Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation.
Howard Carter's diaries and journals.
The first excavation season in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Part 1: October 28 to December 31, 1922

© Griffith Institute, Oxford OX1 2LG

Concept and direction: Jaromir Malek
Transcript: Sue Hutchison
Editing: Elizabeth Fleming, Diana Magee, Ana I. Navajas Jimenez, Jaromir Malek
Scanning: Hana Navrátilová
Image editing: Jenni Navratil

The diary and journal for 1922 have been scanned with the financial support of the Manchester Ancient Egypt Society

[Note: all dates have been standardized.]

The first two books in which this excavation season is recorded are small (19.5 by 12 cm) appointment books, Lett's No. 46 Indian and Colonial Rough Diaries 1922 (catalogued in the Griffith Institute Archive as TAA Archive i.2.21) and 1923 (TAA Archive i.2.22), which contain only the briefest of notes (these are given in italics in the transcript which follows).

The third book is a large ring-binder (Walker's Loose-Leaf Books, 33 by 21.5 cm) entitled Notes, Diary, and Articles, Referring to the Theban Royal Necropolis and the Tomb of Tutankhamen (TAA Archive i.2.1). It contains extended entries written in ink. They are in Howard Carter's own hand (except for those between December 6 and 27, 1922 which are by A.C. Mace) on pages 25-53.

The transcript presented here has been only very slightly edited, for example by correcting misspellings and eliminating duplication or omission of words. For easier reading, such changes have not been marked but scans of the pages of these diaries can now be seen by clicking on the appropriate date.

Friday, October 27, 1922.

Left Cairo for Luxor.

Saturday, October 28, 1922.

Arrived Luxor - went on to Erment to see Callender.
Two donkeys.

Arrived Luxor on Saturday morning and took the 10am train to Erement to see Callender, living in his small house on the E. bank, near the river.

Stayed the night with him and on the 29th.

Sunday, October 29.

Returned, per boat 3 hours, to Gurna.
Two donkeys

Returned by small sailing boat to Gurna (3 1/2 hrs).

Tuesday, October 31.

Paid Salaries to date LE:9.
1 donkey.

Wednesday, November 1.

Commenced Excavations. B. el. M.

Commenced operations in the Valley of the Kings. I began by continuing the former excavation where it had stopped at the N.E. corner of the entrance to the tomb of Ramses VI, trenching southwards. At this point there were ancient stone huts of the Necropolis workmen, built rather less than a metre above the bed-rock, which had partly been exposed in our former work x (see plan L.M. 15 and 16). As we uncovered them they were found to continue under and in front of the entrance of Ramses VI tomb in a southerly direction and connected up with other similar huts on the opposite side of the valley bed discovered by Davis during previous work. These ancient huts were soon cleared of the rubbish covering them. I planned them, and removed them for investigation below, which undertaking took until the fourth of Nov.

Note x These huts were built upon the natural detritus, and were covered by an average of three metres of debris accumulated since their construction.

Saturday, November 4.

First steps of tomb found.

At about 10am I discovered beneath almost the first hut attacked the first traces of the entrance of the tomb (Tut.ankh.Amen) This comprised the first step of the N.E. corner (of the sunken-staircase). Quite a short time sufficed to show that it was the beginning of a steep excavation cut in the bed rock, about four metres below the entrance of Ramses VI's tomb, and a similar depth below the present level of the valley. And, that it was of the nature of a sunken staircase entrance to a tomb of the type of the XVIIIth Dyn., but further than that nothing could be told until the heavy rubbish above was cleared away.

This is how the same discovery was noted in Howard Carter's excavation journal. Numbers 433-5 refer to the register of finds from Carnarvon-Carter excavations in the Valley of the Kings, L.16 and M.16 are references to Carter's map. The journal was discontinued after these entries.

Nov. 1, 1922. Season 1922-23 begins: excavation before tomb of Ramses VI (vide L.M.16)

433. L.16 Entrance of tomb of
In bed rock floor of water-course (below entrance of Ramses VI). Discovered 4th Nov. 1922.
434. L.16 Limestone flake bearing polytheistic sketch in bl. & red of Horus & animals. (2 frags.)
435. L.16. Enclosure in stone upper stratum - (?) mortar trough for Ramses VI (?) tomb.

Sunday, November 5.

Discovered tomb under tomb of Ramses VI
Investigated same & found seals intact.

It took the whole of the preceding day and most of this day to free this excavation before the upper margins of the staircase could be demarcated on its four sides. As first conjectured it proved to be an opening (about 4 ms x 1.60 ms) excavated in the bed-rock, with its W. end abutting against the rock slope of the small hillock in which Ramses VI had excavated his tomb. As the work proceeded we found that the western end of the cutting receded under the slope of the rock, and thus was partly roofed over by the overhanging rock.

Towards sunset we had cleared down to the level of the 12th step, which was sufficient to expose a large part of the upper portion of a plastered and sealed doorway. Here before us was sufficient evidence to show that it really was an entrance to a tomb, and by the seals, to all outward appearances that it was intact.

I examined this exposed portion of the sealed doorway and noticed that the only decipherable impressions of the seals were those of the well-known Royal Necropolis seal, i.e., Anubis (symbolizing a king) over nine foes.

With the evidence of these seals, and the fact that the workmen's huts, which in all probabilities dated from the time of the construction of Rameses VI's tomb, were built over the mouth of the entrance of this newly discovered tomb without apparently disturbing it, it was clear that its content would be undisturbed at least since the XXth Dyn.

The seal-impressions suggested that it belonged to somebody of high standing but at that time I had not found any indications as to whom.

I noticed at the top of the doorway, where some of the cement-like plaster had fallen away, a heavy wooden lintel. To assure myself of the method in which the doorway was blocked, I made a small hole under this wooden lintel - the R. hand corner, about 35 x 15 cms in size. By this hole I was able to perceive with the aid of an electrical torch that a passage beyond was completely filled with stones and rubble up to its ceiling, which was again evidence of something that had required careful closing. It was a thrilling moment for an excavator, quite alone save his native staff of workmen, to suddenly find himself, after so many years of toilsome work, on the verge of what looked like a magnificent discovery - an untouched tomb. With certain reluctance I reclosed the small hole that I had made, and returned to another careful search among the seals to see if I could not find some indication that would point to the identity of the owner, but it was of no avail for the small space bared by my excavation did not expose any impression sufficiently clear to be made out, other than that of the Royal Necropolis seal already mentioned.

Though I was satisfied that I was on the verge of perhaps a magnificent find, probably one of the missing tombs that I had been seeking for many years, I was much puzzled by the smallness of the opening in comparison with those of other royal tombs in the valley. Its design was certainly of the XVIIIth Dyn. Could it be the tomb of a noble, buried there by royal consent? Or was it a royal cache? As far as my investigations had gone there was absolutely nothing to tell me. Had I known that by digging a few inches deeper I would have exposed seal impressions showing Tut.ankh.Amen's insignia distinctly I would have fervently worked on and set my mind at rest, but as it was, it was getting late, the night had fast set in, the full moon had risen high in the eastern heavens, I refilled the excavation for protection, and with my men selected for the occasion - they like myself delighted beyond all expectation - I returned home and cabled to Ld. C. (then in England) the following message:-

"At last have made wonderful discovery in Valley a magnificent tomb with seals intact recovered same for your arrival congratulations "

Monday, November 6.

Townsend Arrives
House a/c to date 573.
Two donkeys

The men worked feverishly today covering and making safe the discovery until the time came for fully reopening . On the top of which great stones, that formed the sides of the ancient huts, were rolled.

Tuesday, November 7.

Two donkeys

The news of the discovery spread fast all over the country, and inquisitive enquiries mingled with congratulations from this moment became the daily programme.

We continued clearing the bed-rock of the valley towards the south where many more huts were exposed and on turning the corner towards the west we opened up, at a higher level than the huts a sort of stone enclosure for mortar - these like the others were evidently part of the camp for Ramses VI tomb. This investigation continued until the end of the working week - Monday, the 13th Nov. Here, as I found in most other cases, the excavations of former explorers, in this case Davis, had only skimmed the top surface and had not even laid bare the huts of the ancient workmen.

Wednesday, November 8.

Townsend leaves.
Two donkeys

Received wireless from Lord C. "... possibly come soon ..." A little later another wire from Ld. C. "propose arrive Alexandria twentieth ..."

Thursday, November 9.

Wired for Callender.

Friday, November 10.

Callender arrived.
During the interim to following date made various preparations for opening the tomb.

Saturday, November 11.

Callender came
Two donkeys.

Sunday, November 12.

Two donkeys

Monday, November 13.

Two donkeys

Tuesday, November 14.

Two donkeys.

Wednesday, November 15.

Two donkeys

Thursday, November 16.

Two donkeys

Friday, November 17.

Pay men.
Callender leaves.
Two donkeys

Saturday, November 18.

Leave for Cairo.
Two donkeys

Left for Cairo.

Monday, November 20.

Wood. Zeers. Nails.

Lord C. and Lady E. arrived Cairo.
Made various purchases in Cairo.

Tuesday, November 21.

Callender arrives 5.pm. Abou Sukar.
Camel & donkey.
Left Cairo

Returned to Luxor

Wednesday, November 22.

Self & Ld. C.
Arrived Luxor

Arrived Luxor-Gurna
Ld C. left Cairo for Luxor.

Thursday, November 23.

Ld C. arrived
Callender commenced opening tomb
Went up with Ld C to Valley

Lord C. arrived Luxor, came over to Gurna and put up at my house.
Callender restarted uncovering tomb.

Friday, November 24.

Lady E. arrived.
and brought bird.
Arrived at entrance doorway
Engelbach came with some friends
Brunton, daughter of Lady A.'s sister, Mr Burton & ?someone else.
Slept night at tomb.
Took photos. & notes.

Lady E. arrived.
Callender reached as far as the first doorway. There proved to be sixteen steps.

Now that the whole of the sealed doorway was laid bare various seal impressions bearing the cartouche of Tut-ankh-Amen were discernible, more in particular in the lower portion of the plastering of the doorway where the impressions were clearest.

In the upper part of this sealed doorway traces of two distinct reopenings and successive reclosings were apparent, and that the seal-impressions first noticed, Nov. 5, of the Royal Necropolis - i.e., `Anubis over Nine Foes', had been used for the reclosing . Here was evidence of at least the reign of the tomb, but its true significance was still a puzzle, for in the lower rubbish that filled the stair-case entrance we found masses of broken potsherds, broken boxes, the latter bearing the names and protocol of Akhenaten, Smenkh-Ka-Ra, and Tut.ankh.Amen, and with what was even more upsetting a scarab of Tehutimes III, as well as a fragment bearing the cartouche of Amenhetep III. These conflicting data led us for a time to believe that we were about to open a royal cache of the El Amarna branch of the XVIIIth Dyn. Monarchs, and that {the} from the evidence mentioned above it had been probably opened and used more than once.

Engelbach, the Chief Inspector Antiquities Dept., came and witnessed the freeing of rubbish from the first doorway. With him came several of his friends, among others Brunton.

Slept the night in the valley. Carpenters commenced upon making a temporary wooden grill for fixing over first doorway.

Saturday, November 25.

Opened first door.

Noted seals. Made photographic records, which were not, as they afterwards proved, very successful. Opened the first doorway; which comprised rough stones built up from the threshold to the lintel, plastered over on the outside face, and covered with numerous impressions from various seals of Tut.ankh.Amen and the Royal Necropolis seal. The removal of this blocking exposed the commencement of a completely blocked descending passage, the same width as the entrance staircase and rather more than 2 metres high. It was filled with its local stone and rubble, probably from its own excavation, but like the doorway it showed distinct traces of more than one filling; the mass of the filling being of clean white stone chips mingled with dust, while in the upper left hand corner a large irregular hole had been pierced through it which had been refilled with dark flint and chert stones. This coincided with reopenings and successive reclosings found on the sealed doorway.

As we cleared the passage we found mixed with the rubble broken potsherds, jar seals, and numerous fragments of small objects; water skins lying on the floor together with alabaster jars, whole and broken, and coloured pottery vases; all pertaining to some disturbed burial, but telling us nothing to whom they belonged further than by their type which was of the late XVIIIth Dyn. These were disturbing elements as they pointed towards plundering.

Sunday, November 26.

Open second doorway
about 2pm.
Advised Engelbach.

After clearing 9 metres of the descending passage, in about the middle of the afternoon, we came upon a second sealed doorway, which was almost the exact replica of the first. It bore similar seal impressions and had similar traces of successive reopenings and reclosings in the plastering. The seal impressions were of Tut.ankh.Amen and of the Royal Necropolis, but not in any way so clear as those on the first doorway. The entrance and passage both in plan and in style resembled almost to measurement the tomb containing the cache of Akhenaten discovered by Davis in the very near vicinity; which seemed to substantiate our first conjecture that we had found a cache.

Feverishly we cleared away the remaining last scraps of rubbish on the floor of the passage before the doorway, until we had only the clean sealed doorway before us. In which, after making preliminary notes, we made a tiny breach in the top left hand corner to see what was beyond. Darkness and the iron testing rod told us that there was empty space. Perhaps another descending staircase, in accordance to the ordinary royal Theban tomb plan? Or may be a chamber? Candles were procured - the all important tell-tale for foul gases when opening an ancient subterranean excavation - I widened the breach and by means of the candle looked in, while Ld. C., Lady E, and Callender with the Reises waited in anxious expectation.

It was sometime before one could see, the hot air escaping caused the candle to flicker, but as soon as one's eyes became accustomed to the glimmer of light the interior of the chamber gradually loomed before one, with its strange and wonderful medley of extraordinary and beautiful objects heaped upon one another.

There was naturally short suspense for those present who could not see, when Lord Carnarvon said to me `Can you see anything'. I replied to him Yes, it is wonderful. I then with precaution made the hole sufficiently large for both of us to see. With the light of an electric torch as well as an additional candle we looked in. Our sensations and astonishment are difficult to describe as the better light revealed to us the marvellous collection of treasures: two strange ebony-black effigies of a King, gold sandalled, bearing staff and mace, loomed out from the cloak of darkness; gilded couches in strange forms, lion-headed, Hathor-headed, and beast infernal; exquisitely painted, inlaid, and ornamental caskets; flowers; alabaster vases, some beautifully executed of lotus and papyrus device; strange black shrines with a gilded monster snake appearing from within; quite ordinary looking white chests; finely carved chairs; a golden inlaid throne; a heap of large curious white oviform boxes; beneath our very eyes, on the threshold, a lovely lotiform wishing-cup in translucent alabaster; stools of all shapes and design, of both common and rare materials; and, lastly a confusion of overturned parts of chariots glinting with gold, peering from amongst which was a mannikin. The first impression of which suggested the property-room of an opera of a vanished civilization. Our sensations were bewildering and full of strange emotion. We questioned one another as to the meaning of it all. Was it a tomb or merely a cache? A sealed doorway between the two sentinel statues proved there was more beyond, and with the numerous cartouches bearing the name of Tut.ankh.Amen on most of the objects before us, there was little doubt that there behind was the grave of that Pharaoh.

We closed the hole, locked the wooden-grill which had been placed upon the first doorway, we mounted our donkeys and return home contemplating what we had seen.

Advised the Chief Inspector of the Antiquities Department, who was with us at the commencement of the opening of the first doorway, and asked him to come as soon as possible, preferably the following afternoon to enable us to prepare an electrical installation for careful inspection of this extraordinary and pleasing discovery.

Monday, November 27.

Inspected tomb with electric light.
Ibrahim Effendi came

Callender prepared the electrical installation for lighting the tomb. This was ready by noon, when Lord C., Lady E., Callender and self entered and made a careful inspection of this first chamber (afterwards called the Ante-chamber).

In the course of the afternoon the local Inspector Ibrahim Effendi, of the Department of Antiquities at Luxor, came in the place of the Chief Inspector - he being absent on a visit to Kena.

It soon became obvious that we were but on the threshold of the discovery. The sight that met us was beyond anything one could conceive. The heterogeneous mass of material crowded into the chamber without particular order, so crowded that you were obliged to move with anxious caution, for time had wrought certain havoc with many of the objects, was very bewildering. Everywhere we found traces of disorder caused by some early intruder, objects over-turned, broken fragments lying upon the floor, all added to the confusion, and the unfamiliar plan of tomb repeatedly caused us to ask ourselves in our perplexity whether it was really a tomb or a Royal Cache? As the better light fell upon the objects we endeavoured to take them in. It was impossible. They were so many. Beneath one of the couches, the Thoueris couch in the S.W. corner, we perceived an aperture in the rock-wall which proved to be nothing less than another sealed-doorway broken open as by some predatory hand. With care Ld. C. and I crept under this strange gilded couch, and we peered into the opening. There we saw that it led into yet another chamber (afterwards called the Annexe) of smaller dimensions than the Ante-chamber and of a lower level. Even greater confusion prevailed here, the very stones that blocked the entrance, forced in when the breach was made, were lying helter-skelter upon the objects on the floor crushed by their weight. It was full of one mass of furniture. An utter confusion of beds, chairs, boxes, alabaster and faience vases, statuettes, cases of peculiar form, and every sort of thing overturned and searched for valuables. The remaining portions of the plaster covering the blocking of this doorway bore similar seal-impressions as on the other doorways.

In neither of these two chambers could we see any traces of a mummy or mummies - the one pious reason for making a cache. With such evidence, as well as the sealed doorway between the two guardian statues of the King, the mystery gradually dawned upon us. We were but in the anterior portion of a tomb. Behind that closed doorway was the tomb-chamber, and that Tut.ankh.Amen probably lay there in all his magnificent panoply of death - we had found that monarch's burial place intact save certain metal-robbing, and not his cache.

We then examined the plaster and seal-impressions upon the closed doorway. They were of many types of seals, all bearing the insignia of the King. We also discovered that in the bottom part of the blocking a small breach had once been made, large enough to allow of a small man to pass through, but it had been carefully reclosed, plastered and sealed. Evidently the tomb beyond had been entered - by thieves! Who knows? But sufficient evidence to tell that someone had made ingress.

The results of our investigations were, (1) it was clear the place was Pharaoh's tomb and not a mere cache; (2) that we had only entered the anterior chambers of the tomb, filled with magnificent equipment equal only to the wealth and splendour of the New Empire; (3) that we had found a royal burial little disturbed save hurried plundering at the hands of ancient tomb robbers.

It was a sight surpassing all precedent, and one we never dreamed of seeing. We were astonished by the beauty and refinement of the art displayed by the objects surpassing all we could have imagined - the impression was overwhelming.

Tuesday, November 28.

(?) Engelbach came.

Most of this day was spent in preparing for an official opening of the tomb to take place on the morrow - the 29th. Engelbach, the Chief Inspector, returned from Kena by the midday train, came over to the Valley on his motor-cycle in the afternoon and inspected the discovery.

Wednesday, November 29.

(?) Official opening

Today we had a sort of official opening to which the following guests were invited: Lady Allenby and AdC; H.E. Abdel Aziz Bey Yehia, the Mudir of Kena; the Maamur of Luxor; Mr and Mrs Maudsley; Mr and Mrs K. Boyde; Mr and Mrs de Garis Davies; Mr and Mrs Engelbach; Lady Downes and daughter; Abdel Razik Bey of the Mus. of Agriculture; Mr and Mrs Merton of the Times; Mr and Mrs Brunton; The Irrigation Insp. of Kena district; Wise Bey of the Police; the Commandant of the Kena Police; Ibreheem Effendi, Insp. of Luxor; and others. Lunch was given 12.30 at the head of the valley - near tomb No. 15, when afterwards Lady Allenby and H.E. the Mudir of Kena with Ld. C. and self opened the tomb. A special report to The Times was sent to Luxor by runner - about 3pm.

Thursday, November 30.

Paid Salaries up to date
Excepting Abd el Aal.
(?) Lacau & Tottenham came.

A number of Egyptian notables of Luxor came early in the morning and requested to be allowed to see the interior of the tomb. We were totally unprepared for such a large quantity of visitors, and in view of the preservation of the antiquities they being very crowded and in poor preservation, we were obliged to refuse admission until some preparation was made to safeguard the objects.

Lacau and Tottenham, who were unable to be present at the official opening yesterday, arrived today, about 11am, and made their official inspection. Both were very pleased and I might say astonished at the discovery - Lacau particularly so and very enthusiastic. They remained to lunch and talked over various matters in connection with the find. Tottenham spoke very appreciatively of our achievement, and went so far to say that he would endeavour to see that Ld C. should be fully recompensed for his good work and enterprise, and that he thought it the duty of the Eg. Gov. to give him all aid in completing the undertaking.

Friday, December 1.

Ld. C. received letter from Tottenham to the above effect.
(see file Dec. 1). Measured doorway for steel gate.

Saturday, December 2.

Lady E. left for Cairo.

Sunday, December 3.

Refilled entrance of Tomb, using heavy boards to close the doorway prior to covering with stone rubble .

Monday, December 4.

Ld. C. left for Cairo.
Paid up men for the week.

Ld. C. left for Cairo.

Tuesday, December 5.

Made drawing for steel gate for inner doorway of tomb.

Measured door for steel gate.

Wednesday, December 6.

To Cook 4 LE. on a/c.
Left for Cairo.

Left for Cairo

Thursday, December 7.

Arrived Cairo
Ordered from Rostaing steel gate for inner doorway of tomb.
Purchased wadding & calico.
for transport and packing of antiquities,
Ordered nests of cardboard boxes.,
Stationery etc. and bandages.

Ordered steel gate
Purchased 32 bolts calico
Motor car
Photographic material
197 sheets wadding = 1970 yards
etc. etc

In answer to Lythgoe's cable of congratulation asked if Burton's services could be lent to take photographs.

Friday, December 8.

Lythgoe replied
"Only too delighted to assist in any possible way. Please call on Burton and any other members of our staff cabling Burton to that effect."

Saturday, December 9.

Saw Lucas in regard of chemical preparations for preserving objects, and textiles.

Saw Lucas, Director of Chemical Dept. of Egyptian Government, and he offered services for winter

Monday, December 11.

Ld. C. left for England & Lady E.

Lord C. left for England.

Tuesday, December 12.

Cable from Mace offering services.

Wednesday, December 13.

Left for Luxor
Steel gate sent to Luxor.

Steel gates completed
Left for Luxor

Thursday, December 14.

Returned Gurna.

Friday, December 15.

Transport of door & materials.

Materials arrived & steel gate transported to Valley.

Saturday, December 16.

Opened tomb
Write Tile re tomb.

Reopened tomb

Sunday, December 17.

Fixed gate.

Fixed steel gate

Monday, December 18.

Breasted came 3 pm.

Breasted arrived & examined seals.
Burton, Hauser & Hall began work.

Lord C. arranged with Gardiner in England to look after philological end of work

Tuesday, December 19.

Breasted. Came this morning examined seal impressions on first and second doorway as well as started upon doorway of the entrance to sepulchral chamber.

Wednesday, December 20.

Lucas arrived.
Inform Luxor notables of Friday.

Lucas arrived and began experiments on 21st. Also made inspection of tomb from criminological investigation point of view

Permission from Government to use Tomb no. 15 as laboratory.

Thursday, December 21.

Tile to lunch.
Lucas started upon chemical tests for preserving textiles etc.
Write Maudsley
Lucas made careful inspection of tomb from a criminological point of view.

Friday, December 22.

Tomb open to European and Egyptian press at 4pm also for notables.

Tomb opened to European and Egyptian Press by invitation. Also to Egyptian notables of Luxor

Saturday, December 23.

Write Maudsley
Write Allenby

Photographing and planning

Sunday, December 24.

Photographing and planning

Monday, December 25.

Fuel must be obtained
Mace arrived

Mace arrived

Tuesday, December 26.

Mace inspected interior of tomb.

Inspected tomb with Mace & discussed plan of campaign.

Wednesday, December 27.

Started removing objects. from Ante-chamber - commencing with box No. 21.
Ahmed Ali Sofragi came.

Notes to Mace to this date May 17 1923

First object (Box 21) removed from Tomb.

Friday, December 29.

Contesa/See Bradstreet Merton re photos & offers./copies of photos

Sunday, December 31.

Write Gardiner.
Photos of self.
White & Fitzgerald to lunch.

This text has also been published in Discussions in Egyptology 32 (1995), but the electronic version has been revised and updated.

(October 6, 2010)

Go to the excavation diaries for early 1923.

Back to Tutankhamun: Anatomy of an Excavation.