Posted on: June 27, 2018

No ‘Tut Curse’ for Trevanion & Dean

A fascinating collection of letters written by Howard Carter, the British Archaeologist and Egyptologist has sold for £5,700 at Trevanion & Dean’s  June fine art and antiques auction including books and historical documents.

Howard Carter discovered the sealed tomb of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamen or ‘King Tut’ as he came to be known, in 1922. Carter’s discovery made him a worldwide sensation and ignited interest in Egyptian archaeology.  Consigned by a Welsh Borders vendor to the auctioneers specialist historical documents and book auction, the letters provide a fascinating insight into Carters later career and reflections on colleagues he worked with.

Aaron Dean, auctioneer and valuer of the letters explained ‘Carter arrived in Egypt in 1891 and began excavating in the Valley of the Kings. At the time most experts believed all the royal tombs had already been found and artefacts of any significance had been removed. But Carter methodically mapped the area and was determined to continue, despite intense scrutiny, criticism and constant funding issues, he persevered against the odds and discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922, the very last of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings to be found’.

It was a find that would change the way we view ancient history, but even Carter could not have known quite how important his find would be. Even when he discovered the tomb, the initial rooms were barren, following years of raids and robbing. But the interior of the tomb remained intact and the door to the inner tomb sealed, as it had been for more than 3,000 years ‘Oh what I would give to have been the person to follow Carter into that tomb for the very first time, it must have been an amazing experience!’ said Aaron.

Over the years, Carter meticulously described, photographed and sketched over 5,000 artefacts crammed from floor to ceiling in the interior rooms of the tomb, which included statues, jewellery, furniture, clothing, weapons, and even chariots. Tutankhamen was only a child when he ascended the throne in 1333 BC, and ruled for only a decade, he was not one of the most influential of Egyptian rulers, however the treasures found in his tomb provided more evidence of the culture and history of ancient Egypt, than had every been previously discovered and paved the way to a much greater understanding of such an important ancient civilisation.

The letters, offered in three lots at the auction, date towards the end of his career in the 1930’s and are wonderful insight into Carters feelings at the time. Aaron explains that ‘He writes that he ‘wishes to be in Egypt’, and offers a fascinating insight into the legendary Curse of Tutankhamen, where he describes the man who invented the ‘Curse’ as a ‘Cunning man, whose inventions had no basis, and thus are a menace to archaeology’, strong words indeed!’, It was an honour to handle such historically important documents, and I am delighted they sold so well for the vendor’. The letters instigated a ferocious International bidding battle, before finally selling to UK buyers for a total of £5,700.

Other notable results for the Books and Historical documents auction, include a copy of Moore’s Lepidoptera of Ceylon, selling to the UK at £2,400 and a hand written letter from Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish novelist and poet, which sold for £1,500.

Aaron is particularly delighted at the results of the auction, as it is a subject very close to his heart. Having been a book enthusiast throughout his career, he has had many notable results to his name including handling the sale of and auctioneering, a signed copy of George Orwell’s ‘Down and Out in Paris and London for £86,000. Of his passion for books, Aaron says ‘I just love that the subject can take you anywhere, you can be sitting at your desk reading away and be transported to far flung places, tropical paradises, Tudor England or even the future! It can give you an insight into how historical figures thought and lived, it’s a wonderful market to immerse yourself in, you learn constantly. But the devil is all in the detail, there can be a huge difference in value between a book which is complete and one which may be missing one of its plates, but its having the experience to know what should be there, and more importantly, what isn’t!’