Astonishing new evidence has emerged from none other than the tomb of the boy king, Tutankhamen. You would think they’d let that lad rest in peace wouldn’t you. Anyway, they haven’t found another golden sarcophagus or mummified coot or anything like that. What they have found — after a century of rummaging around in the sand mind you — is evidence of cowboy builders!
My recollection of ancient Egyptian history is hazy. I wasn’t there at the time and I never studied it at school. So I cannot say one way or another whether there were any cowboys in ancient Egypt but there is evidence of cowboy building.
By shining some flashy new gizmo at the wall of the boy king’s burial chamber the boffins have discovered what they think may be two plastered over-doors. I was shocked to learn this. How bad does a builder have to be before he plasters over a door by mistake?
“Sorry Sir, but the master bedroom is forever lost to you, we’ve plastered over the opening. What’s that? Your wife’s inside. Oh well. We could break through again, Sir (pause for sharp intake of air through teeth) but it’ll cost you”.
The boffins think the space behind the plastering may be the tomb of Nefertiti who went out for a papyrus of fish and chips in 4,500 BC and never came home. Her tomb was never found. Was she in the next room putting on her slap when the Rameses brothers (by appointment to the Pharaohs), eager to get finished by opening time, bricked her in?
A report in last Wednesday’s Luxor Times suggested that the Egyptian minister of antiquities intended to meet with the Cairo Builders Union tomorrow to see about a retrospective claim for shoddy work. It isn’t looking good. The incident took place 4,500 years ago and their buildings insurance policy did not cover them for grave robbers (whichever scribe took it out really should have ticked that box).
Another theory that the boffins have put forward is that the builders were there re-modelling Tut’s final resting place. This was because the only tomb available was for a queen and so it needed some alterations.
“Yes, this interior is a tad gloomy, a bit Jasper Conran meets Boris Karloff. Let’s order drapes. Now, where’s the Dulux catalogue. Let’s have that sarcophagus up against the other wall. That’s better now, don’t you think? Oh, and let’s plaster over those two doors.”
Buildings inspectors in those days took a hard line on quality assurance. Errors such as being caught in possession of a plumb-line that wasn’t hanging down completely straight for example, were subjected to death by spear. On the other hand carrying out any top-of-the-range plastering, Ames taping or fancy cornice work was also punishable by death because by the time you lavished enough attention on that, you had seen too much.
The apprenticeship scheme for Ancient Egyptian builders was in fact a death penalty preceded by a long period of slave labour. A bit like it is now, really.
There is some consolation. When I pay £300 to have roof tiles nailed down, and an hour after the builders’ Transit van disappears over the horizon, they rain down on me while I put out the bins, I am comforted by the thought that I am not alone. I am simply at the front of a very long line of victims of cowboy building stretching back five millennia.