Sunday, 1 March 2009

Twenty three years of persistence


"This is the place," the guide tells me, pointing at a promontory in the sand. "That's where Howard Carter's barrack used to stand." To me, that small elevation in the Egyptian desert looks no different from any other dune.

I examine the spot and take a look around, wondering if the guide is telling me truth. Is this really the place? Who knows. I shake my head and tell myself that it doesn't matter.

Did I come here to look at the desert? No, what brought me to this place is the story. In 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter must have been standing where I am now, pondering about his unsuccessful past and his dark future.

The sand ends abruptly three hundred meters behind my back. I turn around and contemplate the Nile waters. A couple of small boats are crossing the river.

The sight before Howard Carter's eyes must have not been that different from what I am watching now, I tell myself. The guide signals me that he will be waiting below, I nod to him, and he begins to walk back to our boat.

At the beginning of 1922, Lord Carnavon, the excavation's sponsor, had announced to Carter that, after that year, he would not be providing further funding. Carter's past results had been disappointing and Carnavon, after some hesitation, had decided to put an end to the enterprise.

At that time, Carter was 48 years old and could look back at his life as a complete failure. Twenty three years had passed since he had first conceived the idea of the missing tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Those twenty three years had been wasted in the desert dust.

The science of Egyptology had accepted as fact that Tutankhamen's tomb had been pillaged and forgotten centuries ago. Only Carter was convinced that Tutankhamen's tomb was still intact, buried somewhere under the sand.

"What have I achieved in 23 years?" Carter must have asked himself as the end of 1922 approached. "I have no money, no wife, no children, and no future." Carter's determination to search for Tutankhamen's tomb had only led to wasting Carter's own life and the best part of Lord Carnavon's fortune.

Europe had been ravaged by World War I and Carter knew that, after his long years of failure, his chances of finding another sponsor for funding excavations in Egypt was nil. I take a few steps on the sand, use my hand to shade my eyes from the sun, look at the wooden sign on the other side of the dune, and smile.

It is the sign that nowadays points tourists to Tutankhamen's tomb, which Howard Carter finally managed to find six weeks before Christmas 1922. He had spent 23 years looking for that tomb and had succeeded only a few days before reaching Carnavon's final deadline.

During the following 16 years, until the day of his death, Carter enjoyed the prestige and financial advantages of being the most famous archaeologist in the world. The treasures found in Tutankhamen's tomb have an immense value, but for me, they cannot be compared to the lesson drawn from Howard Carter's persistence.


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by dalbera under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Twenty three years of persistence


"This is the place," the guide tells me, pointing at a promontory in the sand. "That's where Howard Carter's barrack used to stand." To me, that small elevation in the Egyptian desert looks no different from any other dune.

I examine the spot and take a look around, wondering if the guide is telling me truth. Is this really the place? Who knows. I shake my head and tell myself that it doesn't matter.

Did I come here to look at the desert? No, what brought me to this place is the story. In 1922, archaeologist Howard Carter must have been standing where I am now, pondering about his unsuccessful past and his dark future.

The sand ends abruptly three hundred meters behind my back. I turn around and contemplate the Nile waters. A couple of small boats are crossing the river.

The sight before Howard Carter's eyes must have not been that different from what I am watching now, I tell myself. The guide signals me that he will be waiting below, I nod to him, and he begins to walk back to our boat.

At the beginning of 1922, Lord Carnavon, the excavation's sponsor, had announced to Carter that, after that year, he would not be providing further funding. Carter's past results had been disappointing and Carnavon, after some hesitation, had decided to put an end to the enterprise.

At that time, Carter was 48 years old and could look back at his life as a complete failure. Twenty three years had passed since he had first conceived the idea of the missing tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Those twenty three years had been wasted in the desert dust.

The science of Egyptology had accepted as fact that Tutankhamen's tomb had been pillaged and forgotten centuries ago. Only Carter was convinced that Tutankhamen's tomb was still intact, buried somewhere under the sand.

"What have I achieved in 23 years?" Carter must have asked himself as the end of 1922 approached. "I have no money, no wife, no children, and no future." Carter's determination to search for Tutankhamen's tomb had only led to wasting Carter's own life and the best part of Lord Carnavon's fortune.

Europe had been ravaged by World War I and Carter knew that, after his long years of failure, his chances of finding another sponsor for funding excavations in Egypt was nil. I take a few steps on the sand, use my hand to shade my eyes from the sun, look at the wooden sign on the other side of the dune, and smile.

It is the sign that nowadays points tourists to Tutankhamen's tomb, which Howard Carter finally managed to find six weeks before Christmas 1922. He had spent 23 years looking for that tomb and had succeeded only a few days before reaching Carnavon's final deadline.

During the following 16 years, until the day of his death, Carter enjoyed the prestige and financial advantages of being the most famous archaeologist in the world. The treasures found in Tutankhamen's tomb have an immense value, but for me, they cannot be compared to the lesson drawn from Howard Carter's persistence.


[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by dalbera under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]