Howard Carter - Episode Synopses
Episode One – The Search For Tutankhamun
Carter's fledgling career in Egyptology suffers a blow when a tomb he opens to huge fanfare is found to be empty.
Undeterred from his ambitions, Carter parts company from his partner, Thedore Davis, and resumes his work as an archaeological artist and desperately hopes he will find a new patron.
A meeting with the maverick Lord Carnarvon is to change Carter's life forever. Carnarvon - who has come to Egypt to recover from a horrific car accident - has become obsessed with finding an undamaged tomb and teams up with Carter in the search for the elusive burial site of the Boy King Tutankhamun.
They begin digging but are unable to excavate The Valley of the Kings as Carter's old rival, Davis, owns the only concession to excavate.
By 1912, Davis believes he has discovered all the major finds in The Valley, including the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Carter, certain that Tutankhamum remains undiscovered, persuades Carnarvon to secure the permit to continue to excavate in The Valley of the Kings.
However, just as the team begin work, war breaks out with Germany and the dig is suspended.
Carter and Carnarvon resume their work with renewed vigour when the war ends and The Valley of the Kings is explored piece by piece.
Excavations continue until 1922, when, frustrated with the lack of progress and nearing financial ruin, Carnarvon decides to pull out.
Carter is devastated and pleads with him to reconsider, even offering to pay for the dig himself.
Eventually Carnarvon relents and, while excavating the very last plot, the water boy discovers a step that appears to be part of a tomb.
Carnarvon and his daughter, Evelyn, watch nervously as Carter makes a hole in the first plaster-sealed entrance.
Placing a candle through the opening, he is stunned by what he sees: an antechamber filled with all sorts of Royal possessions, including amazing golden chariots and other 'wonderful things' to take the Pharaoh to his afterlife.
Instead of immediately summoning the authorities, as is Egyptian law, Carnarvon persuades Carter to make a small hole in the next chamber. He finds that it is an intact burial chamber and realises that he has finally found his own Holy Grail - the last resting place of Tutankhamun…
In parallel with Carter's story, the programme traces the first year of the reign of King Tutankhamun. Ascending to the throne at the age of nine, the Boy King was made to marry his half-sister, Ankhesanamun; between them, they were expected to continue the dynasty.
One of the new King's first acts would have been to start work on the building of his tomb - work that would continue until his death.
Episode Two – The Curse Of Tutankhamun
The story of the tomb of Tutankhamun captivates the world's media and propels Carnarvon and Carter to instant celebrity status around the globe.
The ultimate prize that Howard Carter has sought all his adult life yields more than he could ever imagine: thousands of priceless artefacts, eventually crowned by the solid gold coffin and death mask of Tutankhamun.
However, Carter is uneasy with his new-found celebrity status, and the absence of any real historical information frustrates him.
As the dig progresses in the heat of the Egyptian desert, tensions between Carter and his team begin to boil over...
Carter is working in the full gaze of publicity - everything he does is under the watchful eyes of packs of international journalists.
He realises that in order to preserve the tomb's contents for posterity, his work has only just begun.
Meanwhile, Carnarvon is desperately trying to keep the press at bay.
In order to minimise the disturbance for those working at the site, he strikes an exclusive deal with The Times.
This angers other journalists, especially Weigall from The Daily Mail, who starts writing stories claiming the tomb is cursed.
With all the material from the antechamber removed, Carter's team begin to break through to the chamber beyond. Finally, it is the day Carter has been waiting for all his life and he is delighted when he can officially open the burial chamber of Tutankhamun.
Unfortunately, under the terms of Carnarvon's agreement with the Egyptian Director-General of Antiquities, if the site contains an intact Pharaoh's tomb its contents must revert back to the Egyptian Government.
Carnarvon and Carter play for time and persuade the authorities to let them excavate the rest of the chamber.
From the opening of the burial chamber, things begin to go badly wrong. Carter becomes increasingly irritated and sacks key colleagues. Carnarvon and Carter argue over his pedantic management of the tomb, and Carter's 'friendship' with his daughter, Evelyn.
Finally, a strange infected mosquito bite on Carnarvon's cheek causes blood poisoning and he dies in Cairo, fuelling the curse stories back in England.
Soon, it is widely believed that Tutankhamun has killed Lord Carnarvon.
Carter is devastated by his only friend's death and is now leading the excavation alone.
Without the diplomatic skills of Carnarvon, the atmosphere at the dig grows very tense.
In the burial chamber, a nest of four golden shrines, each sitting within the other, are removed, to reveal a stone sarcophagus.
The lid is raised to reveal the first, outer coffin. It seems certain that the tomb does, indeed, contain the remains of Tutankhamun.
As the sarcophagus is discovered, Carter has a disagreement with the Egyptian authorities. The incident is trivial but Carter stops work as a matter of principle.
By doing so, he breaks his contract with the authorities and the Director of Antiquities moves in and takes the key to the tomb; devastated, Carter returns to England.
All seems lost for Carter, particularly with the death of another close colleague.
However, back in England, he receives news that there has been a dramatic change in the political climate in Egypt and the Director of Antiquities invites him back to work.
At last, the remains of Carter's team lift the lid of the third coffin, made from solid gold, and Carter comes face to face with the man he has searched for relentlessly for nearly three decades.
In parallel with Carter's story, the programme also tells the tragic story of how Tutankhamun died without an heir at the age of 18; how he was mummified, buried and his name eventually erased from history...
Tutankhamun would lay forgotten until Carter's discovery of his tomb.