Uks2 Topic: Earliest Civilisations: Ancient Egyptians Block B: Egyptologists

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UKS2 Topic: Earliest Civilisations: Ancient Egyptians Block B: Egyptologists

Session 2 Howard Carter

National Curriculum

History: Know and understand significant aspects of the history of the wider world: the nature of ancient civilisations; Understand the methods of historical enquiry.

Teaching Objectives

To study the finding of Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter & Lord Carnarvon.

National Curriculum

English: Plan their writing by noting and developing initial ideas, drawing on research where necessary; Identifying purpose of writing and selecting appropriate form; Use a range of devices to structure text.

Teaching Objectives

To write a diary as Howard Carter, Lord Carnarvon or Lady Evelyn Herbert about the events of November 1922.


Horribly Famous: Tutankhamun and his Tombful of Treasure by Michael Cox; Access to internet; Items found in the tomb; Funerary mask images; Carter’s methods; Events and notes of the discovery; Lord Carnarvon and Evelyn images.

Weblinks - How Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered; - An exhibition showing images of Tutankhamun’s tomb; - Original documents made by Carter & associates; - Footage of the actual tomb; - A painting of Tutankhamun comes to life and talks to us; - Solving the mystery of the scarab beetle; - Old films of discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb; Look at a virtual tomb by the light of a candle.

Whole class: Howard Carter was an Egyptologist who became well-known as in 1922 he discovered the tomb of a Pharaoh in The Valley of the Kings that was untouched – no tomb robbers had broken in & stolen items (which sadly did happen , long ago, at other Ancient Egyptian tombs). Does anyone know whose tomb he discovered? Tutankhamun’s! This Pharaoh was not a particularly important one, but he is now well-known because of the fabulous things that were found in his tomb. Show chn images of some of the tomb contents (session resources plus websites) – the tomb contents will be revisited in the Pyramids & Pharaoh’s Block C. Tutankhamun was born in about 1346BCE & reigned from 1337 to 1327BCE.

Howard Carter is a very good example of an Egyptologist as he was very meticulous in all his excavations & approached archaeology in a scientific way – he made detailed notes & drawings of his work & gradually removed items from Tutankhamun’s tomb once he had photographed them, listed them, measured them, etc. This process took 10 years! Carter was employed from 1907 by a wealthy English aristocrat, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, as his archaeologist. Carnarvon managed to buy the concession to excavate in the Valley of the Kings in 1914 (from another well-known archaeologist, Theodore Davis, who had given up hunting for any more tombs because he thought they had all been found – more in next session!).

Carter divided the area of The Valley into squares (a grid system) & worked methodically through them. Earlier archaeologists had piled large heaps of dirt & limestone on parts of the area that therefore hadn’t been examined properly & that ‘spoil’ had to be cleared before any further examination could be carried out. Tourists had been visiting the site too. When WW1 broke out, the work had to stop & wasn’t resumed until 1917. By the summer of 1922, Carnarvon was running out of money & was disappointed by the lack of finds – he & Carter decided to look at one last square that hadn’t yet been explored as doing so would prevent tourists reaching the open tomb of Ramesses VI. Details of the events surrounding the discovery are listed in session resources. Discuss how amazing the find must have been! Show children old footage of the tomb & the virtual discovery of the tomb’s contents. What emotions would Carter & Carnarvon have felt? (e.g. excitement, amazement, disbelief, awe, bewilderment, joy, incredulity!) Have chn ever felt like that?

Easy/ Medium/ Hard

Read the ‘lost secret diary’ of Carter, pp119-137 in Tutankhamun and his Tombful of Treasure to stimulate children to imagine they are Howard Carter or Lord Carnarvon (or his daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert) keeping a diary about the events of November 1922. Discuss with children the layout of a diary & the language used, e.g. informal, abbreviations, first person, notes – varied sentence structure, time connectives, feelings/thoughts/emotions (important in this exercise), past & present tense, detailed descriptions. Chn can use the session resources for details or research in books or online.

Easy/ Medium/ Hard

Alternatively children could work in groups to write the script for a radio play of the events of November 1922. Discuss which characters need to be included & the settings (The Valley of the Kings, but also Lord Carnarvon’s home, the train/boat journey, etc.) for the play (as it is on the radio a narrator could describe the environment, the working conditions, the main characters, etc., or the characters could include appropriate descriptions in their words.) The events need to be covered, but also the children need to express the emotions that everyone felt.


Share extracts of diaries or the radio scripts. Discuss whether or not children captured the excitement & awe that the archaeologists must have felt. Explain that the find immediately attracted the attention of people all over the world & lots of tourists wanted to visit. Films, books, fabrics, clothes & toys based on Tut were produced too.


Children will

  • Explain why Howard Carter is described as a good archaeologist

  • Describe the finding of Tutankhamun’s tomb

  • Write a diary or radio play script about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb

© Hamilton Trust 2014 This activity may be adapted for use by a teacher in his/her own class. It may not be reproduced for any other purpose.

We refer you to our warning, at the foot of the block overview, about links to other websites.

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