Friday, October 14, 2011

Great Blunders of History, part 1

James Boutin of An Urban Teacher's Education wrote a post in response to a question I asked him about curricula for world history.  He mentioned that his goal is to present history as a series of narratives, which I agree is the most engaging approach.

For me, history is especially interesting when you get the sense that things could have gone differently.  You can get this sense by contemplating mysteries and errors.

So, here's one of my favorite historical blunders — made by an archaeologist. 

In 1907, Theodore Davis, a leading Egyptian archaeologist, was digging in the Valley of the Kings when he came across a small pit containing various funereal artifacts, one inscribed with the name of Tutankhamun.   After some further investigation, he concluded that this pit must be all that was left of the missing tomb of Tutankhamun, and since it was found, "the valley was exhausted", and there was no point to any further excavation in the Valley of the Kings.

In 1922, Howard Carter found the real tomb of Tutankhamun.  The steps leading to the tomb were less than 10 feet away from where Theodore Davis had stopped digging.

It is now believed that the cache found by Theodore Davis was the leavings of a funeral feast engaged in by the priests involved in Tutankhamun's burial.

1 comment:

  1. And asking students to engage in "What if" questions really requires them to think critically about cause/effect relationships and historical context. I should ask my students to consider what would have happened if things had gone differently more often.