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Ancient Egyptian artifacts found in castle

LONDON -- More than 300 ancient Egyptian artifacts, some from the legendary tomb of Tutankhamun, were discovered in a sealed compartment and elsewhere in a British castle, the British Museum's Egyptologist said Monday.

'They are important archeologically,' said Harry James, the museum's chief Egyptian expert. 'They're not immensely valuable. They're not treasures in the sense that those from Tuthankhamun are treasures. But they are important.'

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James confirmed a report in The Times of London that Lord Canarvon, whose ancestor financed the dig of Tutankhaumun's tomb in 1922, found the treasures last fall in his family's Highclere Castle, 50 miles west of London.

Lord Canarvon was unavailable for comment. A spokeswoman said he was under contract to The Times and referred all calls to the newspaper.

The Times, which claimed to be the first to report the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in Egypt's Valley of the Kings, said the treasures include 'a wooden face of Tutankhamun's grandfather dating back 3,200 years.'

'I thought I knew every nook and cranny of the castle,' Carnarvon told the Times. 'I was sure there was nothing Egyptian there.'

But a 75-year-old retired butler led him to the treasures, the Times said. It told this story of the discovery:

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The fifth Earl of Carnarvon financed archeologist Howard Carter in several seasons of Egyptian explorations, climaxing in the 1922 Tutankhamun find. At the end of each season antiquities were sent back to Carnarvon's castle.

The sixth Earl of Carnarvon died in September. The seventh and current earl enlisted retired butler Robert Taylor to help compile an inventory of the ornate castle.

'The two men were wandering through the huge house together when the seventh earl commented that they appeared to have completed the task,' the Times said.

'Except for the Egyptian stuff,' Taylor replied.

He led Carnarvon to two hidden cupboards and a sealed space between two rooms.

'The Earl was astonished to find them full of antiquities,' the Times said. Other antiquties were found in the fifth earl's darkroom, a documents room 'and even a drawer used by a housekeeper.'

James said the treasures were brought to Britain 'perfectly legitimately.'

'It was a regular custom that people who excavated with the proper authority were allowed to have a division of the finds,' James said, adding that these were part 'of the legal division.'

When the fifth earl died in 1923, most of his collection was sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 'This is the less important part of his collection,' James said.

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The sixth earl, who died in September, 'had a distinct antipathy toward Egyptian things and I think they were just overlooked,' James said.

'It's an interesting discovery of archeological material that's been, in a sense, missing for 70 years or so. Egyptologists were unaware that they were actually at Highclere Castle until they were turned up last autumn.'

James said the treasures will stay at the castle. 'The earl plans to have a kind of museum in a room there to highlight the archeological work of his grandfather,' James said.

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