Monday, 19 July 2010

Tutankhamun – the secrets of the tomb go online

Howard Carter spent years documenting the thousands of artefacts from Tutankhamun's tomb. Now, thanks to the efforts of an Oxford archaeologist, this remarkable archive of pictures and notes can be viewed online.

 The comprehensive notes and photos recording the find by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922, were donated to Oxford University's first Professor of Egyptology, Frank Griffith, by the Carter family. In turn, this archive became the Griffith Institute, attached to Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, and it is the institute's Keeper of the Archives Dr Jaromir Malek, 66, along with his assistant Elizabeth Fleming, who have diligently been loading the mass of information on to the internet in their spare time.

Yet one of the real curses of Tutankhamun, from Dr Malek's point of view, was the failure of Egyptologists to publish the discovery in its entirety.

Dr Malek said: "It is astonishing, but no longer acceptable, that some 80 years and thousands of articles, hundreds of books, and dozens of exhibitions after the discovery of the tomb, this most famous event in the history of Egyptian archaeology has not yet been fully published.

"Our original idea was to create a database of the objects. "Carter recorded his finds on thousands of index cards. But it has been expanded and we have put documents and photographs online."

Transcribing Carter's diaries has been a challenge. Although written in tiny neat handwriting, the archaeologist was working under the most intense pressure, and his notes can sometimes be difficult to decipher. Carter's plans in black ink, drawings and paintings are also held by the institute, along with the black-and-white photographs that were taken throughout the excavation.

Dr Malek's project, begun in 1993, has taken so long because it has had to be done between other work and in his lunch hour, and sometimes in the evenings. "It has been a question of finding a couple of hours here and there. It is not my main job, " said Dr Malek, who arrived to work at the institute in 1970 from Prague's Institute of Egyptology. His main job is compiling The Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings, now in its eighth edition.

Of the archive, Dr Malek added: "We hope that this will help bring the knowledge and love of ancient Egypt to everybody. It really belongs to the world."

Read more: The Guardian
Howard Carter: The Path to Tutankhamun

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