Howard Carter

(1874—1939) artist and archaeologist

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(1873–1939) [Bi]

British archaeologist famous for his discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt. Born in Brompton, London, the youngest of eleven children, he spent his early years in Swaffham, Norfolk, although details of his schooling are uncertain. In 1891 he was offered employment at Didlington Hall, the country seat of William Amhurst Tyssen‐Amherst, a well‐known collector of Egyptian antiquities. It was this introduction to archaeology that set the course of the rest of Carter's life. From the early 1890s he was working as a draughtsman and copyist for Percy Newberry, who was carrying out an archaeological survey of Egypt. In September 1891 he joined Newberry in Egypt and later went on to work with Sir Flinders Petrie at Amarna.

Through the mid 1890s Carter developed great proficiency as an excavator and site manager, as well as an illustrator and photographer. On 1 January 1900 he took up an appointment as chief inspector of antiquities in Upper Egypt and Nubia with an office in Luxor. His role was to safeguard the antiquities of the region and supervise all archaeological work carried out there. This he did efficiently, changing roles in 1904 to look after the monuments in Lower Egypt. Things here did not go so smoothly, and after badly handling a tussle between some French tourists and Egyptian guards, and following various brushes with officialdom, he resigned in 1905.

Over the next few years Carter supported himself as an artist and illustrator. In 1909, however, he joined Lord Carnarvon's expedition at Thebes, the pair working in the Theban necropolis and elsewhere down to WW1. During the war Carter worked as a civilian in the intelligence department of the War Office in Cairo. After the war he continued working for Lord Carnarvon, but the political situation so far as archaeological investigations in Egypt were concerned was getting worse, permits were increasingly difficult to obtain, and Carnarvon grew increasingly disenchanted. In 1922 it was understood that the partners would make one last try to reveal something really worthwhile. Working in the Valley of the Kings, Carter began clearing the area in front of the tomb of Ramesses VI, and in early November 1922 he discovered the sealed entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamen. Clearing and recording the tomb took until February 1932, during which time there was a great deal of squabbling and intrigue, and also the death of Lord Carnarvon from blood poisoning in April 1923. Carter never fully published the excavations, nor was he ever fully accepted by the establishment of the time. His health deteriorated in the late 1930s and he died of Hodgkin's disease.


T. G. H. James, 1992, Howard Carter: the path to Tutankhamun. London: Kegan Paul

Subjects: Archaeology.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.