Friday, November 4, 2022

The boy worker who brought a boy King back to life

On that day from hundred years ago, there was a boy who should have been playing like the rest of the boys of his age but instead, he was working alongside his father and his clan in very hard conditions. 

He was commissioned to bring water to a camp and to serve that camp's local workers and those foreigners with tea as they dug and searched in the rocky valley that looks more like a mountain than the usual valley in your mind for old treasures.

Hussein Abdel Rasoul 

His name was Hussein Abdel Rasoul and he was only 12 years old he discovered the first step that led down to King Tutankhamun’s tomb thanks to his water pottery jar according to the legend the rest was a new history by all measures.

Hussein put his jar down from his donkey carrying the water jars while he was at the site when he noticed that the jar hit something solid from the sound he heard and so the wise boy had a brush and clear the sand and dust only to find a step of some staircase downwards. 

The boy hurried to get Mr Carter and you and I know very well what happened next. 

Hussein Abdel Rasoul descended from the famous Abdel Rasoul clan that played and is playing a vital role in antiquities excavation in Upper Egypt especially in Luxor as workers since the 19th century.

Hussein Abdel Rasoul
Hussein Abdel Rasoul wearing King Tutankamun's 
scarab necklace in 1924 by Harry Burton 
"Colored photo"

I believe the young boy was the third member of the Abdel Rasoul clan to discover a major discovery that turned Egyptology upside down.

Hussein’s grandfather Mohamed and his great uncle Mahmoud discovered the famous Royal Cache at Deir El-Bahry in 1871 after being led by a goat.

The role of the Abdel Rasoul clan in the discovery of the famous Royal Cache was dramatized in Shady Abdel Salam’s masterpiece “The night of counting years”.

That photo of Sheikh Hussein Abdel Rasoul in the Rasouls house in Qurna
In that 100 years-old Hussein Abdel Rasoul holding his famous photo while 
smoking a cigarette 

For me, the story of King Tutankhamun is full of details and ironies whether when he was alive “we knew actually very few credible details as usual” or when his tomb was discovered on that day 100 years ago in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings.

Famous KV-62 tomb, Hussein found the first

It is an irony that a bunch of priests and military men during Ancient Egypt decided to erase him and his family from the historical record, but he returned to the world to become Egypt’s most famous ruler in the modern age with his name known in parts of the world that those men did not know that it exists (I think).

I mean there is a very few people that know about King Ay and few who know Horemheb despite his achievements that paved the way for the great 18th dynasty of the Modern Kingdom. “Aside from admirers of the militaries in power who use him as an example of how he saved”

We saw how some people attempt to forge history and rewrite but the story of King Tutankhamun proved that you cannot change the course of history and remove anything of it by burying it or erasing it.

The true history will be unearthed eventually.

It is an irony that this small-lived King with very few achievements if any had the most complete intact collection of afterlife treasures in the history of Egypt, unlike those great kings who had gigantic achievements from pyramids to control beyond Egypt’s borders in ancient times. Just imagine what King Ramses II’s tomb would have contained.

King Tut's Golden sarcophagus at the Egyptian Museum of Cairo
King Tut's Golden sarcophagi at the Egyptian Museum of Cairo

King Tutankhamun is the most known ruler of Egypt in the modern age when he ruled the country in the ancient age. His mask representing his face is known more than any Egyptian king or president at any time.

King Tut's Golden Mask
The famous mask of King Tut when it was at the Egyptian Museum of Cairo 

We do not know if the mask was honestly depicting his features because, in ancient Egypt, all kings must look flawless except for his father Akhenaten.

The fact discoverer of King Tutankhamun’s tomb was not Egyptologist Howard Carter who spent years searching for him, the true discoverer of King Tutankhamun was a young Egyptian boy working in an excavation.

Hussein Abdel Rasoul was about two years older than King Tut when he ruled Egypt. King Tut was only 10 years according to most estimations.

A boy worker discovered the boy king’s tomb bringing him and his family to life after adults thousands of years ago decided to bury him away from history.

Hussein Abdel Rasoul descended from the Qurna city in Luxor where King Tut and his dynasty were based in Thebes aka Luxor except for Akhenaten, his father.

Hussein Abdel Rasoul with his Upper Egyptian skin colour complexity looked in that photo with the necklace like an ancient Egyptian kid. 

King Tut's scarab necklace
King Tut's scarab necklace which Hussein Abdel Rasoul wore
when it was at the Egyptian Museum

One can’t deny Howard Carter made history by discovering the tomb, but it is a fact that a 12-years old Egyptian worker was the first to discover the first step to that tomb.

Carter himself did not forget that fact and celebrated it modestly.

On the centennial of discovering King Tutankhamun's tomb and as you remember Howard Carter, please remember Hussein Abdel Rasoul, the boy worker who brought back a boy king to life.

We also must remember the Egyptian workers who are always neglected and left in the shadow compared to the archaeologists, especially those star archaeologists who appear on TV. 

Basket workers at Valley of the Kings
Many children worked on the site following Abdel Rasoul's discovery
as basket boys "Harry Burton" in 1923. 

Those workers, the skilled workers are actually seasonal workers who do not have enough salaries for their labour-hard manual work nor do they have benefits like health insurance or enough pensions. 

I do not know if they have a union even. 

I know we are remembering now an ancient King and a British archaeologist but we have to remember others above them Hussein Abdel Rasoul. 


  1. Zeinobia, this is an absolutely fascinating piece of writing which I, as a lover of Egypt and all things Egyptian, really enjoyed reading. Thank you for this

  2. Thanks for your story. I met and recorded my conversation with Hussein Abdel Rasoul in 1989. Only recently did I learn about his fame. Thanks, Fran


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