Newly Colorized Images Of 1922 Tutankhamun Tomb Discovery Reveal Incredible Detail

Howard Carter opens the innermost shrine of King Tutankhamun's tomb near Luxor, Egypt in 1922. Public Domain

Images snapped in the first moments of the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb have been restored in color, showing in greater detail the unprecedented discovery that has shaped Egyptology over the course of the last century.

Harry Burton, also known as The Pharaoh’s Photographer, was an Egyptologist and photographer hired by the Metropolitan Museum’s Egyptian Expedition to photograph the excavations at several sites in Egypt, among them the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb made by British archaeologist Howard Carter. According to the Met Museum, Burton produced and printed more than 14,000 glass negatives between 1914 and his death in 1940, most of which are stored in the archives of the Department of Egyptian Art.

The iconic black-and-white images, which are housed at the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford archives, were enhanced and digitally colorized using Dynamichrome for a 2015 display. The colorization process uses digital tools to restore the damage that occurs to original negatives over time, then grafts individual layers of color – sometimes thousands – onto the original black-and-white photograph. Dynamichrome has been used on historical images from around the world, placing the viewer directly in the scene to provide a sense of realism and a glimpse at what the original photographer might have seen at the moment of discovery.

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December 1922, Tutankhamun's Tomb | View of the northern wall of the Antechamber showing the sentinel statues guarding the sealed doorway leading to the King's Burial Chamber | Burton photograph 0007 (C) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford/Colorized by Dynamichrome

Known as the “boy king,” Tutankhamun took over rule of the 18th Egyptian Dynasty at just nine years old following the death of his father. His short-lived rule lasted just nine years, from 1332 to 1323 BCE, before he died young without heirs, leaving speculation about his mysterious death. Despite speculation that he may have been murdered, a 2010 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association found that King Tut likely died of malaria or another infection. Following World War I, Carter started searching for the enigmatic “King Tut’s Tomb” and came upon steps leading to a hidden room near the entrance of the nearby tomb of King Ramses VI in the famous Valley of Kings. Until then, his story was largely unknown.

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December 1922, Tutankhamun's Tomb | Objects, including the cow-headed couch (Carter no. 73) and boxes containing joints of meat piled up against the west wall of the Antechamber. | Burton photograph 0009 (C) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford/Colorized by Dynamichrome

Carter and his team explored four rooms over the course of a decade, revealing several thousand objects, including a stone sarcophagus with three coffins “nested within each other.”   

“Inside the final coffin, which was made out of solid gold, was the mummy of the boy-king Tutankhamen, preserved for more than 3,000 years,” writes History.

Last fall, Tutankhamun’s gold-plated coffin was restored by the Grand Egyptian Museum, which currently hosts more than 100,000 artifacts, about 3,500 of which belong to King Tut.

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December 1923, Tutankhamun's Tomb | The linen pall, decorated with bronze 'rosettes' inside the walls of the first (outermost) golden shrine in the northwest corner of the Burial Chamber. Burton photograph 0616 © Griffith Institute, University of Oxford/colorized by Dynamichrome

 

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October 1925, Tutankhamun's Tomb | Carter and an Egyptian workman examine the third (innermost) coffin made of solid gold, inside the case of the second coffin. (C) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford/Colorized by Dynamichrome

 

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1923, Thebes | Tourists crowd around the entrance to the tomb to watch a large object, possibly a couch from the Antechamber, being removed from Tutankhamun's tomb, on its way to the workroom. (C) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford/Colorized by Dynamichrome

 

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February 1923, Tutankhamun's Tomb | One of only two images showing Howard Carter (on the left) and Lord Carnarvon together in the tomb; they stand in the partially dismantled doorway between the Antechamber and the Burial Chamber. Lord Carnarvon died less than two months after this photograph was taken. (C) Griffith Institute, University of Oxford/Colorized by Dynamichrome

 

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