Yeah, the title’s not my own. But as the title of a chapter from The Hobbit, it seems to fit pretty well with Today’s History Lesson. In Tolkien’s work (which I’ve mentioned before), On the Doorstep finds our hero, Bilbo Baggins, waiting for some revelation that will help him and the dwarves find the secret entrance to Mount Erebor and the treasure that awaits, nestled lovingly under the body of the dragon Smaug.
Similarly, Howard Carter sat on a doorstep, one that had remained largely secret for more than 3,000 years. But no well-defined map with hidden writing had led him there, and no key would fit into a seen-only-once-a-year keyhole to open an invisible door.
And, of course, Carter’s quest had nothing to do with Middle-Earth, and everything to do with The Valley of the Kings. Located along the Nile River near Thebes in east-central Egypt, this desolate area had, for hundreds of years in the long-distant past, been the burial place of Pharoahs and other dignitaries. Dozens of burial chambers had been found, but our hero was looking for one in particular.
Having spent nearly all of his life involved in Egyptian antiquities and archeology, Howard Carter had discovered a largely unknown Pharoah named Tutankhamun. Some artifacts with Tutahkhamun’s name had been found elsewhere in the Valley years earlier, but Carter was convinced there was more, and so he began looking. After months of futility, he made a startling find. Lying buried under some ancient huts not too far from the tomb of Pharoah Rameses VI, Carter found steps leading downward.
By the end of the next day, the entire staircase, hidden for 3,000 years, had been completely exposed. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. On this day, November 4, 1922, Howard Carter stood on the doorstep of one of the most remarkable finds in the history of archeology: the tomb of King Tut.
Recommended Reading: Howard Carter: The Path to Tutankhamun – There are hundreds of picture books about what was found. Here’s a biography of the man that found it.