Tutankhamun treasures on exhibition
Cape Town - It took Egyptologist Howard Carter years to painstakingly excavate Tutankhamun’s tomb after its discovery in 1922. The stone sarcophagus was so heavy, he had to leave it behind in the tomb in the Valley of the Kings where Tutankhamun’s mummy was re-interred in 2010.
Today, it takes a 15-member crew four days to dismantle a replica tomb exhibit on tour in South Africa and 14 days to put it back together again – plus a day to unload.
Astrid Arnold, project manager for SC Exhibitions, says luckily none of the almost 1 000 items broke on the overnight trip by 11 container trucks from Joburg to Cape Town, where it will be exhibited as Tutankhamun – His Tomb and His Treasures at GrandWest Casino from Tuesday.
The sarcophagi, burial items like canopic jars, furniture and even a chariot were crafted to scale in a Cairo workshop over a five-year process of relearning ancient crafting techniques and extensive visits to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to faithfully replicate the original items.
The first exhibit opened in Switzerland in 2008 and now, in addition to the one in Cape Town, there is one in Munich and another travelling through the US.
This particular exhibition incorporates video and you move through it to an audio track. The first section of the exhibition situates the boy king’s tomb geographically vis-à-vis other tombs.
There is also a replica of the Rosetta Stone, creating the link to how we can now read hieroglyphics. “You don’t have to know anything about Egypt; the audio guide tells you everything you need to know,” says Arnold.
The movie about Howard Carter explains how he found the chambers and then you move through the exhibit on your own, exploring the three chambers and items you just saw in the short movie.
Arnold is an Egyptologist who started off as a guide at a Tutankhamun exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany and worked her way up to being project manager for this South African exhibition.
Charlotte Damgaard, marketing director of Great World Exhibitions explained: “The thing about seeing the exhibit in Egypt, which, if you could afford to go, is the most amazing thing, is that everything is located in different areas.
“So if you go to the tomb, you’ll see some of the wall painting, but not much else. A lot of it is in the Cairo Museum, but it’s also spread around.
“There’s no other place to see the full replica of the chambers, and without that, it’s hard to visualise how these items were put one inside the other…
“There is nowhere else in the world where you can get the story, and that’s why it appeals to everyone,” says Damgaard.
“I don’t think there’s many other ways you can inspire children.
“When you’re a child it’s hard to get that reverence for a piece that is 3 000 years old, but when you see it you can imagine it, the mythology behind it and the beautiful hieroglyphics and you can get much closer.”
l Tutankhamun – His Tomb and His Treasures runs at SunExhibits at GrandWest from Tuesday to September 27. Tickets are R100-R160, with a special discounted family package of four tickets at R440. Entry for children under six is free.
For more information and to buy tickets, see www.tut-exhibition.co.za.
Theresa Smith, Cape Argus