- Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs at Seattle's Pacific Science Center until Jan. 6, 2013. For details: www.pacificsciencecenter.org.
THE fourth of November in the year 1922 is famous around the world as the date of discovery of the intact tomb of the Egyptian King Tutankhamun.
Since the discovery, this boy king - as he is often referred to - has become more well-known in some circles than other, more glorious Pharaohs, such as Ramses the Great or Akhenaten. The objects of his treasure, such as Tutankhamun's golden funerary mask, have become ubiquitously recognizable, such as Tutankhamun's golden funerary mas. Endless books have been written on him, his tomb, his discovery and his life.
Now, you have a chance to see him up close, to peek into his tomb, if you will, as the touring Tutankhamun: the Golden King and the Great Pharaohs exhibit has opened at Seattle's Pacific Science Center (www.pacificsciencecenter.org/King-Tut/). Running until January 2013, the exhibit makes Seattle its last stop in North America. More than 100 objects are on display here, perhaps for the last time ever at a location outside Egypt. This spectacle is in turn marked by grandeur, something that typically befits an Egyptian king.
Tutankhamun visited Seattle last in the 1970s. A display case near Guest Services at Pacific Science Center gives thanks to the older exhibit. It features some paraphernalia and a poster of the funerary mask. Now, nearly 40 years on, the king returns to Seattle and his prominence appears as unrivaled here as it surely must have been then. There is a gigantic statue, measuring nearly three metres in height, standing in the centre of the second room. It was unearthed at the site of Medinet Habu on the western bank of the Nile at modern Luxor, ancient Thebes. It is not an object which one commonly sees associated with the boy king. Normally, only items laden with gold are from his reign, but a statue of this grandeur surely belongs to his also.
Perhaps the most beautiful object in the exhibit is a miniature coffin of Tutankhamun. It was found in his canopic chest, inside the vessel which was destined to contain his mummified stomach. Canopic jars, as they are more commonly known, contain the innards of a deceased king. Usually, only four parts are kept: the liver, lungs, stomach and intestines. Each is kept in its own container. That this coffin would have contained his stomach you would never guess for when you look closely on the inside it is decorated most elaborately. The outside resembles his famed coffin (which unfortunately did not make its way to Seattle and instead remains back in Egypt), where, again, fine detail is apparent. Funerary items such as these may be inlaid with semi-precious stones such as carnelian and lapis lazuli. The latter, for instance, also appears as an eye inlay on the mask of Psusennes I, who ruled some centuries later. This mask is also on display and attests to the splendor that is Egypt - it rivals without a doubt the mask of Tutankhamun himself.
The exhibit also considers the achievements of other remarkable Pharaohs. From the time of the pyramids, some 1,300 years before Tutankhamun's day, there is a sitting statue of King Khafre, who built one of the pyramids on the Giza plateau and the Great Sphinx. The statue, of course, had an intact nose. Among famous women of antiquity, Queen-Pharaoh Hatshepsut is depicted in a kneeling posture with a hieroglyphic inscription on the back of the statue. We have already mentioned Akhenaten, who is so often regarded as a heretic or even the world's first prophet, whose presence in the exhibit is marked by a colossal bust. The bust is remarkable for the strange, esoteric style of art that is so commonly associated with his time, i.e. the Amarna Period.
Ancient Egypt wasn't all about grandeur and splendour. While the grave goods from Tutankhamun's tomb are splendid in every way, smaller, more mundane objects are also found. A game board with playing pieces, a headrest, a bed and a chair can be seen. Elaborate necklaces, beads, other kinds of jewelry are also there. All of these exhibit the kind of detail that not every Egyptian could even dream of including among their goods. A simple Egyptian would consider him - or herself lucky to be afforded a simple pit grave with a few pots adorning his or her assemblage. Why do even these daily items have such grandeur? A royal burial must include the best, so that the king may make the journey into the afterlife as splendid as his life on earth.
From the grand to the small, the Seattle exhibit encompasses all important aspects of Tutankhamun and the embodiment of kingship. Once you make your way through the collection and find the exit after the gift shop, you are confronted by what appears to be a mummy that lies protected by a glass case. It is the mummy of Tutankhamun, but it is not the original. The original mummy still lies in its resting place, where it was found nearly 90 years ago. The mummy here is merely a copy. It is modeled after the original using the latest CT scans available to make it appear as authentic and true to life as possible.
Seeing this exhibit and learning about Tutankhamun and ancient Egypt leaves you wanting more.