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Rediscovering King Tut

MANY of us who would not qualify as the world's best housekeepers know the joy of rediscovering a long-forgotten letter or a similar treasure in the corner of an infrequently tended closet or drawer. Thus we can appreciate the sense of excitement among archaeologists now focused on a newly rediscovered store of grain, dried fruit, and spices from Egyptian King Tutankhamen's 3,300-year-old tomb. From it, scientists hope to learn much more about the diet, irrigation practices, and crop species of the time. The goods, once placed in the tomb to sustain King Tut on his journey to the afterlife, have been sitting in cardboard boxes in a musty storeroom of London's Royal Botanical Gardens. Part of the original cache of more than 5,000 objects found in 1922 in Luxor by British archaeologist Howard Carter, the harvest includes watermelon and sesame seeds, juniper berries, black cumin, and a funeral wreath that were somehow never cataloged by botanists; in the long wait, their origin was forgotten.

When an Egyptology student at the University of London's Institute of Archaeology was assigned the boxes a few months ago for his research on a master's degree, the unusual numbers and notations on the boxes intrigued him. His suspicion that they were put there by Carter was confirmed after fragments of the materials were matched against those in Carter photographs.

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The latest rediscovery prompts remembrance of the descriptive entry in Carter's journals after the tomb and its treasures were first unearthed:

``I suppose most excavators would confess to a feeling of awe - embarrassment almost - when they break into a chamber closed and sealed by pious hands so many centuries ago. For the moment time as a factor in human life has lost its meaning.''

It is that same feeling of quiet exhilaration over discoveries and rediscoveries which keeps archaeologists digging and museumgoers going. May it ever continue!

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