The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Tutankhamon’s Tomb: Connections between Boston and Cairo

“The inner chamber of Tutankamon’s tomb privately opened today,” Alice Daland Chandler wrote in her diary on 16 February 1923. “Mr. Winlock one of those going in.” Alice Daland Chandler, the wife of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor of Architecture F. W. Chandler, recorded details of many events occurring in and around Boston in her diaries, which span from 1886 to 1932 with some gaps. The Chandler family resided on Marlborough Street in Boston directly across the river from MIT. Surely it was an easy commute for F. W. Chandler to his work place. But how was it that the news of Egyptologist Howard Carter’s private opening of the boy pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb reached Alice Chandler in Boston so soon?

The then associate curator of Egyptian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Herbert Eustis Winlock was Alice Daland Chandler’s son-in-law. Winlock assisted Carter during the excavations as part of his work with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Winlock had attended Harvard University where he earned Bachelor’s degree in archaeology and anthropology in 1906, and began working at the Met in 1909.  In 1912, he married Helen Chandler, one of Alice Chandler’s three adult children. Helen and their daughter Frances were with Winlock in Egypt, and throughout the 1920s Herbert and Helen wrote to F. W. and Alice Chandler from Cairo, informing the family of their excavation endeavors and daily lives.

In April 1923, Alice Chandler made note in her diary of the death of Lord Carnarvon, a sponsor of Howard Carter’s excavations in Egypt. Lord Carnarvon died on 5 April 1923 in Cairo, purportedly of a severely infected mosquito bite. His sudden death, and the deaths of others who had entered the tomb of Tutankhamun, gave rise to the legend of the curse of Tutankhamun. In spite of having entered the inner chamber of the tomb on 16 February 1923, Herbert Winlock, as most of the other men with him that day, would live a long life. He continued his celebrated career in Egyptology and became the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1932.

If you are interested in Egyptology, visit the MHS library to view the Chandler and Winlock correspondence in the Chandler Family Papers. Alice Chandler’s diaries are contained in the Charles Pelham Curtis Papers.


permalink | Published: Friday, 8 March, 2013, 8:00 AM


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