of eight finger rings, lying over the left wrist though not attached. These finger-rings were of massive gold, black resin, some having scarab bezels and others the prenomen and nomen of the King - they will be described in detail later.

Upon the left forearm five bracelets: -

(WW) Massive gold bracelet just below elbow.

(XX) Elaborate bracelet of gold, amethyst and faience beads, around forearm next to (WW).

(YY) Intricate scarab and uraeus bracelet beside (XX).

(ZZ) Gold bracelet with inlaid sacred eye as centre piece, next to (YY).

(AAA) Bracelet consisting of carnelian uazet-eye near to the wrist.

The soft tissues of the body were found to be all in a very brittle and carbonized condition.

Though we have only reached as far as the forearms of the young King, the upper portion and head having yet to be examined, 52 groups of objects - personal & religious jewellery - have been discovered, all of which are of the finest workmanship and their exact positions recorded. If therefore the upper parts and the head are proportionally rich, we can begin to realize the wealth and profusion with which it seems to have been customary to adorn the remains of these ancient Pharaohs buried in this Royal Necropolis.

(BBB) (CCC) Of yesterday's proceedings I omitted to mention that on the second and third finger respectively of the left hand there were found two rings: BBB on third digit - a ring with solar barque device for bezel; CCC on the second digit - solid gold ring having on its bezel a figure of the king kneeling.

(UU) (DDD) After slight amount of cleaning two further objects were disclosed, namely: a gold wire armlet with small amulets attached near the elbow of the left arm from which possibly fell the object (UU) discovered the day before; next to this amulet and a little higher up upon the arm was an elaborate bead bracelet having circular centre piece of filigree work, the bead band to which it was attached having the usual gold 'dividers'. This in sequence took the letter (DDD). Unfortunately due to the mass of debris of bandage around this part of the limb and to its powdery condition it was impossible to secure any reliable photographic record, the bead work of the bracelet having completely collapsed. Thus their different parts were extricated from the debris. As the decomposed wrappings below the body were gradually removed the following named objects were exposed: -

(EEE)(I and AA) (EEE) From the centre of the shins to the point below the pubis lying on bottom of the coffin longitudinally, and adhering to it, was a complete (Qebset) bull's tail, composed of wood, gold tubular beads, and small faience beadwork which had a core of (?) hair. This had to be consolidated with paraffin wax. Lying over the tail end of this object was a wire with tag belonging to one of the collarettes in groups (I and AA).

The lower part of the body and limbs having been completely bared and thoroughly examined, as well as photographic records taken, we were able to proceed with the uncovering of the upper part of the trunk of body as far as the shoulders.

In so doing the following interesting amulets and objects were gradually revealed, layer by layer - the reader will note that the first uppermost layer was already taken away by us at the beginning of the examination - namely letters: E. F. G and H. also T, therefore these following results begin at the sixth layer of wrappings and amulets:

the sixth layer comprised:

<> (FFF) A red jasper ( tt=thet) amulet attached by gold wire around neck. This was on right side of chest.

<> (GGG) A green uaz sceptre amulet, attached by gold wire to neck. This was on the centre of chest.

(HHH) Inlaid dd amulet of various materials, attached to neck by gold wire, lying on left side of chest.

(KK) (See KK Nov. 12) A solid gold dd amulet, attached to neck by gold wire, lying on centre of the chest.

(III) The seventh layer immediately below (FFF-KK) a gold amulet of doubtful significance, was lying on the right side of chest.

(JJJ) A similar amulet to (III) on left side of chest.

Between these last two amulets was a d serpent, all these being attached to the same string which had decayed, therefore with d serpent III and JJJ make one group.

Mingled with these last mentioned groups of objects were small and decayed fragments of papyrus bearing a ritual written in linear hieros in white paint. This ritual was so disintegrated into minute fragments, all of which were entirely perished, only a few letters of the text were discernible - these gave names of gods such as Isis and Osiris, and for that reason it is not improbable that it pertained to the amulets named above.

(KKK) An amulet similar and pendent to (TT) formed the 8th layer. It lay in corresponding position to (TT) and right side (and no doubt TT was of same layer).

(LLL) An enormous chased sheet gold amuletic Buto, covering the whole of the front of the chest, its wings enveloping the shoulders, formed the 9th layer of objects. Its gold wire and pendent tag attached in all probability rested under the small of the back.

(MMM) Immediately below (LLL) - i.e. the 10th layer - was a Nekhbet vulture, of magnificent work, composed as follows: number of gold cloisonnes inlaid with faience, attached to one another by minute loops and faience beads. The head, body, feathered legs and tail-feathers are of one piece, while the claws holding the shen symbols are of separate pieces. The primary, secondary and tertiary flight feathers and also the wing-coverts are formed of cloisonnes already described. This forms a massive pectoral of the Goddess of Upper Egypt.

(NNN) Below these objects were several layers of linen much decomposed. This exposed an eleventh layer , comprising one large pectoral in the form of a winged (L) Nekhbet and (R) Buto combined. This ornament was formed of numerous cloisonné sections encrusted with (?) coloured glass. Underneath this pectoral was a sheet of linen, cut in same and no doubt doubt was sewn to it. This pectoral was sufficiently large as to cover the chest, its flight passing the shoulders of the mummy.

Below this were alternate layers of crossed bandages passing over the shoulders and the transverse bandages holding them in place. Beneath these a sheet folded several times, under which were similar crossed and transverse bandages. Then came a great thickness (3 cms.) of wrappings which came away in almost one piece revealing a large group of objects forming the 12th-16th layers before reaching the actual body. There were as follows:

12th Layer

(OOO) Lying (on chest) on top of group, a rectangular open-work pectoral, having for device three scarabs supporting a solar and lunar discs, hanging to this are four lotus flowers, three lotus buds and six immature buds, all of which are in the round and of similar gold encrusted work. This depended, as far as it is now possible to judge, from four strings of gold, faience and carnelian beads, now lying in an irregular mess upon the group.

(PPP) A pectoral of very refined workmanship in gold minutely encrusted with lapis lazuli and carnelian, and in the form of a flying griffin vulture, found fallen near left shoulder, evidently was originally placed above the foregoing pectoral (OOO). This was also attached to the King by means of beadstring work not yet fully recognised.

13th Layer

(QQQ) A circular pectoral forming the King's nomen, the principal of the device being a winged human Kheper. This was on the left side of the chest and was made of gold cloisonnes encrusted, depending from a gold chain.

14th Layer

(RRR) A blue faience pectoral in form of uazat-eye, uraeus and sa symbol; lying on the very upper part of the abdomen, and depends from a string of cylindrical faience, granular gold & plain gold beads.

15th Layer (See 4e)

(SSS) What now appears to be a sort of girdle of gold and faience cylindrical & disk beads. This hangs slightly towards the right side of the chest, and continues upwards towards the shoulders, the exact continuation is clear at present, but appeared to be by means of gold.

16th Layer

(TTT) Below the whole group and at the lowest level before reaching the skin, was a bib-like collarette composed of fine green faience & gold bead matting having a zigzag pattern, having a border of gold sequins and drop-pendant margin. This bib covers the whole of the upper part of the chest as far as the clavicles.

13th Layer

(UUU) A pectoral, fallen in debris on the right side of the chest, in form of a hawk in heavy gold encrusted. This appears to have been symmetrical with (QQQ) and of the same layer. Attached originally by chain.

13th Layer

(VVV) A pectoral of gold encrusted, the device being wazet-eye terminating uraeus having Osiris vulture behind. This was attached by bead work strings - these on each side. It was found below left shoulder, where it had obviously fallen, and in all probability was central to pectorals UUU and QQQ. Thus as far as can be judged the three pectorals QQQ, UUU, and VVV formed one layer namely the 13th (and having below them the faience uazet (RRR)).

Below this group of 5 layers (12-16) was a very thin layer of wrapping which actually covers the body of the king, but the lower part of the girdle (SSS) and the uazet (RRR) were actually upon the bare flesh of the king.

(WWW) Fallen in rubbish but probably from right arm, a small wire bracelet with bead, and (?) centre piece missing.

Fixed around the neck of the king, by means of five gold wires were the following five amulets:

(XXX) Anubis in green-felspar.
(YYY) Horus in lapis lazuli.
(ZZZ) Serpent head in carnelian.
(4A) Tehuti in green felspar.
(4B) Uaze in " "

Below the neck, and mingled in the debris were sundry objects:

(4C) Black resin bead with granular gold work attached.

(4D) Three gold chains.

(4E) (see SSS) Under the back of the mummy, across the scapulae, a series of sections of (?) ornament lying face downwards and in great part stuck fast to bottom of coffin, being embedded in the pitch-like material. Among those portions recognisable were: two abs, a plaque comprising two deds and a thet, two (?) Ba-birds, and a large plaque of open work of the following device: a central figure of eternity supported by uraeus bearing red & white crown, and on other margin the reed of 'Millions of Years'. This device is surmounted with the king's cartouche.

It was found that the long back appendages of a diadem fixed around the head were thickly embedded in the pitch-like material at the bottom of the coffin (below 4E). While freeing these gold appendages it was noticed that the bead-work bib (TTT) also passed round to the back of the shoulders, and stuck to the bottom of the coffin. Again, embedded in the pitch-like material, mingled with (4E), were two gold inlaid tags of collarettes. These objects having been freed, we were able to direct our attention to the head & neck.

It was found that like the body of the king the back of the head was stuck (in this case) to the mask - so firmly that it would require a hammer chisel to free it. Eventually we used hot knives for the purpose with success.

Certain objects around the neck had to be removed before proceeding further. It was unfortunately not possible to obtain photos of them in situ, they being covered by the collarette of the mask. These objects lying one above the other were as follows: -

Commencing from top downwards:

(4F) Human headed winged serpent of chased sheet gold, attached to neck by means of cord.

(4G) Double uraeus of chased sheet gold attached to neck by means of cord.

(4H) A Mût-vulture in chased sheet gold attached to neck by means of cord.

(4I) Two similar objects possibly on same cord. These objects (4F-4I) were on right side of throat & faced north - (i.e. to left).

(4J) On the left side of throat a similar vulture to those already described, attached by cord & facing south - (i.e. to right).

(4K) An uraeus of similar type on left side of neck facing north, also attached by cord.

(4L) On left side of throat a fifth vulture of chased sheet gold, with head facing north - (all of which attached by cord).

Fallen under the neck towards left side were seven faience round beads which may come from the cords of the above amuletic figures of vultures and serpents. It is hoped that carefully collaboration will clear this point.

(4M) At a lower level to the above objects, tied around the neck, at the level of the thyroid cartilage, a neck band of four strings of beads, which only half encircled the neck, owing perhaps to the thickness of the wrappings. The strings of this neck band (at end of beads) were in all probability plaited together and tied at the back of the throat.

(4N) Some of the outer bandages of the top of the head, remained adhering to the interior of the mask, thus exposing a double rope-like 'lawaya' encircling the crown of the head, made of a (?) fibrous material tightly bound with string. This had slipped down slightly during the operation of withdrawing the head from mask. This peculiar object has loops at the back for attachment and being of very fragile nature it was somewhat broken.

Over the left orbit, possibly originally attached to 4N, though this is not clear, there were six dark blue faience beads.

(4O) Beneath (4N) there were several layers of wrappings, of coarse linen probably for protective reasons, which when removed disclosed around the crown of the head a magnificent diadem, in the form of a gold fillet encrusted, having two back and two side appendages. The side appendages have uraeii attached to them.

(4P) Underneath more wrappings there was a thin sheet gold forehead band. This band extended behind and above the ears, having slits at the extremities for tape attachment tied at the back of the head. On either side of the head were large protective wads of linen.

(4Q) Under diadem (4O) and beneath several thicknesses of wrappings was a (Buto) uraeus on centre of forehead, with body & tail of several sections continuing over the axis of the crown of the head, and sewn at the extreme end to the wrapping - this sewing was in the vicinity of the lambda.

(4R) On the crown of the head and covering that portion of the snake was a heavy sheet gold Nekhbet vulture, her body being parallel with that of the snake, and her open wings covering the crown of the head of the King.

On removing these last two objects it was found that the head wrappings were tied at the back in the manner of a chinon. Note linen headdress.

(4S) Beneath more wrappings, a thin sheet gold band exactly similar to (4P) and in similar position was tied beneath the occiput by means of linen tape fastened by knot in centre - (see photo).

Upon the head was placed a sort of skull cap of fine linen and worked upon a design of curve serpent pattern, this was supposed to secure for the dead one a sight of the sun.

(4T) This actual skull-cap of the thinnest cambric fabric having device of four uraeii worked with very fine faience and gold beads, the centres of the head of the cobras bearing small cartouches, takes in order sequence the letter 4T, and fits closely to the crown of the head. As it would have been practically impossible to remove this device owing to its fragile nature & minuteness of work, it was consolidated with paraffin wax and left in place.

(4U) (4V) Upon the top of the head of the King, was an enormous pad some ... centimetres in height, of linen wads and bandages wrapped in the manner of a modern surgical head bandage. This was of a conical form and in its shape was suggestive of a crown. The linen was in this case in far better preservation than any hitherto found upon the mummy. Its purpose is obscure, though possibly it either represented the form of the crown of Osiris (the mummy being necessarily made in his semblance), or was merely a pad intended to fill up the space that otherwise would have been left empty in hollow of the headdress of the mask. The former explanation seems for the moment to be the more probable. Besides a small amuletic headrest, found beneath the above mentioned head pad this completed the total ornaments found upon the royal mummy.

As will be seen from the above lettering of the various discoveries made there were 97 separate groups of objects within the wrappings of the mummy. Some of these groups included many individual objects.

(June 10, 2009)

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