London hosted an exhibition of Tutankhamun artifacts back in 1972 and attracted 1.6 million visitors. In 2007-8, this new exhibition looks set to beat that number as Tutankhamun returns to London, this time bringing his family. As well as discovering more about the boy king, you can get a real insight into this period of ancient Egyptian history.
- Great for all ages (family tickets available)
- Omar Sharif narrates the excellent audio tour
- Book well in advance as over 300,000 tickets were sold before it even opened!
- You won't see the famous Death Mask as it too was fragile to leave Egypt, as was Tut's mummified body.
This exhibition is coming over from its 2-year US tour where it enthralled more than 4 million visitors. The London exhibition includes the Howard Carter Gallery, developed by the British Museum, to reflect the British contribution to the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, and will only be shown in London.
And what great timing for Tutankhamun to be in the news just before the London exhibition opened so they could include, at the end of the tour, TV footage from BBC News of his mummified body being removed from the sarcophagus and placed in a climate-controlled case in his tomb in Egypt on 4 November 2007.
Excellent Audio Tour
I strongly recommend buying the audio tour narrated by Omar Sharif as this brought the exhibits to life for me. If you haven't pre-booked, these are available when you arrive and will be distributed while you are in the queue so you start learning before you even enter.
What to Expect
The exhibition starts in a darkened room with a 90 second video that sets the scene. The rooms are carpeted so you can't hear people walking around and there are atmospheric sounds and music playing.
The information on the exhibit cases is not too long so you can read plenty without feeling overwhelmed by facts.
King Tut died aged only 19 and was the last of his line in the 18th Dynasty. He was trying to restore the traditional Gods as the previous ruler had reduced them from over a hundred to just one, the sun God. Tut was buried in a relatively small tomb as he was not expected to die so young. Burial implied expectations of afterlife.
It took 70 days to prepare a body for mummification. Key internal organs were given full honor so were mummified and were given their own coffinettes but the brain was not preserved; it was removed through the nose with a metal hook and discarded. In the publicity for this exhibition you may have thought you were looking a the famous death mask but in fact it's a close-up of the small coffinette for Tut's liver which is on display (coffinette not liver!)
Tut was raised by Queen Nefertiti who was one of his father's wives but was not his birth mother. Look out for the Queen Nefertiti head carved from brown quartzite which is striking.
Further highlights include the:
- stunning gold coffin of Tjuya, who was probably Tut's Great Grandmother.
- gold leaf mask for his 5 month old fetus. (Tutankhamun was married only once to his half-sister. They didn't have any children but Tut was buried with what is thought to be two stillborn fetuses, both female.
- Burial Chamber - the flooring indicates the size of the tomb and the cases that fitted inside the next. There were 7 cases -- the outermost was 16ft long and 9ft high -- then 3 more shrines, a sarcophagus, and 3 coffins before reaching Tutankhamun's mummified body.
The exhibition continues downstairs in the Howard Carter gallery with photos and video from November 1922 when Howard Carter made the discovery, after Tut had been buried for 3,000 years. Upon opening the tomb Carter said he saw, "...everywhere, the glint of gold."
How Tutankhamun died remains a mystery but there are interesting displays of x-rays, CT scans, and a possible accident showing a broken bone above his left knee (this is a new finding).
Tutankhamun's NameTut = image
ankh = living
amum = name of chief deity
So his name means, "Image of the living God."
SouvenirsAs you would expect, the tour exit leads you through a well-stocked gift shop. I saw jewelry priced at £5,250 (that's over US$10,000) and a tissue box holder for £29.95. You can use touch screens to design your own cartouche (from £40). The official DVD is set for all regions and for other DVDs there is a compatibility chart.
But for pocket money items head to the furthest end of the shop (far right) for souvenirs from the British Museum collection such as a £1.50 sticker book or Egyptian tattoos. I liked the touch screen machines by the pay desks which allow you to print your name in hieroglyphics for just £1.