In 2010, a friend and I spent a long weekend in San Francisco. While there we had to choose between visiting the King Tutankhamun exhibit at the deYoung Museum and the California Academy of Science. I never regretted our decision to visit the California Academy of Science…it was amazing, beautiful, educational, and so much more.
But since then I have wanted to see King Tut. When it opened in Seattle in May, I was eager to go but unfortunately couldn’t find anyone else that was equally eager. Then life happened and I kept putting it off. Before I knew it January 2013 had arrived and the exhibit was scheduled to close on January 6th. Since Seattle was the exhibit’s last stop in North American, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t immediately purchase a ticket. I contacted the same friend that went to California in 2010 and she was thrilled to go along.
Last night was our long awaited visit.
I prefer to tell stories using photographs, but cameras and cell phones were not allowed. I’ll do my best to explain some of the breathtaking artifacts we saw.
We opted for the audio tour. I had never used an audio device in a museum before, but after last night I think I’m hooked. It was pretty crowded, so listening was much easier (and faster) than reading the placards.
Lesson #1 – Pharaoh’s Beards
Pharaohs were always depicted with long false beards (kings on the other hand were not). Most surprisingly even female pharaohs were depicted that way.
There was room after room of beautifully (and nearly perfectly) carved images of pharaohs and kings made from granite, alabaster, and other stones. Larger statues and busts were more likely to have large cracks or missing parts, but even that did not distract. One particular statue (carved in the likeness of King Tut) stood over 17 feet tall.
My friend’s favorites were…
- Four figurines of the same individual at different ages. What was particularly unique was they were of a common worker. Most statues, busts, and figures were of pharaohs, kings, and royal families.
- A father sitting in a chair with his two children. The girl was sitting with her arm wrapped around her father’s leg and the boy was standing. I actually found it a bit odd because the children were naked.
My favorite was…
King Tut’s canopic jars. Canopic jars were used to hold the organs of mummies and came in a set of four. The one on display previously held King Tut’s stomach. It was an ornate gold piece with colored stones making up what was to look like clothing.
Lesson #2 – Canopic Jars
Interestedly enough, the depicted face on the canopic jar was not King Tut’s. Once the organs were in the canopic jars, a box held all four and alabaster carved “caps” covered each one. The alabaster was carved in the image of King Tut. Finally the box was put into a larger gold box/room.
Lesson #3 – The Heart and Brain
The hearts were left inside the bodies instead of being taken out and put in canopic jars. The brains were removed completely and discarded because they were thought to be of no use.
Items From King Tut’s Tomb
I had heard, and did confirm last night, King Tut’s sarcophagus was not on display. However, many items (over 100) from his tomb were there.
- His gold sandals.
- A bed and chair he once used.
- An Anubis (jackal-headed god associated with mummification) statue.
- Metal finger and toe coverings.
- Statues and figurines (probably of his servants that would also serve him in the afterlife).
…and much more.
Obviously, King Tut himself was not on display but they did have a video at the end showing scientists attempting a DNA test of his remains and next to that they had a replica of his remains.
Lesson #4 – Destroying of King Tut
Many statues of King Tut were destroyed. It is believed that his predecessors did it in hopes of decreasing his importance and future notoriety. Instead scientists say King Tut is probably the most famous pharaoh to ever live. I find that interesting because he died at 19. He is also known as “The Boy King” because of his young age.
Moments of Sadness/Reflection
There were several times, while walking through the exhibit, that I felt maybe “we” shouldn’t have taken these things out of their tombs. The Egyptians felt strongly about the afterlife and felt all the items in their tombs were needed for such. It almost felt like sacrilege. But, I was also grateful for the opportunity to see such beautiful items. The realist in my knows that loiters would have gotten to the artifacts anyway and if they did the beautiful gold items would have likely been melted for their value.
Going to Egypt
I knew visiting this exhibit would either suppress my thirst for Egypt or add fuel to the fire. It definitely added fuel. I cannot wait until I visit Egypt and see the last standing “Seven Ancient Wonders of the World”…The Great Pyramid of Giza.
The exhibit was hosted by the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington. Unfortunately, the exhibit is completely sold out through Sunday (the last day of the show). Since the artifacts are headed back to Egypt, the only way to see them now is to go in person.