The history of Tutankhamun — the legendary Tut, boy king of ancient Egypt — makes for more than a fascinating story about fabulous treasures and royal foibles.
It also encompasses several science projects spanning the centuries — from the metal work and masonry Egyptians had mastered more than 3,000 years ago to the archeological discovery of Tut’s splendid tomb in 1922 to DNA tests this year revealing that this privileged young pharaoh was feeble and seriously ill.
Now, Tut’s treasures and the science surrounding them are coming to St. Paul in an exhibit the Science Museum of Minnesota plans to open next February.
The exhibit — “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” — will feature more than 100 authentic treasures from the tomb of the celebrated pharaoh and other notable ancient sites, the museum said in announcing the plan.
I have seen parts of these treasures twice — once decades ago in Chicago and again a few years ago in Cairo. Believe me, they are amazing, and I will not miss the chance to see them again.
The version of the exhibition that will come to St. Paul is organized by the National Geographic Society, Arts and Exhibitions International and AEG Exhibitions, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.
“Tutankhamun’s magic still captures the hearts of people all over the world, even though more than 85 years have passed since the discovery of his amazing tomb,” Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said in the museum’s announcement.
At 16,000 square feet, this will be the largest exhibition in Science Museum history, and it will feature stunning objects from some of the most important rulers throughout 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history. Many of these artifacts have never visited the United States prior to this exhibition tour.
“The artifacts in Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs are among the world’s greatest cultural legacies and we are thrilled to bring these treasures to Minnesota,” Mike Day, the Science Museum’s Senior Vice President, said in the announcement.
“When the exhibition opens, St. Paul will be the only place in the U.S. where visitors can experience such a vast collection of authentic historical objects that bring to life the stories of Egyptian pharaohs and the legendary King Tut,” he said.
This exhibit continues a tradition the Minnesota museum has established of bringing to life the sometimes tragic grandeur of the past in science and culture. It follows such other major exhibitions as “A Day in Pompeii,” “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” and “The Dead Sea Scrolls.”
The official rundown
What follows is the museum’s description of the Tut exhibit:
“Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” will give Science Museum visitors a glimpse inside the ancient Egypt they learned about in school, exploring the mystery and intrigue of this fascinating time period.
Visitors will witness the splendor of the pharaohs, learn about their function in both the earthly and divine worlds, and discover how they prepared for the afterlife. They’ll see artifacts from powerful Egyptian rulers, including beautifully-crafted statures of Khafre, builder of the Great Sphinx and one of the pyramids at Giza; Hatshepsut, the queen who became a pharaoh; and King Tut’s father, Akhenaten.
The exhibition’s final galleries are dedicated to King Tut’s famous tomb, including an area devoted to its discovery by British explorer Howard Carter in 1922. Visitors will see legendary artifacts displayed in four galleries according to where they were located in the tomb’s four rooms — the antechamber, annex, treasury and burial chamber.
- The beautifully-adorned canopic coffinette that held Tutankhamun’s mummified stomach.
- The largest image of King Tut ever unearthed — a 10-foot statue of the pharaoh found at the remains of the funerary temple of two of his high officials. The statue still retains much of its original paint.
- Golden sandals, etched with a pattern of woven reeds, which covered the feet of Tutankhamun when Howard Carter unwrapped his mummy in 1923.
- One of the largest of Tutankhamun shabtis, funerary figures that were meant to perform work for the king in his afterlife, uncovered from the tomb’s antechamber.
- A 7-foot colossal statue of Akhenaten (recently proven by DNA evidence to be King Tut’s father) that once enhanced the colonnade of the king’s temple to the Aten at East Karnak.
- A gallery devoted to the golden treasures of the pharaohs of Egypt, including jewelry, vessels, weaponry, and the solid gold funerary mask of Psusennes I, which lay over the head, chest and part of the shoulders of the mummy.
- Recent scientific discoveries, including the first 3D CT scans of the great king’s mummy, which were obtained as part of a landmark Egyptian research and conservation project, partially funded by the National Geographic Society.
A portion of the exhibition tour’s proceeds will go toward antiquities preservation and conservation efforts in Egypt, including the construction of a new grand museum in Cairo.
“The previous King Tut tour in the 1970s was a major cultural phenomenon and, to some extent, coined the term ‘blockbuster,’” said John Norman, president of Arts and Exhibitions International. “King Tut still has that same draw, and it’s a privilege for us to enable Americans to see these important world treasures and play a critical role in preserving them for future generations.”
“Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” opens Feb. 18, 2011, at the Science Museum of Minnesota and runs through Sept. 5, 2011. Tickets range from $25 to $30 (ticket price includes admission to “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” and the Science Museum’s permanent exhibit galleries). School and group tickets are on sale now; individual tickets will go on sale later this fall.
As with past exhibits, admission to “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” will be timed and dated; visitors will be given the opportunity to choose a specific date and time for their visit when they purchase tickets.
In addition, “Mummies,” a giant screen film that takes viewers to the royal tombs of Egypt, will run in the Omnitheater beginning Feb. 18, 2011. It explores the history of ancient Egyptian society.
“Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” is one of two National Geographic exhibitions dedicated to the remarkable treasures of King Tutankhamun and ancient Egyptian royalty. National Geographic Books publishes the companion book to the exhibition, written by Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. For more information on these traveling exhibitions, visit here.