Tutankhamun exhibition returns to Brussels, marking 100th anniversary of tomb’s discovery
The glitzy travelling exhibition Tutankhamun: his tomb and his treasures rolls into Brussels, ready to thrill with its dazzling display of the Egyptian king’s astonishing riches at Tour & Taxis.
It’s a repeat show of the one first presented in the capital 11 years ago, but with new interactive exhibits of the pharaoh’s reconstructed burial chamber.
After touring 40 cities and attracting an audience of more than seven million, the exhibition is aimed at appealing to a new generation of visitors.
The arrival in Belgium marks the centenary of the tomb’s discovery, considered to be one of the most pivotal archaeological finds of all time. It also honours the bicentenary of the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone by Jean-François Champollion, which unlocked Egyptian history by enabling hieroglyphs to be read. A replica of the famous stone is fittingly on display.
As the most complete exhibition in the world dedicated to life in ancient Egypt, it’s an opportunity to view hundreds of perfectly reconstructed objects and breathtaking decorations. The treasures were buried to accompany the king into the afterlife more than 3,300 years ago.
Tutankhamun, the last pharaoh of the illustrious 18th dynasty, ascended the throne at the age of nine and died at 18 after suffering from numerous ailments. His short reign almost remained unknown to the world; his tomb so well hidden it escaped being ransacked.
Yet, 100 years ago, British archeologist and explorer Howard Carter discovered the burial chamber almost intact. It was filled with thousands of beautiful objects, including his sarcophagus, a coffin that was fashioned from 110 kgs of solid gold.
As well as meticulously recreated objects, the show also displays Carter’s personal notes and diaries. Visitors get to experience a selection of the 2,800 extraordinary photos on glass slides, taken by Harry Burton of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art during the first excavations.
In a short film of the historic find, it’s possible to see the first chamber as it was discovered. The recreated treasures fill a 3,000m2 gallery space, crafted by accomplished Egyptian artists working under rigorous supervision. They include the king’s golden chariot, his jewellery, the chapels surrounding the three sarcophagi and more prosaic objects such as his sandals painted with images of his vanquished foes.
The original treasures now have a permanent home at Giza’s new Grand Egyptian Museum. Scientific advisor and Egyptian archeologist Zahi Hawass explains: “The exhibition is a great opportunity to discover, through these recreations, objects which will no longer leave Egypt.”
Asked to select his personal favourite, he responds: “Each piece in the show is a master object since each is unique but for me, the most touching object is the golden funerary mask of the king. It’s an unequaled masterpiece in the history of archeology, created by a supremely gifted artist.”
Dr Hawass will be giving a lecture this autumn as part of a programme of events surrounding the exhibition. An audio guide is available in two versions, one for children and one for adults.