While Egypt was holding its first presidential election on May 23, a small Egyptian delegation was attending a media preview in Seattle of Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs. The exhibition, which opened at the Pacific Science Center on May 24, is the final showing on a North American tour that started in 2008.
The exhibition will be in Seattle through Jan. 6, 2013 and after that, well, you’ll have to fly to Egypt to see the artifacts and objects that span 2,000 years.
The exhibition was organized by National Geographic and Arts & Exhibitions International, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. Locally, it’s sponsored by Seattle’s Convention & Visitors Bureau, with Seattle’s Northern Trust as a cultural partner.
I was one of 1.3 million people who stood in a long line for Seattle Art Museum’s King Tut exhibition at Seattle Center’s Flag Pavilion in 1978. Thirty-four years later, King Tut has moved slightly south, tucked in under the arches of the Pacific Science Center. Organizers are promising no long lines, as it’s a timed-ticket exhibition that allows people to select the date and time they wish to visit. Prior to Thursday’s opening, 90,000 tickets had already been sold, and school field trips are booked through the fall.
According to organizers, the majority of the proceeds from the four-year touring exhibition will go toward support and preservation of antiquities and monuments in Egypt, which includes construction of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza.
Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim Aly Sayed, Egyptian Minister of Antiquities and chief of the Egyptian delegation, spoke to the media in the Pacific Science Center’s PACCAR Theater on Wednesday morning. “In Egypt today, it is the first free election in the country after the Jan. 25 revolution,” he said to the crowd. He invited the media and other guests to visit Egypt.
“We need you to come once more to our country,” said Aly Sayed. “Egypt is safe and secure. Please, we need your help to support our revolution to democracy.”
Tutankhamum: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs begins in a small gallery with a short film narrated by Harrison Ford, who invites listeners to travel back in time to “the greatest archaeological discovery of all time.” Once through the double doors, there are ten more galleries, where you can listen to more Indiana Jones (“Hello, I’m Harrison Ford”) with an audio guide narrated by the Oscar nominee (an additional $6). The exhibition features 149 artifacts, nearly triple the number on display in 1978. And only two of those are “repeats,” or those that were in the previous King Tut exhibition. The artifacts are from the tomb of King Tut and sites that represent some of the most important rulers during 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history.
Among the highlights is the largest unearthed image of King Tut — a 10-foot statue of the pharaoh found at the remains of a funerary temple of two of his high officials. There are also objects from King Tut’s tomb that include jewelry, furniture and statuary -— along with the boy king’s golden sandals. They were created specifically for the afterlife, and were still covering his feet when the mummified remains were discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. Among my favorite objects are the Funerary Mask of Psusennes I, a golden mask that covered the head, chest, and upper shoulders, and the Colossal Statue of Tutankhamun. The most recently discovered objects are statues of Inty-Shedu, unearthed by Dr. Zahi Hawass and his team in 1992.
When Howard Carter discovered the tomb in 1922, his response was, “Everywhere, the glint of gold.” So yes, there’s an official Exhibition Gift Shop (10 percent of sales go to Egypt), located at the exit, just past the two Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyph machines. That’s where I spent my money. Just put in a dollar bill, type your name, and out comes a print — your very own cartouche!
If you go: Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, Pacific Science Center, adults $27.50 (Monday-Thursday) to $32.50 (Friday-Sunday), tickets and details here.