King Tut’s riches shine in Denver |

King Tut’s riches shine in Denver

summit daily news
Special to the Daliy/Sandro Vannini

Although King Tutankhamun, or “King Tut,” as he’s affectionately known, appears to only have been a minor king in Egypt, a cloak of mystery has surrounded the boy-king, since so little had been verified about his life, including whether he was murdered or died of other causes – until recently.

Relatively new technology, such as robotic exploration, three-dimensional CT scans and DNA research, now points to answers never before possible. In fact, in about a month, experts will reveal significant secrets of the great pyramid, specifically, what lies behind doors never opened, said Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

So far, they’ve already traced Tut’s parents through DNA samples and found out Tut married his half-sister and had two stillborn children. They’ve discovered the father of Tut married his sister, possibly accounting for Tut’s genetic bone disorder.

Last February, after thorough DNA testing, Egyptologists put to rest the 40-year-old theory that his successor, Ay, killed Tut. Since researchers x-rayed Tut’s skull in 1968 and saw damage, people wondered if it was caused by a fall, a blow to the head or the mummification process. But DNA revealed his bone disorder, causing experts to conclude that he died of a combination of malaria and an infected fractured leg.

Though these answers have been publicized, “Tutankhamun’s magic still captures the hearts of people all over the world,” Hawass said.

And the “magic” will benefit both Egypt and Denver economically. For the first time, a portion of Tut ticket sales will help directly fund research, restoration and preservation efforts in Egypt. Locally, economists expect the exhibition to draw $100 million in revenue – aside from ticket sales – in terms of lodging, food and gift purchases from visitors, said Barbara O’Brien, Lt. Governor of Colorado.

“For kids, this is the kind of exhibit that’s going to imprint on their imaginations (feelings and visuals) that will last a lifetime,” O’Brien said.

The first part of the 16,000 square-foot Denver exhibition showcases artifacts of Egyptian pharaohs who reigned both before and after Tutankhamun.

Then, guests enter “King Tut’s tomb,” with four different rooms featuring objects, which date back to early 1300 B.C., Howard Carter discovered in King Tut’s tomb in 1922.

More than 100 artifacts reflect ancient Egyptian times, and like any museum, informational wall plaques and an auditory explanation (the latter of which costs extra) enlighten viewers on specifics. Guests learn more than they might want to know about canopic coffinettes and mummified organs (oddly enough, the Egyptians removed and preserved the liver, stomach, lungs and intestines for use in the afterlife but somehow decided the brain wasn’t necessary). They’ll see pectoral shields with scarabs meant to protect the heart, Tut’s wooden bed (he slept with his feet toward the headboard), an ornately decorated limestone sarcophagus for a sacred deceased cat, models of boats believed to magically turn into life-size vessels for use in the afterlife and plenty of statues meant to ensure pharaohs never had to work in the afterlife (because the statues would also grow to full-size humans, who would act as slaves).

It’s one thing to look at “anonymous” pharaohs’ valuables and quite another to view Tut’s, since most people grew up in awe of, or at least wondering about, the celebrated boy king. The museum displays more than 50 of Tut’s personal belongings, including his (surprisingly large) golden sandals, fashioned specifically for the afterlife, his jewelry and, of course, the small coffins, which held his organs.

Perhaps the most impressive artifact is the 10-foot tall statue, albeit weathered and damaged, of Tut. It is the largest likeness of him ever discovered, and it does seem to exude a powerful presence.

The most disappointing part of the exhibit involves the fact that Tut’s Golden Mask (or Funerary Mask) – intricately adorned with turquoise, lapis, gold and hieroglyphics – is only represented in a miniature version, as a tiny replica preserved his stomach. From the museum’s ads, which depict the Golden Mask, I expected to see the full-body coffin. But apparently, it toured the United States in the 1970s, and now it resides in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. According to the press release, “Because it is so fragile, the Egyptian government has decided that it will not travel with this exhibition.”

And, of course, Tut’s mummy and inner sarcophagus lie in his tomb in the Valley of Kings in Egypt. Neither have traveled outside of Egypt.

Still, the other treasures on display set imaginations a sail.

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