Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs Press Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Nancy O'Shea
(312) 665-7103 (For Media Use Only)
Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs
May 26, 2006 through January 1, 2007
For more than 3,000 years they lay unseen beneath the Egyptian sands: gleaming treasures of gold and semi-precious jewels; statues and chests of breathtaking artistry; magical amulets and articles of ancient life; the mummified body of a young pharaoh.
When the British archaeologist Howard Carter uncovered the remarkably preserved tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, he created a worldwide sensation. When the boy king's riches toured the world in 1977, the term "blockbuster exhibition" was born. Now a new exhibition, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, offers visitors a chance to see fabulous new treasures and to enter the world that gives them meaning: 250 years that marked the pinnacle of ancient Egypt's culture, wealth, and imperial power.
As those who saw the earlier exhibition can attest, coming face-to-face with the treasures of King Tut is an encounter not soon forgotten. Visitors to the new exhibition, twice the size of the original, will have an even broader and deeper experience. They'll see more than 130 ancient artifacts—of gold and silver, jewels and semi-precious stones, alabaster and gilded wood—excavated from the tomb of Tutankhamun and other royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings. They'll learn about life and death in ancient Egypt, and the intimate relationship between the two. And they'll discover what the latest technologies are revealing about how the young king may have died.
Tutankhamun has been organized by National Geographic, Arts and Exhibitions International, and AEG Exhibitions in association with The Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt and The Field Museum. The tour is sponsored by Northern Trust. Its Chicago sponsor is Exelon, proud parent of ComEd.
The Chicago exhibition is the third stop on a four city U.S. tour that includes Los Angeles, Ft. Lauderdale, and Philadelphia as well. Like the original 1977 exhibition, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs has generated widespread excitement and record attendance in each of the cities that have presented the exhibition to date.
Treasures Unimagined and Untouched
Howard Carter had spent five years searching the Valley of the Kings for the tomb of the storied Tutankhamun. His funding was coming to an end, but he persuaded his patron, Lord Carnarvon, to support his work for one more season. That was all it took. A few days after digging began again, a young water-carrier put his hand on a stone step.
"It was a spectacular discovery—a tomb untouched since antiquity, its inner sanctum never looted by tomb robbers," says James L. Phillips, Acting Curator of the Near East and North Africa at The Field Museumand Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Chicago. The only tomb of its era found intact, it was also, Phillips notes, the first major discovery in the age of easy worldwide communication. That, along with rumors of a mysterious curse, helped make Tut the most popular of the pharaohs.
But there is no denying the allure of the treasure itself. More than 5,000 beautifully preserved artifacts were found in Tut's tomb, and the 50 selected for this exhibition—along with more than 70 from other royal tombs—are among the most breathtaking objects of ancient Egypt. Only a few of these were in the original exhibition, and many have never before traveled outside Egypt.
Among the dazzling artifacts on display are a gold diadem, inlaid with semi-precious stones, that graced the boy king's head in life and death; a miniature gold coffin, in Tut's image, that held his inner organs; and a gold dagger, wrapped with his mummy to protect him in the afterlife. A wooden bust shows the king as a young and very human figure, while exquisite gilded statuettes portray him as the ruler of all Egypt. A small shrine of wood covered in gold and silver is engraved with tender scenes of Tutankhamun and his young wife. And most poignant of all is a child-size throne of ebony and ivory inset with gold.
Though less well known, the treasures from other royal tombs are equally spectacular, especially those from the tomb of Yuya and Tjuya, believed to be Tut's great-grandparents. Tjuya's coffin is a stunning sight, covered in a bright reddish gold inlaid with colored glass that forms her broad collar. Another fascinating artifact comes from the tomb of Amenhotep II: a model boat, shaped like the royal barge and painted a bluish green, the color of life reborn. In such a celestial boat the soul of the pharaoh would travel the heavens with the sun god, dying each night and resurrected each morning with the rising sun.
Behind the Treasures, the Story of a Mighty Civilization
Tutankhamun reveals ancient Egypt as a land of artistic and spiritual richness as well as material wealth. "Like the earlier exhibition, this one is filled with beautiful objects," James Phillips says. "But now we also have the context that gives those objects meaning—the history, religion, ideals, and daily life of the people the objects were made for."
Tutankhamun tells the fascinating story of Egypt's 18th dynasty, the golden age of the pharaohs. It was the height of Egyptian culture, wealth, and power: the empire extended from Libya to Gaza, from Syria to Sudan; art and literature flourished, and architecture and technology advanced. But Tut was born into an era of great cultural upheaval: his father, Akhenaten, had replaced the worship of many gods with a radical new monotheistic religion, only to have it overturned by Tutankhamun's advisors soon after the old king's death.Visitors will learn much about Tut's family and his royal predecessors, and about the pervasive connections between religious beliefs and daily life in ancient Egypt.
"Religion, and its emphasis on the afterlife, contoured every aspect of Egyptian society," Phillips explains. "Just think about where all these objects came from: tombs. Ancient Egyptians spent their lives accumulating objects they would need to carry on in the afterlife—furniture, jewelry, games, weapons, amulets, canopic jars to store the organs where the soul resides. And of course, offerings for the gods. You could say they lived to die."
It's a fascinating story, and no one tells it better than The Field Museum and its staff of archaeologists and anthropologists. Our own long-standing exhibition, Inside Ancient Egypt, enhances the Tutankhamun exhibition with an immersion in the culture, including a walk-through tomb complex, interactive Nile Valley, colorful marketplace, and 23 mummies.
The Mystery Remains
Tutankhamun's early death has long been shrouded in mystery. He had ruled for about ten years, and was scarcely out of his teens when he died—unexpectedly, to judge by the relatively small and simple tomb in which his mummified body was buried. X-rays taken in 1968 suggested to some that he might have been killed by a blow to the head. But the exhibition offers a series of recent, more detailed CT scans that show no signs of trauma. The mystery remains.
The CT video brings visitors closer to the mystery—and the science—through a "virtual autopsy" of Tut's mummy. (The mummy itself remains in the Valley of the Kings.) They'll also see a newly commissioned bust, offering a life-like interpretation of Tutankhamun based on the CT scan. In a large display, "The Faces of Tut," visitors can compare that version with photographs of two other busts made from the scan, and with images drawn from the art they've seen throughout the exhibition.
The scanning of Tut's mummy is part of a landmark, five-year Egyptian research and conservation project, partially funded by National Geographic, that will CT-scan the ancient mummies of Egypt. The portable CT scanner used was donated by Siemens AG and National Geographic.
"There have been a number of conflicting theories about what Tut looked like," says Senior Project Manager David Foster. "This will give visitors an opportunity to see first-hand how scientific knowledge and interpretations develop over time."
Additional Information on King Tut
A companion book, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, and children's book, Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Boy King, both by Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, are available in the Museum Store. An audio tour narrated by Omar Sharif will be available for $6 for the general public, $5 for members, students, and children.
Tickets to Tutankhamun are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and students with ID, $16 for children 4-11. These prices include Museum admission. Discounts are available for Chicago residents. Visit www.fieldmuseum.org or call (312) 922-9410 for details. (Note: A significant percentage of the visitor fees will go to underwrite projects to rescue Egypt's crumbling monuments and to conserve and display its great collection of antiquities.)
To purchase tickets visit fieldmuseum.org. Special rates are available for tour operators and groups of 15 or more. Call our Group Sales office toll-free at 888-FIELD-85 (888-343-5385).
Hours and General Information
The Field Museum is open every day except Christmas Day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (open 8 a.m. May 26 through Labor Day). Last tickets are sold at 4 p.m. For general Museum information call (312) 922-9410 or visit our interactive web site at www.fieldmuseum.org.
Location and Travel Information
The Field Museum is located at 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, on CTA bus lines #6, #12, and #146, and close to the Metra electric and South Shore lines. An indoor parking garage is just steps from the main entrance. For more travel information, call the Illinois Department of Transportation, (312) 368-4636, or the RTA Travel Center Hotline, (312) 836-7000.