Exploring the Tomb of Tutankhamun

CAIRO, EGYPT

To this day, the tomb of Tutankhamun remains the most complete representation of the riches enjoyed by ancient Egyptian pharaohs. In order to gain a deeper appreciation of the importance of this discovery, ABC7's Christian Spencer traveled to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, with Dr. Zahi Hawass guiding the way.

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The tour started with learning the significance of the death mask, laden with precious materials like gold and various others. Dr. Zahi Hawass described the mask as the "best unique artifact," an item so precious it cannot travel.

"Can you believe it's made of gold, lapus lazuli, colored glasses and semi-precious stones? It weighs about 35 lbs," he said. "Look at the face, is having the Amarna style, the egg style of the face. In the forehead they have the symbol of Upper and Lower Egypt. It has the full spirit."

He pointed out how the Egyptians tried to make the designs look realistic by adding red paint in the sides of the eyes.

"The beginning of your head is a sun god ray. Your right eye is the night boat. Your left eye is the day boat. Your eyebrow is Enyat," he said reading "magical text" the Egyptians wrote at the end of one mask. "After they say these words they take the mask and they put it on the face of the deceased king. And, after that they pour the ratting material and they put the mask in the golden coffin to live forever."

Dr. Hawass went on to describe the amazing story of the mask's discovery.

"Howard Carter found this mask on the top of the face. He tried to take it out but he couldn't. He brought tools. He made a fire and he took the mask out and he damaged the mummy completely," he said. "And, I myself am saying, if I will, if I'm the archaeologist who discovered this tomb, what I will do? Do I take the mask and I damage the mummy? That's really a big question. But, at the end I said to myself, 'I have to take the mask.'"

The mummy of King Tut was found inside three golden coffins, one inside another, inside another. Walking towards the coffins Dr. Hawass described the "masterpiece" pointing out "the coffin and the symbol of kingship, and all this inscription that can protect the deceased."

The arms of the coffin figure are crossed.

"He's holding something which is the symbol of kingship, the flail and the crook, that are symbol of kingship," Dr. Hawass said. "This room is the gold room. Because I told you, gold in Egypt was like dust, everywhere."

There were three golden coffins inside the big sarcophagus. Near the room containing the coffins was the treasury room which was centered on the Anubis shrine. Dr. Hawass explained that the Jackal God was there to guard King Tut until he could be safe.

When Tutankhamun was mummified his organs were removed and placed in special individual containers made from alabaster. Dr. Hawass said they put everything in the stomach except the heart.

"The heart was a place of knowledge. And, the brain" he said. "Actually the mummy of Tutankhamun is the only mummy now of the dynasty 18 mummies that they did cat scan and the brain was not there. All the other mummies the brain was there."

The identities of two mummified fetuses found inside the tomb of the remain one of the most compelling mysteries surrounding Tutankhamun. Dr. Hawass explained that one is seven-months-old and the other is five-months-old.

"And, when they were studied by the team of Howard Carter, some people thought that this could be the children of Tut. We are really working right now on that," he said.

DNA testing is now being conducted to determine whose children they were.

"My theory... I hope that I'm wrong because I really want those to be the children of King Tut. I thought in modern Egypt, today, when an old man die and one week later a boy born die, they take the boy and they put him in the tomb, thinking that this man will be pure in the afterlife like the child. And, I think this could be for King Tut. But I hope that I am mistaken," Dr. Hawass said.

The fetuses could have been the children of Tutankhamun. Or, they could have been placed in his tomb so the innocence of their short lives might purify the soul of a young pharaoh in death.

Amongst the 5,398 artifacts at the museum, Dr. Hawass enthusiastically directed the tour towards the throne.

"This throne is actually incredible. Look at the king and the queen. She's leaning on him with love and affection. And, that chair was made when he was a king at Amarna, because the name Tutankhatun is written," he said. "Then, he's going to sit in the throne and underneath his feet are the nine bows, the nine enemies of Egypt. Then when he sits in this throne he's controlling the two land, upper and lower Egypt. And, his feet are having the nine enemies of Egypt under him.

He went on to further describe the "unique masterpiece."

"If you look, the body and the movement, it's an Amarna style," Dr. Hawass said. "They're under the sun disk. The cartouches are with the name Tutankhamun, and changed it to be Tutankhamen. And, that's really what captured the hearts of people all over the world."

Dr. Hawass recalled that the piece has traveled at one time, but cannot travel again because of its weight. It is 37 lb of gold.

Resources and exhibit information:

>> The Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharoahs Exhibit
The de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park
Opens June 27, 2009 and runs through March, 2010
Tickets & info: http://www.famsf.org/deyoung

>> King Tutankhamun and the work of Dr. Zahi Hawass: http://www.drhawass.com

>> The King Tut exhibit and its return to San Francisco: http://tutsanfrancisco.org

>> Timeline of events in Ancient Egypt

>> Suggested reading: The Discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen by Howard Carter and A.C. Mace
>> Buy the book on Amazon

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