Who was Howard Carter
Howard Carter had strong Swaffham roots.
Although born in London in 1874, the family house was in Swaffham and he stayed there frequently both as a child and an adult.
Buried in the Swaffham churchyard and cemetery are his father, his two sets of grandparents, two brothers, three uncles, two aunts and several cousins. Two brothers attended Hamond’s Free School around the 1880s. Howard himself was not in good enough health to attend school.
His father Samuel John was a well-known Victorian animal portrait painter. Howard inherited his artistic skill and it was this talent that first took him to Egypt.
Age 15 he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and worked with him to learn the craft. Samuel John was often asked to paint for the Amherst family at Didlington Hall and Howard spent his free time there immersed in the family’s large collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts. He must have spent some time copying what he observed because two years later, when Lady Amherst was asked if she could recommend a tomb wall painting copyist, as she immediately suggested Howard.
So, aged 17, he went to Egypt, alone, not speaking the language, seen off by his father at Victoria Station. It would be the last time they would meet.
In the 40 or so years he spent in Egypt Howard had an immense impact on both the archaeological world and on the world in general. He became a notable and highly respected archaeologist, and his discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb had, and still has, a considerable effect on nations’ economies, not solely the Egyptian. The Arts, tourism, fashion and architecture have all benefited. It raised the scientific status of archaeology and caught the imagination of the people.
Here is a poorly educated young man of Norfolk artisan stock who had talent, was tenacious (if stubborn) and bold. Supported by patrons and a great bite of luck he kept a tenacious hold on his dream and discovered a tomb that experts insisted no longer existed. By so doing he uncovered one of the greatest and richest treasures ever found.
Swaffham Heritage is in a unique position to tell his local story in the Brecks and his life amongst the ruins of ancient Egypt along the Nile valley.
In 2022 we salute him.