Spotlight: The Discovery of King Tutankhamun

February 16, 2023 is the 100th anniversary of the opening of King Tutankhamun’s burial chamber. The tomb was discovered in November 1922 by English archaeologist Howard Carter and his team, who had been searching for it for five years. The tomb, located in Thebes, Egypt, was found virtually intact after 3,000 years. 

On February 16, 1923, Carter and his team entered the last chamber in the tomb, where they located a sarcophagus with three coffins inside one another. The last coffin, made of solid gold, contained the mummified body of King Tutankhamun. The tomb’s contents were cataloged and displayed at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt where they are still on display today.

The following clip, taken from Universal Newsreel volume 22, release 243, features the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in a story released on April 28, 1949. The story highlights the King Tut exhibit at the museum in Cairo showing Tutankhamun’s sarcophagus. The story also discusses continued digging at the site of Queen Hatshepsut’s tomb, the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor. [Please note: footage contains images of human remains that may be difficult to view.]

Clip from UN-UN-22-243-lcl

While the clip is silent, the newsreel would have originally been shown with narration by Ben Grauer. The following is the monolog taken from the collection’s production files.

“In the museum of Cairo, the treasures of 30 centuries unroll the scroll of history in one of the world’s most ancient cultures. Egypt, the inscrutable, slowly gives up her secrets, and the most fabulous of these is the sarcophagus of King Tut. With its gold-masked mummy, in as perfect state of preservation as it was when buried 3300 years ago. It is only after ten years of war interruption that digging is resumed at the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut at Luxor. The temple built by one of history’s great women in 1493 BC is being restored to its original grandeur. It is a painstaking effort that must be entirely by hand. All mechanical devices are banned for fear of damaging the ancient stone. Another find is the mummy of a priest, a member of the royal family, buried 3000 years ago. The work, which will take years to complete, is under the supervision of Dr. Zaccaria, director of antiquities for the Egyptian government, a work that is unfolding new pages in history.” 

The artifacts from King Tut’s tomb were exhibited outside of Egypt starting in the 1960s. A popular traveling exhibit titled Treasures of Tutankhamun made its way to the United States in 1976. The exhibit traveled to Washington, D.C., Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City, and San Francisco and attracted more than eight million people. The exhibit arrived in the United States aboard the USS Sylvania. Footage of the exhibit’s arrival and unloading can be found in our online catalog in Record Group 428: General Records of the Navy. The following clip is from film 428-NPC-53979, showing shipyard workers in Norfolk, Virginia, unloading artifacts. 

Clip from 428-NPC-53979

Additional films related to the discovery and exhibition of King Tutankhamun’s artifacts can be found in the NARA catalog. Titles such as “Our Navy in the Near East” show the tomb of Tutankhamun as well as Howard Carter at the dig site. Other films from Record Group 428 show the arrival of artifacts before the 1976 exhibit. If you would like to view the permanent Tutankhamun exhibit at the Egyptian Museum, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has a virtual tour available online.