No ancient culture is so closely associated with its relics as Egypt and today Ancient Egyptian artifacts are recognizable around the world – some 3500 years after the height of than mighty empire. Indeed, with an interrupted history after its conquest by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, most of the information we in the modern age glean from the Egypt of the Pharaohs is derived through study of Ancient Egyptian artifacts. All in all, Egyptology is a bit of a sober reminder that the march of history can erase whole civilizations from the collective human consciousness…
Technically speaking, the Pyramids were never completely forgotten about, either in lore or in the history books. (Recall that the Ancient Romans were quite the swell little recordkeepers indeed.) The great Sphinx crouched among the Pyramids, sometimes buried up to its neck by the relentless whipping sands, had been dug out up to a half-dozen times.
However, a few obstacles stood between humanity and the unearthing of ancient Egyptian artifacts: Firstly, the last priests who knew the secrets of the pyramids’ designs took their secrets to the grave; the interminable desert winds further exacerbated the situation. Finally, the fact that most of the ceremonial pyramids are located in areas laid waste by human environment manipulation and excessive farming. These are now uninhabited bits of modern Egypt; heck, the famed Rosetta Stone which allowed translation of hieroglyphics was found by accident by wayward troops of Napoleon’s.
The short answer to the question is that King Tut’s tomb was first entered by archaeologist Howard Carter in November 1922.
Howard Carter began his career in the late 19th century as a mere teenager working with his father. Carter quickly became known for his precociousness and was lauded for his innovative methods of recording finds and data.
Carter’s quest to unearth ancient Egyptian artifacts – and the tombs of pharaohs themselves – began in 1907 when one Lord Carnarvon began funding his work in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Seven years of work produced little, and Carter had to put off his studies for three years during World War I. In 1917, eh continued but turned up equally scant finds over the next 4½ years. With about a month to go before Carnarvon was about to cut his funding, Carter found the entrance to Tutankhamen’s tomb.
Only six months after first entering the tomb did Carter really hit the jackpot, cracking open a sealed door to get into the burial chamber. The media offered constant reportage of Carter’s work, and the age of Egyptology – not to mention fodder for writers of stories starring Allan Quartermain, Doc Savage and Indiana Jones – had begun.
Today, enough ancient Egyptian artifacts have been accumulated that private dealers sell them online. (We’d advise anyone interested in doing so to ensure a certificate of authenticity is included with the item.) These dealers and other cataloguers tend to break down the finds into the following categories – in a list that sounds like the typical symbol set of an Egypt-themed slots game.
• Amulets, with a specific sub-category for items featuring the Eye of Horus, a.k.a. Udjat or Wadjet amulets;
• scarabs, representing immortality;
• bead Jewelry;
• mummy-related artifacts (would you believe you can buy pieces of the mummy wrappings?)
• bronze figurines, which are quite plentiful;
• Ptolemaic coins (very hard to obtain and very expensive);
• stone statues and statuettes; and
• wall tiles from burial chambers themselves, a very popular item on the open market.
You bet! Just to name a couple examples of 21st-century finds, we can mention the 2008 discovery of the remains of the 118th pyramid to be unearthed in Egypt, a 4,300-year-old structure devoted to Queen Khentkaus III.
And in November 2016, the 4,500-year-old remains of a workers’ town was discovered about 250 miles south of Cairo in the defunct city of Abydos. Here, some 15 tombs were found.