For almost the entire year, the inner sanctum of the main temple at Abu Simbel lies in darkness. On two days though, the anniversary of the birthday and the coronation of pharaoh Ramses II, a shaft of sunlight illuminates statues of gods and the king in the temple’s inner sanctum.
On February 22, a day celebrating the pharaoh’s birth and again on October 22, a day commemorating his coronation, sunlight illuminates seated statues of the sun gods Re-Horakhte and Amon-Re, as well as a statue of Pharaoh Ramses II. The statues sit in the company of the God of darkness, Ptah (who remains in the shadows).
The biannual phenomenon, which has endured more than 3,200 years of Egyptian history draws thousands of tourists to Abu Simbel to watch this ancient tribute to a pharaoh whose name is still known up and down the Nile Valley for his military exploits and monumental building projects.
Various items found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb including his funerary bed and sarcophagus:
Tutankhamun (also known as Tutankhamen ruled c. 1332–1323 BC) is the most famous and instantly recognizable Pharaoh in the modern world. His golden sarcophagus is now a symbol almost synonymous with Egypt. His name means `living image of the god Amun’. He was born in the year 11 of the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (better known as Akhenaten) c. 1345 BCE and died, some claim mysteriously, in 1327 BCE at the age of 17 or 18. He became the celebrity pharaoh he is today in 1922 CE when the archaeologist Howard Carter discovered his almost-intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings. While it was initially thought that Tutankhamun was a minor ruler, whose reign was of little consequence, opinion has changed as further evidence has come to light. Today Tutankhamun is recognized as an important pharaoh who returned order to a land left in chaos by his father’s political-religious reforms and who would no doubt have made further impressive contributions to Egypt’s history if not for his early death.
1922: Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon became the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun since the young ruler was buried in 1323 BCE. Below is a four minute video about the discovery. Here’s the famous story of the tomb’s opening:
“Carter returned to the Valley of Kings, and investigated a line of huts that he had abandoned a few seasons earlier. The crew cleared the huts and rock debris beneath. On 4 November 1922, their young water boy accidentally stumbled on a stone that turned out to be the top of a flight of steps cut into the bedrock. Carter had the steps partially dug out until the top of a mud-plastered doorway was found. The doorway was stamped with indistinct cartouches (oval seals with hieroglyphic writing). Carter ordered the staircase to be refilled, and sent a telegram to Carnarvon, who arrived two-and-a-half weeks later on 23 November.
On 26 November 1922, Carter made a “tiny breach in the top left hand corner” of the doorway, with Carnarvon, his daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert, and others in attendance, using a chisel that his grandmother had given him for his 17th birthday. He was able to peer in by the light of a candle and see that many of the gold and ebony treasures were still in place. He did not yet know whether it was “a tomb or merely a cache”, but he did see a promising sealed doorway between two sentinel statues. Carnarvon asked, “Can you see anything?” Carter replied with the famous words: “Yes, wonderful things!” Carter had, in fact, discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb (subsequently designated KV62).”