Monday, 5 October 2009

Relentless initiative creates opportunities (Part 1 of 2)


If you ever spend a holiday in Egypt, don't forget to visit the place where the barrack of archaeologist Howard Carter used to stand one century ago. When you inquire about the exact location, your guide will point at a promontory in the sand, a small elevation in the Egyptian desert that looks no different from the other dunes.

Tourists who visit the place stand still, examine the spot, and look around, wondering if the guide is telling them truth. Those visitors are actually not interested in looking at the desert. What has brought them there is the story of Howard Carter, a man who, thanks to his curiosity and persistence, became the most famous archaeologist in History.

Despite his modest origins and lack of academic degrees, Carter's profound interest in the history of Ancient Egypt led him to read all available books on the subject and, little by little, he earned a reputation of specialist in Egyptian antiquities. His initiative and hands-on experience in excavations led him to develop the theory that the tomb of one Pharaoh, Tutankhamen, had not yet been found.

Carter's hypothesis conflicted with the prevalent idea at that time, held by professors and specialists alike, who sustained that all tombs in the Valley of Kings had been already found. When Carter was in his early forties, he teamed up with an English wealthy landowner, Lord Carnavon, obtained a concession to excavate the Valley of Kings and began to look for the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

Visit the promontory where Carter's barrack used to stand and you will see that the sand ends abruptly at the riverbank three hundred meters down the slope. The small boats crossing the Nile these days still offer a sight that is not that different from what Howard Carter witnessed at the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1922, Carter went through the lowest point in his career and he must have spent many hours pondering his dark future and unsuccessful past, as he contemplated the boats sailing across the river. His sponsor, Lord Carnavon, had announced that he would no longer be funding Carter's excavations beyond the end of that year.

The belief in the existence of Tutankhamen's undiscovered tomb had not earned Carter any professional distinction. On the contrary, his theory, developed out of his own interpretation of fragments found by other archaeologists, was considered marginal and obscure.

During the previous six years, Carter had spent a good part of Lord Carnavon's fortune in excavations in the Valley of Kings. The results had been so disappointing that Carnavon had decided to put an end to the enterprise at the end of that season.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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

Relentless initiative creates opportunities
(Part 1 of 2)


If you ever spend a holiday in Egypt, don't forget to visit the place where the barrack of archaeologist Howard Carter used to stand one century ago. When you inquire about the exact location, your guide will point at a promontory in the sand, a small elevation in the Egyptian desert that looks no different from the other dunes.

Tourists who visit the place stand still, examine the spot, and look around, wondering if the guide is telling them truth. Those visitors are actually not interested in looking at the desert. What has brought them there is the story of Howard Carter, a man who, thanks to his curiosity and persistence, became the most famous archaeologist in History.

Despite his modest origins and lack of academic degrees, Carter's profound interest in the history of Ancient Egypt led him to read all available books on the subject and, little by little, he earned a reputation of specialist in Egyptian antiquities. His initiative and hands-on experience in excavations led him to develop the theory that the tomb of one Pharaoh, Tutankhamen, had not yet been found.

Carter's hypothesis conflicted with the prevalent idea at that time, held by professors and specialists alike, who sustained that all tombs in the Valley of Kings had been already found. When Carter was in his early forties, he teamed up with an English wealthy landowner, Lord Carnavon, obtained a concession to excavate the Valley of Kings and began to look for the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

Visit the promontory where Carter's barrack used to stand and you will see that the sand ends abruptly at the riverbank three hundred meters down the slope. The small boats crossing the Nile these days still offer a sight that is not that different from what Howard Carter witnessed at the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1922, Carter went through the lowest point in his career and he must have spent many hours pondering his dark future and unsuccessful past, as he contemplated the boats sailing across the river. His sponsor, Lord Carnavon, had announced that he would no longer be funding Carter's excavations beyond the end of that year.

The belief in the existence of Tutankhamen's undiscovered tomb had not earned Carter any professional distinction. On the contrary, his theory, developed out of his own interpretation of fragments found by other archaeologists, was considered marginal and obscure.

During the previous six years, Carter had spent a good part of Lord Carnavon's fortune in excavations in the Valley of Kings. The results had been so disappointing that Carnavon had decided to put an end to the enterprise at the end of that season.

To be continued in Part 2

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

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