Friday, August 26, 2016

Discovering King Tut's Tomb - A Modern Retelling

The exhibit my family and I recently visited, "The Discovery of King Tut," included painstakingly made, scientifically produced reproductions featured at The Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa.

My daughter and I outside the museum.

At first, this may sound somewhat dissatisfying.  However, the exhibit was extremely well done.  The original artifacts discovered in King Tut's tomb are no longer permitted to tour outside of Egypt either!  Plus, with the reproductions, items were able to be piled on top of one another in order to recreate the discovery of Tutankamun's tomb.  And this was the true magic of the exhibit, being able to walk into rooms recreated exactly as they were found when Howard Carter first discovered the tomb.

Dr. David P. Silverman, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Pennsylvania, the curator for the last King Tut exhibition that toured the United States containing authentic artifacts, has lent his support to the exhibition by saying, "The concept of the exhibition really breaks new ground in presenting ancient Egyptian cultural history. Egyptian antiquities from King Tut's tomb can no longer travel outside Egypt, but this exhibition will make available nearly 1,000 precise replicas of breathtaking items found among the young pharaohs treasures."

The first chamber we discover.

King Tut's burial was a rushed affair.  His unexpected death at his young age left the country scrambling.  The tomb itself was not a pharaoh's tomb style.  It was too small, and the traditional items and wall decorations had to be crammed into the space.  Many of the prayers and incantations believed to guide pharaohs during their journey through the Afterlife were missing in Tut's tomb.  

Our second discovery: the burial chamber - which was quite breathtaking!

Seeing these rooms recreated with such detail and care was a true delight.  It was apparent with the reproductions how talented and creative the ancient Egyptian craftsmen were.  My favorite room was definitely the Burial Chamber.  At first, all you can see is a screen, and images of Howard Carter and his team were displayed with a narrative about what the find meant to them personally.  As the narrative continued, my anxiousness to see the artifact recreations grew and grew.  When the lights finally illuminated the items behind the screen, well, it was definitely an awe-inspiring moment for me.  I think most of the audience members felt transported to Egypt in that moment.  The colors were so vivid, the details ornate.  

King Tut's tomb was discovered largely intact in the Valley of the Kings in 1922 by a team led by Howard Carter.  My daughter's favorite wall of the burial chamber was definitely the western wall.  It's covered with 12 baboons.  These represent the 12 hours throughout the night which a pharaoh must pass before entering the Afterlife. In the upper left corner, you can see a painted boat on which pharaoh will journey upon.  

Per the Putnum Museum's Press Release: The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb is considered the most famous discovery in the history of archaeology, and in modern times, the context of its finding has been lost. The exhibition allows visitors to experience the background of this historic discovery, and to get to know the most important artifacts through stunning and scientifically produced reconstructions. These remarkable, individual presentations allow the world to experience the treasures of King Tutankhamun’s tomb without compromising the fragile originals, most of which are not permitted to be toured.

An international team of exhibition designers worked for over five years on the realization of this Exhibition under the scientific direction of Egyptologists Dr. Martin von Falck and Dr. Wolfgang Wettengel. 

There's been a lot of news recently about King Tut's tomb, known as KV62, regarding hidden burial chambers (perhaps of Queen Nefertiti herself!).  Unfortunately, the latest news reported that: "Radar scans conducted by a National Geographic team have found that there are no hidden chambers in Tutankhamun's tomb, disproving a claim that the secret grave of Queen Nefertiti lurks behind the walls."  

Bummer.  This was actually a possibility included in my book!!!  More information about this recent press release can be found here:

The final chamber we discovered was the Treasury, but I believe I have covered quite a bit in this one blog post!  Thus, I will wrap things up for now.  Stay tuned for further details in the coming month.  More amazing exhibit photos to come, a welcome doorway into the enchanting world of ancient Egypt.  

Be prepared to see more wonderful things!

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