King Tut: A Virtual Discovery

king tut

San Diego’s Natural History Museum will open The Discovery of King Tut exhibition on October 11, 2014 in time for the Balboa Park centennial celebration. The exhibit recreates the Valley of the Kings, and Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

The museum exhibition reproduces the actual excavation in detail. Since the Egyptian treasures cannot leave Egypt due to its delicate condition, King Tutankhamun’s treasures and tomb were replicated to scale. The “virtual archaeology” exhibit includes over 1,000 replicas reproduced by master Egyptian craftsmen. Visitors step back in time to obtain a credible impression of the opulence of the offerings intended to serve the king on his passage into the Underworld.

British Egyptologist, Howard Carter spent decades exploring the Valley of the Kings near Luxor where 27 king’s tombs were buried. Through the centuries, the discoveries proved futile because pillagers had destroyed the tombs through the centuries. He and his team had moved an estimated 70,000 tons of sand and gravel in the pursuit of a new tomb.

At last, at the location of the exhumed sarcophagi of Rameses VI, a digger unearthed a step into the bedrock. It turned out to be a flight of stairs heading downward into the bottom of the valley. On November 4, 1922, the archeologist found the first clue of what proved to be Tutankhamun’s tomb. According to Carter, it became obvious that they were “on the threshold of the discovery.”

At the start of 1924, as they cleared away the sand and rubble, they encountered “royal necropolis impressions.” Just beyond, Carter detected an entryway concealed in the sand and further in, a passage. Once they cleared out the rubble and crossed the threshold, they glimpsed a flash of gold in the gloom.

king tut

With better light, the chamber came into view. There were objects of every kind, from a throne to chairs and chests, chariots and alabaster vases. Beyond a sealed doorway revealed a wall of gold – the side of a massive gilt memorial that safeguarded the tomb of the buried king. After more than 3,000 years of undisturbed rest, Carter had discovered the boy king, Tutankhamun and artifacts from the 18th dynasty in Egypt.

Unsealing the tomb reawakened legends of a “Pharaoh’s Curse,” that any person who crossed the threshold and interrupted the slumber of the ancient ruler would soon die. Genuine or not, twelve participants of the original group that was in attendance when it was unsealed died within the next seven years. However, Howard Carter, who had been surveying tombs of Pharaohs for nearly 50 years, lived on.

At the time, Carter’s breakthrough provided a glimpse into the dynamic Egyptian civilization of which there had been little previously known. Carter’s name and his discovery resonated throughout the world and reinstated a curiosity in all the splendors of ancient Egypt. His discovery of King Tut’s tomb was more than just an archeological discovery; it was the exposure of an ancient lineage, which presented a human element instead of just the scientific.

The tomb of King Tut consisted of four chambers, as will the San Diego exhibit. However, unlike the San Diego show, Carter’s discovery was authentic, and the encounter beyond imagination. Just beyond the golden chamber doors, the Egyptologist found over 600 groupings of exquisite objects.

The king’s body was found within three nested sarcophaguses. His tomb was crafted in solid gold, and his head was shielded with a solid gold funerary mask. His linen-wrapped body was rubbed with sacred salves and the king was protected with amulets and emblems. To transport the tomb’s contents took Howard Carter ten years. Its contents now lay inside the Cairo Museum while the boy king rests in the Valley of the Kings.

In an effort to preserve King Tut and his treasures, museums have achieved an approach for inquisitive visitors to behold all the magnificence of Carter’s discovery, and capture a sense of its splendor without compromising the ancient relics.

By: Dawn Levesque


National Geographic

The Kansas City Star

The New York Times

Times of San Diego