Theodore M. Davis

Theodore M. Davis

Theodore M. Davis (1837 – February 23, 1915) was an American lawyer and is best known for his excavations in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings between 1902 and 1914.


Davis was born in Springfield, New York in 1838. After a career in the law and business, he moved to Newport, Rhode Island in 1882 where he built a mansion on Ocean Avenue.

Although married, Davis had a live-in mistress, Emma Andrews, from 1887 until his death. Andrews was the cousin of his wife Annie. He spent his winters in Europe and on digs in Egypt (from 1900). In the winter of 1915 he did not go to Egypt for health reasons and instead rented the Florida home of William Jennings Bryan, then Secretary of State. He died there in late February of that year.


Starting in 1902 Davis acted as private sponsor for the Antiquities Service. Because of the success of this first season, which included the discovery of KV45 (tomb of Userhet) and a box containing leather loincloths from above KV36 (tomb of Maiherpri), this sponsorship was renewed each year until 1905. During this period excavations were conducted in his name by the inspector-general of antiquities for Upper Egypt (between 1902 and 1904, Howard Carter and for the 1904-1905 season James E. Quibell).

In 1905 Arthur Weigall, as new inspector-general, persuaded Davis to sign a new concession for work in the Valley and to employ his own archaeologist. Under these new conditions excavations were conducted by Edward R. Ayrton (1905-1908), E. Harold Jones (1908-1911) and Harry Burton (1912-1914). But by 1913, Davis had become disillusioned with the efforts that had not yielded an intact royal tomb, and began to share the belief that the valley had been exhausted. During the 1913-14 season he finally gave up the concession to excavate in the Valley of the Kings. The concession then passed on to Lord Carnarvon. Although excavation commenced during the 1914-1915 season, the concession was not formally signed until 1915.

The excavations carried out under Davis’s sponsorship are among the most important ever undertaken in the valley: in the course of 12 years about 30 tombs were discovered and/or cleared in his name, the best known among them are KV46 (tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu), KV55 (the Amarna cache), KV57 (tomb of Horemheb) and KV54 (Tutankhamun embalming cache). With Carter’s discovery of KV62, Tutankhamun’s tomb, in 1922 Davis’s opinion that the “valley had been exhausted”, was proved wrong. Burton later recalled that when Davis terminated his last excavation in the valley, out of fear of undercutting nearby tombs and pathways, he was only two metres away from discovering the entrance to KV62.

List of discoveries and excavations

  • 1902: KV45
  • 1903: KV20, KV43, KV60
  • 1905: KV2, KV19, KV22, KV46, KV47, KV53
  • 1906: KV48, KV49, KV50, KV51, KV52
  • 1907: KV10, KV54, KV55
  • 1908: KV56, KV57
  • 1909: KV58
  • 1910: KV61
  • 1912: KV3
  • 1913: KV7

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