A Visit with King Tutankhamen

Steve Martin, not King Tut

You’ve probably heard the name King Tut, and perhaps, like me, one of the first things that comes to mind is Steve Martin’s wild and crazy song and dance back in 1978. But, you knew at some level there really was a King Tut, he was from Egypt, fairly young and . . . OK, maybe that’s about it. If that’s the case, come with me now as I go back in time over 3,000 years, and it seemed that way as I slugged my way through L.A. traffic to see the latest exhibit of King Tut at Exhibition Park, next to the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Our first stop is the seven-story screen of the IMAX Theater showing The Mysteries of Egypt. Stay with me, as it’s only about 20 minutes long and it’s actually very interesting, even if Egyptology isn’t your thing. The film tells the story of why King Tut’s tomb was so hard to find. Prior to his death in 1323 B.C. Egypt buried their Pharaohs inside massive pyramids, but since they also buried many treasures with them, so they could have them in their ‘after-life’, burglars were able to easily find these treasures and use them in ‘now life’ – as you can probably figure out, the pyramids weren’t that hard for the burglars to locate. So they started burying their Pharaohs out in the vast desert known as the Valley of the Kings.

After five unsuccessful archaeological trips to Egypt to find Tut’s burial place, the sixth time was the charm for British archaeologist, Howard Carter, who unearthed the buried tomb in 1922.

Valley of the Kings

After the movie and before we go into the exhibit hall, we need a quick crash course on the amazing story of this ‘boy king’. You think politics is crazy now, here’s some stuff that was going on in the 1330s B.C.:

  • King Tut’s mother was his father’s sister
  • He became king of Egypt at the age of 9
  • He married that year to his half-sister, a 13-year old named Ankhesenpaaten, who later changed her name to Ankhesenamun, obviously to make the spelling of her name easier. Legos, Playstation and a new bicycle were items on their wedding gift list.
  • They had two stillborn daughters – one at 5 months, the other at 9 months (How do they know that stuff????)
  • He really didn’t rule, he had ‘handlers’ who made all the decisions

He wasn’t really what one might see as a majestic royal figure. He was slight of build, large front incisors, with an overbite, a slightly cleft palate, irregular curvature of the spine and a fused neck. He had a clubbed left foot, which necessitated a cane for walking most of his life. DNA samples of his bones show that he had the first known infectious malaria disease.  Other than that he was a picture of health.

He died when he was 18, but how he died has been the subject of a lot of speculation – there are at least 5 working theories:

  1. Murdered – he (and/or his handlers) had lots of enemies
  2. An accident – probably murder made to look like an accident
  3. Sickle cell disease – due to his abnormally shaped red blood cells
  4. Gangrene from an infection from a broken leg
  5. Congenital conditions coming as a child of incest

It seems strange to me that we know the gestation period of his wife’s two stillborn children, but don’t have a clue as to how he died!  Keep digging!!

King Tut’s Burial Mask

Oh yes, on to the Exhibit Hall; actually after reading about the search for his tomb and his interesting life, the actual artifacts found in his tomb, many on display here, are a little less interesting to me. Don’t get me wrong, there are some beautiful pieces, over 5,000 of them were found in the tomb, things like furniture, jewelry, chariots, food and of course his golden coffin and the iconic mask.

If you go . . . The exhibit will be here until January 2019; if you go during the school year you’ll be accosted by thousands of L.A. elementary school children on a field trip as I was, yelling, fighting and throwing food – I’d go during the summer or on a weekend, but I’d go.  Another tip, when you go to the gift shop don’t by the King Tut CD, he recorded it before his voice changed and he sounds more like Cleopatra.

4 comments on “A Visit with King Tutankhamen

  1. Fascinating! I saw a partial exhibit at a museum in Egypt…the rest was traveling! Your history lesson was better than our guides!

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