It took another two years and eight months of removing and cataloging objects before the ever-meticulous Carter raised the lid of the third and final coffin (245 pounds of solid gold) inside the sarcophagus and gazed at the gold and lapis lazuli mask atop Tut’s mummy. Three weeks later, after cutting away resin-encrusted wrappings from the mask, Carter was able to savor the “beautiful and well-formed features” of the mummy itself. Yet it was not until February 1932, nearly a decade after opening the tomb, that he finally finished photographing and recording all the details of Tut’s treasures, a mind-boggling 5,398 items.
Just eight years before Carter’s discovery, American lawyer and archaeologist Theodore Davis, who had financed numerous expeditions to the Valley of the Kings, had turned in his shovel. “I fear the Valley is now exhausted,” he had declared. Mere feet from where Davis had stopped digging, the dogged Carter, quite literally, struck gold.