Was the Wealth Shared?

Was the Wealth Shared?

The Valley of the Kings is a rocky wasteland on the western bank of the Nile River across from the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes. Here it was that most of the great kings and nobles were buried in the utmost secrecy to prevent grave robbing.

Belief in the hereafter was strong among the ancients, especially in regard to royalty. Great pains were taken to provide unbelievable riches and to anticipate needs in the life after death. This was clearly reflected in the incredible expenditures that went into the building of tombs and temples as well as their fabulous contents.

It was the Egyptians themselves, motivated primarily by greed, who were the first to desecrate their dead and destroy the mummies of many great pharaohs. Tomb robbery became a well—organized business in ancient Thebes. The tombs were ransacked for their treasures by cunning, well—armed grave robbers, often working in close collaboration with corrupt, greedy priests and well—bribed officials.

By the end of the Twentieth Dynasty almost all of the royal tombs had been opened illegally by professional thieves. The depredations by tomb robbers were so thorough that most of the royal treasures vanished forever long before early archaeologists arrived to complete the process of destruction.

It seems ironic that, despite the great pains taken for secrecy in site location, every tomb had been ransacked and stripped; that is, all but one.

In 1922, when Howard Carter peered through a slit he had made in a door, his hands quivered and his breath was short. He knew he was about to uncover lost history. He thrust a lighted candle into the slit and gazed in amazement. Standing behind him, Lord Carnarvon anxiously inquired as to what he saw. Carter replied, "I see wonderful things." He later recorded, "As my eyes became accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animal statues and gold — everywhere the glint of gold." He had discovered the almost undisturbed and long forgotten tomb of Tutankhamen.

Tutankhamen, the boy king of ancient Egypt from 1348 to 1339 B.C., was the only pharaoh whose tomb was discovered intact. Ancient grave robbers had actually entered the tomb but never reached the burial chamber.

The mummy of the boy king was encased in a nest of three coffins, the inner being the most spectacular. It was six feet, one inch long and weighed 2,448 pounds. It was composed of solid gold! As a work of art the coffin is priceless, but the value of the gold making up the third coffin would be, at the current fluctuating price of gold, worth over $10 million!

Although Tutankhamen was a lesser king, the total riches found in his burial chamber are mind—boggling. It is even more difficult then to comprehend the wealth that must have been buried with the great pharaohs such as Ramses II. The treasures that were to accompany him to the next world would probably stagger the imagination.

Scientists recently have been taking a second look at Egyptian tomb robbing to discover what happened to all the treasures buried in the tombs. More gold appears to have been buried with Egyptian kings than has been accumulated by Western man throughout history. Yet only a minute fraction of the Egyptian treasure has ever been found, since the royal tombs were routinely robbed back in ancient times. Under these circumstances one can't help wondering how and why each successor to the throne became fabulously rich in a very short time while his predecessor's tomb was systematically robbed. Was the wealth, as scientists suspect, stealthily passed on?

From the book: 
Our Fascinating Earth