Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Carter's souvenirs to come home

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Artefacts from Tutankhamun's tomb formerly in the private collections of Howard Carter and Lord Caernarvon have returned to Egypt after nearly nine decades, reports Nevine El-Aref

It seems that the spell of the Golden King Tutankhamun will last forever. While the Americans are admiring some of his treasured collection in two touring exhibitions now in Denver and New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art (MET) has offered Egypt 19 objects attributed to Tutankhamun's tomb.

These small-scale objects are divided into two groups. Fifteen of them have the status of bits or samples, while the remaining four are of more significant art-historical interest and include a small bronze dog and a small sphinx bracelet-element. The pieces were acquired by Howard Carter's niece after they had been probated with his estate and were later recognised to have been noted in the tomb records, although they do not appear in any excavation photographs. Two other pieces include a part of a handle and a broad collar accompanied by additional beads, which entered the collection because they were found in 1939 among the contents of Carter's house in Luxor. All of the contents of that house were bequeathed by Carter to the Metropolitan Museum.

The story of these artefacts started as early as 1922 when Howard Carter and his sponsor, Lord Caernarvon, discovered Tutankhamun's tomb with all its distinguished and priceless funerary collection in the Valley of the Kings on Luxor's west bank. At that time, according to laws applied in Egypt, the Egyptian government generally allowed archaeologists to keep a substantial portion of the finds from excavations that they had undertaken and financed. However in 1922 when Carter and his team uncovered Tutankhamun's tomb it became increasingly clear that no such partition of finds would take place in this particular case.

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