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Digital Subscriptions > BBC History Revealed > February 2019 > Lost Tombs of the Pharaohs

Lost Tombs of the Pharaohs

Where are all the missing pharaohs? We asked Egyptologist Chris Naunton to give us a primer on the hunt for Egypt’s lost kings and queens, from the earliest French expeditions to discoveries made in 2018

Chris Naunton is an Egyptologist, writer and broadcaster whose documentaries include King Tut’s Tomb: The Hidden Chamber. His latest book, Searching for the Lost Tombs of Egypt is out now, published by Thames & Hudson.

The discovery of Tutankhamun’s almost-intact tomb garnered global press coverage – sparking a new era of ‘Egyptomania’

Of all the great monuments left behind by the Ancient Egyptians, it is perhaps their tombs that archaeologists find most fascinating. Tey were the great focus for investment: those who could afford it would never commission better craftsmen or use finer materials than when making provision for the afterlife. Tombs protected both the body and burial goods – everything essential for the individual to succeed in their journey to the next world.

Not all tombs have had to be rediscovered: this one, belonging to Ramesses IX, has been known since antiquity
Napoleon at the Great Sphinx at Giza. There’s an apocryphal tale that his men shot the nose off the statue, but sketches prove the damage existed before his time


Britain acquired the Rosetta Stone – the study of which later led to the translation of hieroglyphs – by seizing it from defeated French forces in Egypt.

Howard Carter examines the open sarcophagus of Tutankhamun

Tombs have provided an unimaginable wealth of material. Although most of what there would once have been has been lost, a great deal has survived, and much that has been recovered represents the finest Ancient Egypt had to offer. It is no coincidence that the most iconic image to have survived from this era, the golden mask of Tutankhamun, came from his tomb, which was unearthed by Howard Carter in 1922. Tat discovery, the culmination of a century or so of sensational finds, birthed the archetype of the archaeologist holding a lamp into a gloomy interior to see heaps of golden treasure glinting back at him.

Tutankhamun reigned towards the end of the 18th Dynasty, a period that, along with the 19th and 20th Dynasties, represents one of the great eras of Egypt’s past: the New Kingdom. One of the defining features of the period was the use of the Valley of the Kings as the royal cemetery. At the beginning of the 19th century, the tombs of 13 of the 33 New Kingdom pharaohs had been identified in the Valley; by the time Carter added Tutankhamun’s to the list, only five remained to be found.



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About BBC History Revealed

Egyptologist Chris Naunton takes us on a tour of the greatest discoveries found in Egypt down the centuries. Plus: We look at the German resistance movements that stood up to Hitler, the tragic tale of the nine-day queen – Lady Jane Grey and the fall from grace of one of America’s once most-beloved politicians, Richard Nixon.