Howard Carter


Howard Carter : biography

9 May 1874 – 2 March 1939

Beginning of career

Howard Carter was born in London, England, the son of Samuel John Carter, an artist and Martha Joyce (Sands) Carter. His father trained and developed his artistic talent.

Much of Carter’s childhood was spent in the Norfolk market town of Swaffham (probably due to ill health). Retrieved 20 May 2012

In 1891, Carter was sent out by the Egypt Exploration Fund to assist Percy Newberry in the excavation and recording of Middle Kingdom tombs at Beni Hasan. Although only 17 years old he was innovative in improving the methods of copying tomb decoration. In 1892 he worked under the tutelage of Flinders Petrie for one season at Amarna, the capital founded by the pharaoh Akhenaten. From 1894 to 1899 he then worked with Édouard Naville at Deir el-Bahari, where he recorded the wall reliefs in the temple of Hatshepsut.

In 1899, Carter was appointed the first chief inspector of the Egyptian Antiquities Service (EAS). He supervised a number of excavations at Thebes (now known as Luxor) before he was transferred in 1904 to the Inspectorate of Lower Egypt. Carter was lauded for improvements in the protection of, and accessibility to existing excavation sites,Ford, Barbara, W.H. Howard Carter: Searching for King Tut, Freeman & Company, 1995, ISBN 0-7167-6587, p.19 and his development of a grid-block system for searching for tombs. The Antiquities Service also provided funding for Carter to head up his own excavation projects, and during this time period Carter discovered the Tombs of Thutmose I and Thutmose III, although both tombs had been robbed of treasures long before. Carter resigned from the Antiquities Service in 1905 after an enquiry into an affray (known as the Saqqara Affair) between Egyptian site guards and a group of French tourists in which he sided with the Egyptian personnel.James, T. G. H. Howard Carter, I.B. Tauris Publishers, Revised edition 2006, ISBN 978-1845112585, chapter]

In popular culture

Film and television

Carter has been portrayed by the following actors:

  • Robin Ellis in the 1980 Columbia Pictures Television production The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb
  • Pip Torrens in the 1992 Lucasfilm TV movie Young Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Jackal
  • Pip Torrens in the 1995 Lucasfilm TV movie Young Indiana Jones and the Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye
  • Timothy Davies in the 1998 IMAX documentary Mysteries of Egypt
  • Stuart Graham in the 2005 BBC docudrama Egypt


He appears as a character throughout most of the Amelia Peabody series of books by Elizabeth Peters (a pseudonym of Egyptologist Dr Barbara Mertz); and in much of Arthur Phillips’s The Egyptologist.

In the book The Tutankhamun Affair by Christian Jacq he is a key character. Retrieved 23 May 2009

He appears as a main character in A Cloudy Day on the West Side, a novel by Egyptian writer Muhammad Al-Mansi Qindeel. Retrieved 17 March 2010

James Patterson and Martin Dugard’s book The Murder of King Tut focuses on Carter’s search for King Tut’s tomb.

He is referenced in Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin, The Seven Crystal Balls published in 1944 by Le Soir. ISBN 2-203-00112-7

He is referenced in Wedding of the Season by Laura Lee Guhrke. In this historical romance novel, Carter’s telegram to the fictional British Egyptologist the Duke of Sunderland reports discovering "steps to a new tomb" and creates a climatic conflict. Published 2011 by Avon Books. ISBN 978-0-06-196315-5

He is referenced in Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles, The Red Pyramid. In this novel, Carter Kane said that his father, Julius Kane, had named him after Howard Carter.


In Search of the Pharaohs is a 30-minute cantata for narrator, junior choir and piano by composer Robert Steadman, commissioned by the City of London Freemen’s School, which uses extracts from Carter’s diaries as its text.

The Finnish metal band Nightwish mentions Carter in the song "Tutankhamun" on its début album Angels Fall First: "For Carter has come / To free my beloved".


A paraphrased extract from Howard Carter’s diary of 26 November 1922 is used as the plaintext for Part 3 of the encrypted Kryptos sculpture at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

On 9 May 2012 Google commemorated his 138th birthday with a Google doodle.