King Tut’s treasures are returning to the UK, as ‘Tutankhamun His Tomb and His Treasures’ opened this weekend at Manchester’s Museum of Museums.
Over 1,000 faithful replicas offer visitors the opportunity to look through Howard Carter’s eyes and experience the greatest discovery of all time for themselves.
The entire world is familiar with ancient Egypt’s ‘piece de resistance’, the symbol of Egyptology King Tut’s golden death mask (slideshow).
Yet, fewer people know that when Carter and Carnarvon discovered the pharaoh’s final resting place in 1922, it contained so many treasures that it was almost impossible to enter. It would take Carter ten years to catalogue the 5,398 artefacts stacked in the tomb.
The items recovered over those ten years include jewellery, cult objects, amulets, coffers, chests, chairs, weapons, musical instruments, a stunning golden chariot, the golden shrines and the legendary death mask.
For the touring exhibition ‘Tutankhamun His Tomb and His Treasures’, a thousand of these precious artefacts have been reproduced. The almost exact (no solid gold, though) copies are shown ‘returned’ to their rightful place in the three burial chambers, recreated based on the sketches and diary notes by Howard Carter and Harry Burton’s original photographs.
The Manchester stop of the tour includes a brand new display, entitled ‘Howard Carter The Discoverer of Tutankhamun’. It is curated by leading Egyptologist Dr. Jaromir Malek, Keeper of the Tutankhamun Archives at the Griffith Institute at Oxford University.
The attention which is paid to detail is outstanding, he said about the travelling showcase. This exhibition can do things which no other is able to. Its educational and information value surpasses that of the usual Tutankhamun shows. The intention to inform and to approach the topic seriously is unmistakably felt from the beginning to the end.
Replicas; better than the real thing?
Today, most of King Tut‘s grave goods are on display at the Cairo Museum (soon they’ll be moved to the forthcoming Grand Egyptian Museum). Some of the artefacts are touring (largely, the artefacts of which they have multiple, almost similar versions) and Tutankhamun’s mummy is housed at his tomb in the Valley of the Kings (a very neat replica of the remainsis touring as well). Dr Zahi Hawass states (and I tend to believe him on this) that neither the Golden Death Mask, nor the mummy will ever be permitted to leave Egypt again. It is inevitable that KV62 (Tut’s Tomb) is closed or access to it severely limited to protect it from the damages tourists, unwillingly, inflict unwillingly, inflict on the ancient murals. To accomodate the 21st century explorers, a replica Valley of the Kings will be constructed.
So, where does that leave us mere mortals, trying to experience a bit of the magic Carter felt when he was the first person in over 2,000 years to behold such wonderful things?
I’ve been to the Cairo Museum, where Tut’s multitude of treasures is kept in glass cabinets, to together with the many other holidaymakers shuffle from wonderful thing to wonderful thing. When after five hours we left the museum, I was proud of my newly gained knowledge of All Things Ancient Egyptian; they built large statues, and had many gods, good craftsmen as well as lots of gold. But I confess, after five hours of shuffling and reading little info cards,I stilldid not have the slightest clue who Howard Carter was. There was no real narrative to catalogue what I saw, and definitely no realisation of just how major the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb was.
So maybe and in my opinion, most definitely a accurate replica put in context (or a thousand replicas, put together in Tut’s tomb) can have more value than the original. ‘Tutankhamun His Tomb and His Treasures’ promises just that; to complete the experience by not just showing you truly wonderful things, but the bigger picture.
Tutankhamun His Tomb and His Treasures is on at Manchesters new Museum of Museums (situated at The Trafford Centre, Barton Square). The exhibition runs until February 27th, 2011. Tickets and more info at www.tutankhamunmanchester.com.