Discovering Tutankhamun

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Discovering Tutankhamun

Key Stage 2 education resources for exhibition objects from the Tutankhamun Archive held by the Griffith Institute, University of Oxford

Developed in association with The British Museum (

Using these resources

Discovering Tutankhamun

Pre-visit preparation

Activity sheet: The search for Tutankhamun

Activity sheet: Discovery!

Activity sheet: Tutmania

Activity sheet: Interpreting Tutankhamun

Follow-up activities

Background information

Exhibition image bank

Further resources

Using these resources

The Griffith Institute is delighted to be loaning a number of archive objects to the Ashmolean Museum’s Discovering Tutankhamun exhibition which runs from 24 July to 2 November 2014.

Material in this pack supports pre-booked school visits to the exhibition and offers suggestions for using four of the Griffith Institute objects on display in the exhibition.

Further information and images at

Curriculum links

A visit to the exhibition offers opportunities for cross-curricular learning relevant to the following areas:


archaeology and how evidence is found, types of evidence, finding out about the life and death of an ancient Egyptian king


the idea of discovery and the experience of the people involved offers great potential for a wide range of writing and oral work, including poetry and drama


materials and their properties, organic and non-organic, ageing and decomposition

Art and design

painting, sculpture, jewellery and decorative objects, patterns, animal and plant motifs

PSHE and Citizenship

learning about other cultures, cultural influence, preserving the past - ancient and modern, ethics of discovery and ownership

Structuring your exhibition visit

It is often a good idea to have a general ‘big question’ for the students to keep in mind during their visit. Here are some possible examples:

  • What was the most interesting object in the exhibition?

  • What did I learn about Tutankhamun/archaeologists that I did not know before?

  • What sources of evidence does the exhibition include? How useful did I find these for learning about ancient Egyptian tombs?

  • What have I learned about life as an archaeologist from the exhibition?

This guide includes a number of activity sheets for use in the exhibition which you can use as written or adapt to suit the particular needs of your students (see pages 6-9).

If you want students to do any drawing, we recommend that they draw one thing carefully rather than doing lots of drawings.
Encourage the students to enjoy studying objects they find interesting as well as completing their focused work.

Discovering Tutankhamun exhibition
The tomb of Tutankhamun is the most important ancient Egyptian burial of a king ever found. The British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the tomb in 1922. Carter’s excavation work in Egypt was financed by Lord Carnarvon.
The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb was the first world event to be reported in ‘real-time’. News of the discovery was reported around the world, making Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon internationally famous.
Carter and the excavation team took ten years to record and remove the 5,398 objects from the tomb. Thousands of records were created by the excavation team. These records include diaries, excavation journals, object cards, drawings, maps, conservation notes, manuscripts, letters, glass negatives and photographs.
The public were fascinated by Tutankhamun and the word ‘Tutmania’ was coined to describe this phenomenon. Many companies and designers manufactured items incorporating designs influenced by Tutankhamun and ancient Egypt for use in everyday life during the 1920s.
Howard Carter described his discovery of the tomb in a three volume popular publication The Tomb of Tut-ankh-Amen, published between 1923 and 1933. He planned to write a scientific series on the tomb but died in 1939 before he was able to do so.
Howard Carter’s family donated all of the excavation records to the Griffith Institute in 1939. The Griffith Institute is the centre for the study of ancient Egypt at the University of Oxford. The Griffith Institute has published all of the original Tutankhamun excavation records online at

These online records provide essential resources for many current conservation and research projects, as well as being freely available to the general public.

In 2014 the Griffith Institute collaborated with the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford to put the most important and compelling documents from the collection on display to the public for the first time in the exhibition Discovering Tutankhamun.

Pre-visit preparation

Here are a few suggestions of things to do before your visit to prepare your students.

Explore specific vocabulary and meaning around words which the students will encounter in the exhibition such as ancient, archaeology, archaeologist, tomb, excavation.

Use maps to identify the location of Egypt and some of the major ancient sites including the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the River Nile at Thebes (modern-day Luxor).

Discuss with the students what they know already about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb and create a class mind-map using this information. This can be referred to again after a visit to the exhibition to see what else the students have learnt to add to the mind-map and to check to see how accurate the class’s initial thoughts on the discovery of the tomb were compared with what they learnt in the exhibition.

Talk about the different types of evidence available to historians. What is the difference between primary and secondary evidence?

Create a timeline with key dates in ancient Egyptian history. Mark on the New Kingdom period of ancient Egyptian history and Tutankhamun’s life and reign.

Look at examples of modern portraits. Discuss the different materials and styles used.

Discuss how a recent event such as the Olympics or the World Cup is reported around the world. Discuss how these events inspire merchandise associated with the event such as shirts, bags, cups etc.

Use the resources listed on page 17 to help students begin to explore the ancient Egyptian world.

Look through the exhibition image bank (see page 17) to introduce students to the kinds of objects they will find or to familiarise them with some objects they will subsequently see ‘for real’.

Choose one of the objects in the image bank and explore in detail what information a single item can provide about ancient Egypt or archaeology.
Look at objects in the Look section of
Listen to Howard Carter talking about the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun at
Watch a short film showing Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings at

Blogs created by Archive curators about preparation leading up to the exhibition and features on Tutankhamun excavation records from the Griffith Institute Archive can be read at

Activity sheets

There are four activity sheets which ask students to look at the objects and displays in the Discovering Tutankhamun exhibition. The four sheets relate to four key themes explored in the four main spaces in the exhibition.

These activity sheets will enable the students to consider what the objects in the exhibition tell us about the life and death of an ancient Egyptian king; the working environment and recording methods of early 20th century archaeologists; the impact this type of story has in the media and on popular culture.
Each activity sheets uses an object from the Griffith Institute as a starting point to explain a section of the exhibition.
Each sheet begins with a Did you know? section which the students can read and discuss. This is followed by a Find this object question which asks the students to locate one particular object in the exhibition space. Next the students are asked to Look around at the other objects and photographs on display and find something which supports a particular aspect of the exhibition narrative. Students can use the boxes on the sheet to record what they find in writing or with a drawing. At the bottom of each activity sheet is a suggestion for follow-up work Back at school.
The activity sheets are designed to be printed/ photocopied as separate A4 sheets.

Each group of students and their accompanying adult can use the sheets as prompts for exploring the exhibition and for recording relevant information.

Activity sheet: The search for Tutankhamun

Did you know?

Howard Carter started excavating in the Valley of the Kings in 1917.

Five years later in 1922 he found the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Find this object:

It is open at the page showing the entry for 5th November 1922.

Read what Howard Carter wrote about the day's events.

How do you think Howard Carter felt when he was writing this?

Look around at the other objects and photographs on display and find something

which shows Howard Carter

signed and dated by Howard Carter

found in the Valley of the Kings

which was written by Howard Carter

Write your ideas down if you want to. If you want to draw, choose one object to draw.

Back at school

Find out what else is written in Howard Carter's diary

Activity sheet: Discovery!

Did you know?

The tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered on 4th November 1922.

Carter and his team spent 10 years recording and removing all the objects in the tomb.

They created over 15,000 documents which are now held by the Griffith Institute. \\orin-griffith1\profiles$\orin0228\desktop\ed_pack_ross_photo_0036#6000.jpg

Find this object:

This is a reconstruction of one of the boxes from the tomb.

It is known as Box 21 or the ‘Painted Box’ and it was the first object Howard Carter removed from the tomb.

Can you spot Tutankhamun riding in his chariot?

Look around at the other objects and photographs on display and find something

that could clean and conserve objects

which shows the inside of the tomb

which shows a piece of jewellery from the tomb

which shows the team who excavated the tomb

Write your ideas down if you want to. If you want to draw, choose one object to draw.

Back at school

Find out what else was discovered inside Box 21.
burton photograph p0081 relating to carter no. 021

Activity sheet: Tutmania

Did you know?

The discovery of the tomb was reported all over the world.

Objects from the tomb influenced fashion, films and everyday objects in the 1920s.

Find this object:

This is a board game inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

To win your donkey must reach the tomb first. But watch out for the snakes!

Look around at the objects and photographs on display and find something which:

told people about the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb

shows a queue of people waiting to see a Tutankhamun exhibition

is decorated with an image of Tutankhamun

plays a song about Tutankhamun

Write your ideas down if you want to. If you want to draw, choose one object to draw.

Back at school

Design your own ancient Egyptian board game.

Activity sheet: Interpreting Tutankhamun

Did you know?

In 2014 it will be 91 years since the tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered.

Only 30% of the objects from the tomb have been written about in detail.

The original excavation records held at the Griffith Institute in Oxford are an important source of information used by many people around the world.

Find this object:

This portrait of Howard Carter was painted by his brother William Carter.

It was painted from photographs and memory because Howard did not like sitting still.
Look around at the objects and photographs on display and find something which:

shows the objects found in Tutankhamun's tomb

shows the decoration on the tomb walls

shows how Tutankhamun wanted to be seen by his people

copy of something found on Tutankhamun's mummy

Write your ideas down if you want to. If you want to draw, choose one object to draw.

Back at school
Look at some other portraits and then create one of someone you know or admire.

Follow-up activities

Some suggestions for classroom based follow-up activities which encourage students to reflect on the work undertaken in the Discovering Tutankhamun exhibition.

Ask students to think about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. How would Howard Carter have felt when he first looked into the tomb? What would he have seen? Ask students to write a diary entry imagining they are Howard Carter after his first day in the newly opened tomb.

The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb was reported around the world. Ask students to imagine that they are newspaper reporters who visited the tomb soon after Howard Carter discovered it. They can write an article describing what they might have seen, explain who Howard Carter is and who is working with him and describing some of the objects from the tomb.

Ask the students to imagine that they are an ancient Egyptian craftsperson who has to design a box or chest for a member of the royal family. Their first thoughts need to be about the purpose of the box and what it will contain. They can either construct boxes to decorate or design one or more sides of the box on paper. To decorate the box they could create simple geometric designs using one or two colours or you can ask them to add pictures or inscriptions to their model.

Look at the Howard Carter painting at

Ask the students to create a portrait of themselves or somebody else in the class using different materials. Students could begin with creating portraits using pencil, charcoal, chalks or paints and then experiment with materials such as clay or papier-mâché to create 3D portraits inspired by the gold mask of Tutankhamun found in his tomb.

Ask the students to create a portrait of Tutankhamun and consider which objects found in the king’s tomb could be included in the drawing or painting.

Background information
On the 5th November 1922 Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, on the west bank of the river Nile at Thebes (modern day Luxor) in Egypt.

Who was Tutankhamun (c. 1341-1322 BC; reign c. 1332-1322 BC)

Tutankhamun was one of the last kings of the 18th Dynasty which forms part of the New Kingdom period in ancient Egypt. Tutankhamun was crowned king at the age of 9 years old and ruled for just ten years between 1332 and 1322 BC. The exact cause of his death is uncertain and there are many theories which include everything from assassination to being attacked by a hippo!

Tutankhamun was first called Tutankhaten. The name Tutankhaten translates as ‘Living-image-of-the-Aten’, the Aten was a sun god. After the king was crowned he changed his name to Tutankhamun ‘Living-image-of-Amun’, in order to align himself to the god Amun who was the most important god to the Egyptians at that time. The name Tutankhamun has been spelt in different ways in publications including Tutankhamen (as used by Carter), Tutankhamon and Tutanchamon. The ancient Egyptians did not represent vowels in their written language, hieroglyphs. In the past, Egyptologists have used variant spellings in translations, as the study of ancient Egyptian language has evolved it has now been accepted that the standard translated spelling of the king’s name is Tutankhamun.
Tutankhamun's mummy was buried in a relatively small tomb in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of the Nile at Thebes (modern day Luxor). This tomb was the first (almost) intact royal burial found in the modern era, and the contents remain the most impressive collection of ancient treasures ever discovered in Egypt. The tomb was packed with thousands of objects to accompany the King into the afterlife; though like almost all royal tombs, robbers had broken into the tomb in antiquity but it would seem that they were quickly caught and punished before much was taken, and the tomb was hastily reordered and resealed by the necropolis guards. Due to a set of fortunate events which included the entrance to the tomb being covered by chippings from the creation of a later royal tomb and being located on a flash-flood path, Tutankhamun’s tomb lay hidden and almost forgotten about for over 3,200 years.
Who was Howard Carter (1874-1939)

Howard Carter was only 17 years old when he went to Egypt for the first time as a junior draughtsman where he recorded decorated tombs at Deir el-Bersha and Beni Hasan in Middle Egypt. Carter worked on many excavations in Egypt, quickly establishing himself as a respected archaeologist before being appointed the first inspector of ancient monuments in Egypt in the early 1900s.

Carter worked in Egypt for over thirty years before discovering Tutankhamun's tomb in November 1922. As a careful and detailed record keeper he created thousands of documents during the ten years it took to catalogue, photograph and conserve all the objects found in the tomb. Once excavated and conserved, all of the objects were transported by boat to Cairo where they were put on display in the Egyptian Museum.
Who was Lord Carnarvon (1866–1923)

Descended from a long line of wealthy landowners and born at Highclere Castle (the location used for the ITV programme Downton Abbey); George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, fifth Earl of Carnarvon was a gentleman archaeologist who was persuaded by Carter to take on the excavating concession for the Valley of the Kings in 1914. Initially in Egypt for health reasons after a near fatal car accident in 1901, Lord Carnarvon was ready to give up his work in the Valley after funding eight years of excavating; legend has it that Carter offered to fund the digging himself for the 1922 season, before Carnarvon relented, providing funding for ‘one last season’.

Carnarvon was in England when Carter discovered the first steps of the tomb on 5 November 1922, finally arriving in Luxor on 23 November; though his crowning achievement was short-lived as he died from an infected mosquito bite in Cairo on 5 April 1923, never having laid eyes on Tutankhamun’s mummy, which was not revealed from within its three, nesting coffins until 28 October 1926.
What is the Tutankhamun Archive at the Griffith Institute?

Carter devised a simple but effective system of numbers and letters for identifying each object from the tomb. Objects such as a chair, couch or statue would receive a single number; for more complex groups, for example; boxes and their contents or Tutankhamun's mummy and the one hundred plus artefacts found within the bandage-wrappings; were given a group number then items within that group assigned letters of the alphabet, a system which is illustrated perfectly in the labelled photographs taken by Harry Burton during the excavation.

The world was naturally anxious for details of the ‘wonderful things’ Howard Carter had found. This need was most easily satisfied by the beautiful black and white photographs taken by the English archaeological photographer, Harry Burton, who was a member of the expedition of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, an institution that supported Carter and Carnarvon by loaning their staff to work on the excavation. Burton took around 1800 photographs of the tomb itself, objects before and after removal from the tomb and of Carter’s team at work. Each image was exposed onto a large, 10” x 8” glass negative, many of which were shipped back to England in small metal canisters and are now in the Griffith Institute archive.
Being the only person permitted to take photographs inside the tomb, Burton’s work was naturally in very high demand, but Lord Carnarvon signed a deal with The Times newspaper giving them exclusive access to news stories and photographs at least one day before the rest of the world, infuriating all the other journalists. Unable to access the most up to date news journalists took to fabricating their own and commissioning fanciful images of what was taking place in the tomb. When Lord Carnarvon died the rival journalists were presented with the ideal opportunity to fabricate an exclusive story of their own, giving rise to the ‘Curse of Tutankhamun’, an enduring story that survives to this day.
The ‘core’ records for the whole excavation are what are referred to as the object cards. On these cards, each measuring 20.5 by 12.5 cm, each member of the team recorded by hand, the respective pieces of information they were responsible for: the excavation number and a one line description – this was very important as this is how the object was cross-referenced in other documents; the object’s position in the tomb; the object’s measurements; a description of the object, which often included references to other material it was found with or related objects found elsewhere in the tomb; transcription of hieroglyphic texts; conservation records listing the different methods and materials used to preserve what were often very fragile items; and not infrequently, Carter’s beautiful sketches which ranged in scope capturing the essence of an object or pinning down the exquisite detail of textile designs or unique items of jewellery.
Other documents include first-hand accounts covering each step of the tomb's exploration from the pens of several of the team members including Carter and Carnarvon; exquisitely detailed plans showing the arrangement of objects in the tomb; scrapbooks full of Tutankhamun-related newspaper cuttings; and a clutch of colourful 'fan-mail' sent to Carter in the months following the discovery from all kinds of people and backgrounds.
Tutankhamun timeline


c.1341 Tutankhaten born

c.1332 Tutankhaten crowned king of Egypt

c.1332 Tutankhaten renamed Tutankhamun

c.1322 Tutankhamun dies and is buried in the Valley of the Kings

c.1322-1143 Tutankhamun's tomb entered by robbers but resealed in antiquity

c.1151-1143 Construction of Ramesses VI tomb covers Tutankhamun's tomb


1874 Howard Carter born

1891 Howard Carter travels to Egypt for the first time

1909 Carter and Lord Carnarvon begin working together in Egypt

1914 Lord Carnarvon granted Valley of the Kings concession

1922 Tutankhamun's tomb found by Carter and Carnarvon

1923 Tutankhamun's Burial Chamber entered

1923 Lord Carnarvon dies

1925 Tutankhamun's gold mask seen for the first time

1932 Carter's work on the excavation of the tomb is completed

1939 Carter dies

1939 Carter excavation records deposited in the Griffith Institute

1972 Tutankhamun exhibition at the British Museum

2007 Tutankhamun exhibition at the O2

2014 Discovering Tutankhamun at the Ashmolean Museum

Exhibition image bank

The exhibition image bank contains images of the four objects featured in this pack and additional images for use in the classroom before and after a visit to the exhibition.

Further information

Further information on Tutankhamun, the discovery of his tomb and ancient Egypt in general can be found on the following websites.

Griffith Institute learning resources on Ancient Egypt

Griffith Institute, Oxford
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
British Museum, London
Digital Egypt, University College London

We are greatly indebted to Katharine Hoare, the Schools and Young Audiences Education Manger at the British Museum. We thank her for her guidance, knowledge and endless patience.

Elizabeth Fleming & Cat Warsi

© Griffith Institute, University of Oxford

July 2014

The database is protected by copyright © 2016
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