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King Tut Treasures 1920s

Here's a throwback to 6th-grade history. King Tut's tomb was discovered on this day in 1923.


WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — On Feb. 16, 1923, English archaeologist Howard Carter made a discovery that would define his legacy: King Tutankhamen's tomb.

The discovery wasn't made on a whim, but a calculated five-year process that involved repeated failures — so many, in fact, that Carter's wealthy funder, Lord Carnarvon, wanted to call off the entire search for the Egyptian ruler's remains. The patience eventually proved fruitful in November 1922, when Carter and his associates discovered steps hidden by debris near the entrance of another tomb. Inside was a four-room space, one of which housed the young pharaoh. Carter's team first explored the rooms adorned with treasures dating back 3,000 years. Eventually, in February, Carter, accompanied by officials, opened the door to the last chamber. There lied a sarcophagus with three coffins nested inside each other.

Bronze color bust of Egyptian King Tutankhamun made with plaster.
Bronze color bust of Egyptian King Tutankhamun made with plaster. (Instants/Getty Images)

King Tut's tomb was surprisingly intact, though some damage suggested robbers had looted the tomb earlier — not exactly an uncommon occurrence. Extraordinary riches — jewelry, sculptures and clothing — surrounded the gold-plated coffin of the perfectly preserved, mummified body.

There aren't any known records of King Tut after his death. As a result, most of what we know about the pharaoh derives from Carter's unsealing of the tomb. Painted wall murals detailing King Tut's life story helped researchers stitch together his short life.

Advances in DNA technology revealed in 2010 that King Tut suffered from severe health complications, forcing him to use a cane to support his frail body, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Scientists also discovered more than one strain of the malaria parasite in his body — suggesting the illness plagued King Tut more than once. It's likely that this, paired with other bone-related issues, ultimately took the pharaoh's life when he was just 19.

More than 3,000 years later, King Tut remains a golden boy to the public. His remains are in Egypt, but about 150 of his treasures are currently on a seven-year, 10-day international tour.

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