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.
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.
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.