Yorkshire jeweller's role in valuing treasures in Tutankhamun's tomb

King t’! Tutankhamun’s links to Yorkshire jeweller who weighed and valued boy King’s coffin after tomb was found in 1922 are celebrated in new exhibition

  • Egyptomania exhibition being held by Ogden of Harrogate, in Yorkshire
  • James Ogden was asked by Howard Carter to value Tutankhamun’s treasures 

When archaeologist Howard Carter found the tomb of Tutankhamun in November 1922, his first words to his wealthy funder went down in history. 

Asked by Lord Carnarvon if he could see anything as he peered through a small hole, Carter famously replied, ‘Yes. Wonderful things’, as he took in exotic treasures including the solid gold coffin that contained the body of the Egyptian pharaoh. 

But, although no one had set eyes on these objects in more than 3,000 years, when it came to valuing and weighing them, Carter turned to a very British jeweller.

James R Ogden, who founded his eponymous family firm in 1893, travelled to Egypt’s Valley of Kings and became one of the first men since Tutankhamun’s death in 1323 BC to set eyes on his tomb as he carried out his task.

Tutankhamun’s sold gold coffin, which was just over 6feet in length, weighed more than 240 pounds (110.4kg). 

In a 1932 letter to Carter, Ogden valued the melted value of the coffin at just over £20,000, the equivalent of more than £5million in today’s money. 

Now, a new exhibition at Ogden of Harrogate, which is still run by the same family, celebrates Yorkshire’s amazing connection with the most amazing architectural find in history.

As well as photos of Ogden during his trip, the ‘Egyptomania’ display includes his pith helmet and glasses and his correspondence with influential female archaeologist Katharine Woolley. 

James R Ogden (right), who founded his eponymous family firm Ogden of Harrogate in 1893, was asked by archaeologist Howard Carter to value and the treasures inside Tutankhamun’s tomb after he discovered it in November 1922. Images of him feature in a new exhibition being held by the firm

The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in November 1922 made headlines around the world. More than 5,000 items were found inside, including a solid gold coffin, face mask, thrones, furniture, food and wine. Pictured: A colourised image of Howard Carter examining the pharaoh’s coffin

CLICK TO READ MORE: When we went TUT-ally crazy for Tutankhamun: 50 years ago 1.6million queued to see Egyptian boy king’s treasures after Queen opened British Museum exhibition

By way of souvenirs, Ogden took a gold sequin from Tutankhamun’s tomb, as well as two phials of consecration fluid.

After news of the discovery of the ‘boy king’ made the news across the world, Ogden also benefited from the enormous spike in interest in all things Egypt in the 1920s and 1930s.

Wealthy customers visited his Harrogate outlet in the hope of getting their hands on Egyptian-inspired jewellery.

Such were his expertise in handling gold, Ogden was credited with being the ‘advising goldsmith’ to the British Museum in the 1930s and would later be involved in the restoration of the rarest gold artefacts.

On her deathbed, Woolley had asked that all her personal documents be destroyed, but Ogden kept her letters.

He worked particularly closely with her and her fellow expert husband Leonard. 

The couple – who only married to placate donors who objected to a woman working in the field – are never thought to have consumated their union or even slept in the same bed. 

Woolley worked primarily at the Mesopotamian site of Ur in what is now Iraq.   

As well as Carter, Lord Carnarvon and the Wolleys, Ogden was also friendly with archaeologist Max Mallowan, who was the second husband of author Agatha Christie. 

James R Ogden, who founded his eponymous family firm in 1893, travelled to Egypt ‘s Valley of Kings and became one of the first men since Tutankhamun’s death in 1323 BC to set eyes on his tomb as he carried out his task. Above: Ogden (top left on a camel) is seen in front of the Great Spinx and one of the pyramids in Egypt

Ogden sits on his camel in front of the Great Spinx in Egypt during his visit to value and weigh the treasures inside Tutankhamun’s tomb

Ogden seen with an Egyptian during his trip to value the objects in Tutankhamun’s tomb

Ogden (right) is seen with dozens of Egyptians while in the Valley of the Kings to weigh and value Tutankhamun’s coffin

Ogden was a respected gold expert when he was asked to value Tutankhamun’s coffin

As well as photos of Ogden during his trip, the ‘Egyptomania’ display includes his correspondence with influential female archaeologist Katharine Woolley

Woolley (centre, next to her husband Leonard) worked primarily at the Mesopotamian site of Ur in what is now Iraq

The Egyptomania expedition also displayed Ogden’s pith helmet and glasses. Above: Being held by Robert Ogden

Ben and Robert Ogden holding lantern slides from the exhibition

Carter had been bankrolled by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who had only reluctantly agreed to fund the archaeologist’s search for one more year in 1922 after years of what had until then proved to be a fruitless hunt.

Other objects found in Tutankhamun’s tomb included a gilded shrine, a large bed, a gold-emblazoned statue of the pharaoh, a dagger crafted from a meteorite and a pair of golden sandals. 

The tomb also contained three coffins nestled within one another.

Shortly after it was discovered both the inner and middle caskets were transferred to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, while the outer gilded coffin was left behind.

Howard Carter is seen examining the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun inside his tomb, which was more than 20ft underground

Howard Carter is seen pointing down towards the entrance to Tutankhamun’s tomb

Many of the objects, including Tutankhamun’s death mask, were later flown to Britain to be displayed at the British Museum’s stunning 1972 exhibition which attracted more than 1.2million visitors. 

Robert Ogden, the great-great-great grandson of James, said: ‘The history of our business is our corner-stone and we have recently been cataloguing our archive, where we have a vast collection of JR Ogden’s memorabilia, including a remarkable collection of 10,000 lantern slides of his travels to Tutankhamun’s tomb, and artefacts from his expeditions to Ur, Babylon, Palestine, Syria, and Assyria. 

‘There are also hundreds of letters that are fascinating glimpses of the key characters of that time, and their explorations.’

Egyptomania, an expedition in three parts: Tutankhamun, Expeditions in Ur, and historic jewellery sales in the last 130 years, runs at Ogden of Harrogate on James Street, Harrogate, from 7-21 September.


The face of Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and ruled between 1332 BC and 1323 BC. Right, his famous gold funeral mask

Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and ruled between 1332 BC and 1323 BC.

He was the son of Akhenaten and took to the throne at the age of nine or ten.

When he became king, he married his half-sister, Ankhesenpaaten.

He died at around the age of 18 and his cause of death is unknown.

In 1907, Lord Carnarvon George Herbert asked English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter to supervise excavations in the Valley of the Kings.

On 4 November 1922, Carter’s group found steps that led to Tutankhamun’s tomb.

He spent several months cataloguing the antechamber before opening the burial chamber and discovering the sarcophagus in February 1923.

When the tomb was discovered in 1922 by archaeologist Howard Carter, under the patronage of Lord Carnarvon, the media frenzy that followed was unprecedented.

Carter and his team took 10 years to clear the tomb of its treasure because of the multitude of objects found within it. 

For many, Tut embodies ancient Egypt’s glory because his tomb was packed with the glittering wealth of the rich 18th Dynasty from 1569 to 1315 BC.

Egypt’s antiquities chief Zahi Hawass (3rd L) supervises the removal of the lid of the sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun in his underground tomb in the famed Valley of the Kings in 2007.

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