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Australia receives the boy king
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 04 - 11 - 2010

The Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs Exhibition will travel to Australia as part of the Melbourne Winter Masterpiece series, Nevine El-Aref reports
In April 2011 Australians will be able to visit the treasured collection of the boy king Tutankhamun, along with some of the priceless artefacts of his ancestors. It will be the first time for such a collection to be shown in Australia.
Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs has now been touring the globe for six years. It has already travelled around Europe and the United States, and now it will fly to Australia and descend on the Melbourne Museum to enjoy the scenic atmosphere of the Carlton Gardens.
Six months ago the director of the Sydney Museum, Frank Howarth, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the show's $10-million price tag and its size were too big for Australian institutions to handle. However, the Melbourne Museum stepped in to allow the Australian exhibition to go ahead in a joint venture with Victoria State and its major events company, the sports and entertainment management company IMG, and the Australian government.
Stephen Flint Wood, managing director of IMG Arts and Entertainment, said that bringing an exhibition that holds such historical significance throughout the world to Australia for the very first time was a great privilege. He also expressed his gratitude to the Victoria government, the Melbourne Museum, Arts Victoria and Tourism Victoria for making the event possible.
The 140 priceless objects in the exhibition -- 50 of which belonged to Tutankhamun himself -- tell the story of one of the most interesting and perplexing eras in ancient Egyptian history: the period before and during the Pharaoh Tutankhamun's reign 3,300 years ago. Each section showcases the dazzling craftsmanship of the ancient artisans that characterised this fascinating period of history.
Each section of the exhibition will focus on a specific theme, such as "Daily Life in Ancient Egypt", "Traditional Religion" and "Death, Burial and the Afterlife". These build up to the final section which displays Tutankhamun's treasures. These include the five items on tour that were found on the Pharaoh's body when Howard Carter entered his tomb in 1922. The room also includes the visual effect of superimposed items on a projection of Tutankhamun's body to depict where they were positioned when the coffin was opened. All the treasures on show are between 3,300 and 3,500 years old.
The final gallery features scans of Tutankhamun's mummy that were obtained as part of a landmark five-year Egyptian research and conservation project, partially funded by National Geographic, that is examining the ancient mummies of Egypt by CT- scan. The scans were captured through the use of a portable CT scanner donated by Siemens Medical Solutions, which allowed researchers to see through the mummy's wrappings and compile the first three- dimensional picture of Tutankhamun. This is also on display.
Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Melbourne exhibition would contain objects that had never been previously put on display, including a statue of Pharaoh Akhenaten. "This statue is being added to the exhibition as a result of DNA analysis, which proves that Tutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten and the grandson of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye," Hawass added. He continued that the statue depicted Akhenaten in the Amarna style with the physical features of a man and a woman.
Many scholars previously thought that these statues were a realistic depiction of the Pharaoh and that he may have suffered from a disease which caused him to exhibit severe physical deformities. Hawass explained, however, that after the CT scan and DNA analysis carried out by the Egyptian Mummy Project (EMP) it was determined that Akhenaten was a completely healthy individual.
"The statuary of the king represented a religious concept of the Amarna age," Hawass told the Weekly. He pointed out that during this period the Pharaoh was supposed to exhibit the qualities of the Aten, or sun disk, which was both male and female. "I believe that the statues of Akhenaten are not realistic depictions of the Pharaoh," Hawass said.
Pharaoh Tutankhamun's chariot and an impressive 3D replica of his mummy, currently exhibited at New York, will also feature in the Melbourne exhibition. Among the collection on show are artefacts from the tomb of Yuya and Tuya, Tutankhamun's maternal grandparents, the 40-centimetre-high gold coffin that contained the viscera of Tutankhamun, the gold diadem from his mummy, a gold fan featuring an ostrich hunt, a small gold canopic coffin ornamented with faience, a silver trumpet used for religious ceremonies, the gilded wooden sarcophagus of Tuya, the gilded mask of Yuya, the painted wooden throne of Princess Satumun and a carved face of Akhenaten.
The exhibition is one of two featuring the Tutankhamun's spectacular possessions doing the rounds, both sponsored by National Geographic. The second exhibition, Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs is currently at the Denver Art Museum.
Proceeds from all the tours will go towards the construction of the new Grand Egyptian Museum currently being built in the shadow of the Pyramids at Giza. This new museum is expected to be opened to the public at the end of 2012, and the artefacts from Tutankhamun's tomb will be the stars of its collection. Some of the unique artefacts that visitors will see will include a mannequin statue of the boy king, which would have been used in antiquity for hanging ceremonial robes and jewellery, a beautiful gold dagger, a small coffinette used to house one of Tutankhamun's internal organs, and other statues of the Pharaoh.
The exhibition is expected to attract up to 70,000 visitors from all over Australia, and Hawass believes that it will be one of the most important events of 2011. The minister for the arts, Peter Batchelor, also announced in Australian newspapers that Melbourne had seen off a number of international competitors to secure the exclusive exhibition for Australia.
Batchelor says the exhibition is an outstanding cultural coup for Victoria, and is arguably the biggest prize in the global exhibition market.
"Hosting Tutankhamun highlights Melbourne Museum's place as Australia's leading museum," Batchelor said.
Hawass says the exhibition gives a whole new generation a chance to experience the wonders of ancient Egypt. He is encouraging people from all over Australia to come to Melbourne to discover the magic and mystery of the boy king.


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