It's official. The Boy King is back in The Bay. It's been 30 years since the record-breaking Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibit hit San Francisco, and now Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs is ready to reign supreme at the de Young.
Featuring 130 artifacts, several of which are unique to the San Francisco exhibition, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs is more than just your average, stop-and-study museum experience. Filled with surprisingly intimate details of Egypt's 18th dynasty, the experience is more like uncovering juicy details of a tangled family tree than learning about ancient history. As you maneuver through the dimly lit chambers and peruse the shockingly preserved personal possessions, it's easy to imagine you're discovering the famous pharaoh's tomb yourself.
While King Tut certainly steals the show, some of the exhibit's more striking artifacts belong to his kin. The Gilded Coffin of Tjuya illuminates one of the darkest chambers, casting a breathtaking, golden glow throughout the room. Seeing the standard, Hollywood reinterpretation of Egyptian legacy is one thing, seeing the real thing up close and personal is quite another. Two objects that are new to the exhibition since its 2005 presentation are diminutive, nested fetal coffinettes which held the remains of two female fetuses, thought to be King Tut's stillborn daughters (the remains are currently undergoing DNA analysis and the results should be announced soon). To non-scholars, the startling bit of heartbreaking family history is pretty stirring, and the sheer size of the tiny caskets is mind-boggling.
As for King Tut himself, he's undergone some interesting changes in the past 30 years. According to Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass, the king's mummy underwent a CT-scan, and the tomb is being laser scanned in order to replicate the relics, and preserve them from environmental damage. In a passionate introduction to the exhibit, Dr. Hawass proclaimed that coming face to face with the boy king was "the most beautiful moment of my life." After seeing just a few of the awe-inspiring artifacts of Tut and his royal family, it's easy to see why.
Check out the treasures for yourself when Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs opens to the public, this Saturday, June 27, at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118, www.deyoungmuseum.org, 415.750.3600.
Top image: Gilded Coffin of Tjuya. Dynasty 18, reign of Amenhotep III (1390-1353 BC) Gilded wood. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. CG 51006. Photo: McMillan Group.
Bottom Image: Nested Fetus Coffins. Dynasty 18, reign of Tutankhamun (1332-1322 BC). Wood, gypsum, gold. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. Carter 317b and 317b (1). Photo: Kenneth Garrett © 2008/National Geographic.