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Discovering Tut


I was little, first grade or kindergarten, and all the schools in my modest Eastern Plains town field-tripped to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to see the Ramses II exhibit.

The memories are a bit faded, but I distinctly remember panic flooding my body. My palms were damp with sweat and my tiny heart quietly went thump, thump, thump. I thoughts about being haunted by a 3,000-year-old curse for simply entering the exhibit, or maybe I thought there would be snakes. I can’t quite remember.

But as far as I know, I left the museum unscathed by ancient deities and learning very little about Ramses. Which made me feel pretty indifferent as I entered through the giant doors at the Denver Art Museum—obviously made bigger and more ancient to evoke a feeling of transition. You are now entering a time capsule of Egyptian treasures, they say.

These golden sandals have engraved decoration that replicates woven reeds. Created speci?cally for the afterlife, they still covered the feet of Tutankhamun when Howard Carter unwrapped the mummy. By Sandro Vannini

And overall, that’s really what Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs—on display at DAM from June 29 through Jan. 9—turns out to be: a beautifully preserved snow globe filled with more than 100 pieces of art, sculpture, jewelry and artifacts spanning 2,000 years as well as items found within King Tut’s tomb (and no snow).

I joined a special media preview the Friday before the exhibition opened to the public, and Mark Lach, senior vice president of international exhibitions for AEG, which organized the exhibition, was on hand to talk about the relevance of the experience.

King Tut’s tomb, discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, is considered the “greatest archaeological discovery of all time,” according to the exhibit’s introductory video, because it’s the “most intact” tomb to be discovered.

“That’s really why we are talking about it today,” Lach said. In fact, much of Tut’s modern notoriety has less to do with how he ruled and more to do with his tomb. The King Tut exhibit first hit America in the ’70s, and millions crowded in art or history museums to see the bounty.

“At that point, people were calling it a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Lach said.

More recently, though, those in charge of the artifacts felt it was important to tour it again, he said. The pieces we see today are different from than the ’70’s show, and for most, it’s their first time outside of Egypt.

While half the exhibit is a smattering of artifacts from various pharaohs—large limestone or sandstone statues of rulers and royalty, lovely, little calcite carvings, a cat’s sarcophagus and even a toilet seat—the exhibit gains momentum once we’ve descended into Tut’s tomb.

A large container with four hollowed out sections held the internal organs of the king. Each of its compartments had a lid in the form of Tutankhamun’s head. The royal name on both the chest and its outer shrine appears original, suggesting that Tutankhamun did not usurp the container from a predecessor. By Sandro Vannini

Here, there are photos of the 1922 dig covering the walls. The sheer astonishment of Carter’s discovery beckons you inside. There’s a well-paced balance between the chaos of Tut’s actual tomb—which looks almost cartoonish in its messiness—and the quiet, golden, pristine displays of Tut’s bounty today. We find items that would have followed the young king into the afterlife: A bed, scarab-studded jewelry, games, a gleaming fan and minions (little statues that represent Tut’s servants). Then there are the golden sandals the Tut mummy wore on his feet and the canopic coffinette that held his mummified stomach.

It’s a huge bounty for DAM, a temporary collection that will likely bring in thousands; surely, many of them will be school children from all over Colorado. Personally, it’s like discovering something distant, ancient and foreign; something you discover only once in a lifetime; or maybe, something you only appreciate once in a lifetime.

Discover more at tutdenver.com.


email no info send march17th/09

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