See wonders of the ancient world in Seattle

  • By Jocelyn Robinson, Weekly Herald news editor
  • Thursday, May 24, 2012 10:47am

Not everyone can travel to Egypt to take in the splendors of that ancient civilization.

Lucky for us, some of those splendors have made their way to the Pacific Northwest.

“Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” at the Pacific Science Center features more than 100 artifacts from the pharaohs and from the tomb of the boy king himself.

“The artifacts span over 2,000 years of Egyptian history,” said John Norman, president of Arts and Exhibitions International, which helped mount the exhibit.

More than 1 million people made their way to the Seattle Art Museum when King Tut first stopped by Seattle in 1978. So far, more than 90,000 advance tickets have been sold for this current exhibit.

Kathryn Keane, vice president of exhibitions for the National Geographic Society, said the exhibit is an opportunity for people who saw the 1978 exhibit as children to now bring their own children.

“It definitely has multi-generational appeal,” Keane said.

The journey into Egypt’s past starts with an introduction to Tutankhamun’s political lineage, the pharaohs of the ancient world. When you first enter the exhibit, you’ll be greeted by the statue of King Khafre. If he looks familiar, there’s a reason: his face adorns the world-famous Sphinx.

From the gallery of the pharaohs, you’ll wander past Egypt’s queens and the families of the pharaohs, learn about the deities the Egyptians worshipped and see the golden riches amassed by this fascinating civilization.

The highlight of the pharaoh’s gold gallery is the golden death mask of Psusennes I, which covered the mummy’s head and chest. The mask was excavated more than 70 years ago in Tanis, one of largest archaeological sites of ancient Egypt.

Other wonders on display include beautiful jewelry made of gold and semi-precious stones, the one-of-a-kind sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose’s pet cat, and the colossal statues of Tutankhamun and Amenhotep IV.

The riches of Tutankhamun’s tomb – which archaeologist Howard Carter described as “wonderful things” when he discovered the burial site in 1922 – are on display in the second half of the exhibit. About 5,000 objects were found in the tomb, which had remained relatively undisturbed during the long centuries between Tutankhamun’s death and Carter’s discovery.

In these galleries you’ll see artifacts that speak to Tut’s status, from the gold canopic coffinette that once held his stomach to the gold sandals that Carter found on the mummy’s feet. But there are also items that show the real person behind the legendary king: a wooden bed with legs carved into cat’s paws that he slept in and a game the young king played as a child.

Mohamed Ibrahim, Egypt’s minister of antiquities, commented on how Egypt was writing a new chapter in its long history with the country’s first democratic elections this week.

Ibrahim, who was in Seattle for the exhibit, encouraged Americans to visit Egypt in order to see these symbols of the nation in their full context.

“Every piece of this collection cannot be seen alone,” separated from the buildings, tombs and temples of Egypt, he said.

Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs

Where: Pacific Science Center, 200 Second Ave. N, Seattle

When: Through Jan. 6, 2013

Tickets: Mon-Thurs: $27.50 adults, $24.50 seniors, $16.50 youth 6-15, $15.50 child 3-5, $24.50 student with ID; Fri-Sun and holidays: $32.50 adults, $29.50 seniors, $21.50 youth 6-15, $20.50 child 3-5, $29.50 student with ID

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