King Tut Exhibit Arrives In San Diego
Maureen Cavanaugh: This is KPBS midday edition I’m Maureen Cavanaugh. The discovery of King Tut's tomb was one of the greatest archeological finds of the 20th century. And now, an exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum allows visitors to become virtual archeologists, viewing an exact recreation of the tomb and its opulent contents. It's a big show for the Natural History Museum and one that is meant as a showcase during the Balboa Park Centennial celebration. I’d like to welcome my guests Dr. Michael Hager is Chief Executive Officer of the San Diego Natural History. And welcome to the show. Dr. Michael Hager: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here. Maureen Cavanaugh: Dr. David Silverman is a renowned Egyptologist and one of the main consultants on the Discovery of King Tut exhibit. And welcome to the program. Thanks for being here. Dr. David Silverman: Thank you very much. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now, Michael Hager, people may remember the treasures of Tutankhamen tour in the U.S. about thirty years ago. It displayed genuine artifact from King Tut’s tomb. This exhibition is made out of replicas. Why is that? Dr. Michael Hager: Well first of all I saw those exhibitions back in the 70’s, and they were impressive, but there were only about 50 objects in those, and they were pretty much treated as art objects. This exhibition is of replicas, but, and David can speak to this as well, scientifically reproduced replicas that give context to those pieces. So whereas they had 50 pieces we’ve got over a thousand. And you see them in the context of Howard Carter’s discovery. So you get to see this, the chambers in the tomb that are just piled up like my garage at home with stuff everywhere. An you get to see it at the moment of discovery, and it’s kind of a personal discovery for each person. Maureen Cavanaugh: And it isn’t it true that Egypt is really not allowing those artifacts out of Egypt anymore, the artifacts that were found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. Dr. Michael Hager: That’s correct. And maybe David can speak to that point as well. Maureen Cavanaugh: There are replicas as Mich was saying are scientifically produced reconstructions. What does that actually mean? Dr. David Silverman: Well that’s sort of scary, because you envision lasers and a variety of technological expertise that’s gone on in the last couple of years. And I do work for, I’m a curator at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia and we’ve actually utilized this type of process for another reason not basically for exhibition. But these are replicas, they are done by an artist, they are produced not by a machine but by local artists in Egypt and then it’s overseen by an Egyptologist, a German Egyptologist. So we’re talking about the recreation of artifacts, which is really very different and so I like to think of them of having some warmth to them rather than cold machine kind of thing. And I really do understand the difference, first of all I work with 42,000 Egyptian objects that we have, but also I was the curator of the first King Tut exhibit, that was my first job. So I remember what that exhibit was like and I remember setting it up, and yes we wanted to have some context and yes there was a long corridor that you walked into. But then it was a display of magnificent artifacts and the isolation of them in certain areas was to help you get close to the artifacts and to have feelings about them and emotions. In this exhibit it brings you this more of a reaction of the self and when Mich talked about the discovery and you mentioned the discovery. This is an essential part of the exhibit and it’s a very hard thing to do, because of the amount of space you need, the recreation of the environments. So it’s not just a sense of the environment, it’s the actual environment. And to me that’s the major difference. Maureen Cavanaugh: Now, Michael Hager you were talking about the way this exhibit is set up and it’s not presenting these pieces, not all of them as individuals work of art. But I think many people are familiar with those photographs of Howard Carted and when the tomb was first just opened and everything was just piled as you say, like in a garage. Is this how visitors are going to be experiencing the recreations in this exhibit? Dr. Michael Hager: Yes, and as a matter of fact there’s a short theater performance right before you go in. You actually get to see these actual photos and you get to see what it was like when Carter knocked a hole on the wall and then stuck a little candle through and Lord Carnarvon said “can you see anything?” And he said “yes, wonderful things”. You get to kind of feel that yourself and then so all these are all piled up, chariots in pieces piled up and then individually you get to see them in their completeness, separate from their tomb. So you really get an understanding of what it was all about. Maureen Cavanaugh: David Silverman let’s talk about King Tut for a minute. Pharaoh Tutankhamen is probably the most well known ancient Egyptian ruler in popular culture. Where does he rank in Egyptian history? Dr. David Silverman: Well, if you look at the ancient Egyptian king lists, they kept records of their rulers, his name does not occur on them. And it’s because he was unknown, he was part of a religious revolution that took place directed by his father Akhenaten, and neither one of them were beloved for what the did. And even though Tutankhamen brought back and restored the traditional religion, those two kings and the one who followed, who was also considered part of it, their names were left out of every single record afterwards and every time their names occurred on monuments, they were destroyed. Maureen Cavanaugh: And he’s often been referred to as the boy king, he died as a teenager I believe, and there’s been some speculation about the way he died. What’s the latest thinking on that? For a while people were sort of hyping this up, “he must’ve been murdered in some royal coup” Dr. David Silverman: Well, a lot of that speculation has been proved incorrect by recent scientific studies. The dark spot on the x-rays on the base of the head turned out to be what is called an artifact or a result of the embalming process. And so that’s clear he didn’t die from foul play, I mean, unless you’re going to say poisoning, which is impossible to prove at late date. But recent DNA studies and recent blood studies and cat scans have shown that he probably had an advanced state of malaria, he had bone necrosis. He probably walked with a limp, which might account for all of the canes in his tomb, but there were all this information plus the fact that he had a fracture, a compound fracture, and the x-rays show that the skin had not healed yet, which means he probably died shortly after that and possibly through blood poisoning. So all these things seem to be much more likely. Maureen Cavanaugh: As David Silverman has been explaining, there is an audiovisual aspect to the exhibition that allows visitors to learn about King Tut in the context of his time, and also in the context of the ancient Egyptian religion isn’t that right Mike? Dr. Michael Hager: That’s correct and everybody who comes into the exhibition gets a headphone so there’s an audio tour in English and in Spanish and an adult tour and a child’s tour. There’s an AV introduction. There’s audiovisual components throughout the exhibition and then we also are showing a movie, Mummies 3D Secrets of the Pharaohs in our theater, which gives some a background, not of King Tut but other pharaohs and the mummification process. So there are a lot of opportunity there. Maureen Cavanaugh: I was just going to mention that the Discovery King Tut exhibit is open now, it opened last weekend. The Natural History Museum shows this exhibition to coincide with Balboa Park Centennial celebration. Why choose this one? Dr. Michael Hager: As part of the centennial exhibition we were given a grant to look at international blockbuster kinds of exhibition for this centennial. I flew to Germany and I saw this exhibition and I saw the body worlds of animals exhibition as well. This one just struck me as very significant, and I had seen as I mentioned earlier, Tut exhibitions, and this one seemed to me to be more from the archeological point of view, more of the history, and, you ought to get a kick out of this, being KPBS, Lord Carnarvon from Highclere Castle Downton Abbey, funded Carter in the expedition. Maureen Cavanaugh: So there are all these links to KPBS in San Diego, that’s interesting. I want to let everyone know Discovery King Tut exhibit is up now at the San Diego Natural History Museum and it will continue there through April. I have been speaking to Dr. Michael Hager Chief Executive Officer of the San Diego Natural History Museum and David Silverman who was one of the main consultants on this Discovery of King Tut exhibit. Thank you both very much. Dr. Michael Hager: You’re certainly welcome.
The discovery of King Tut's tomb was one of the greatest archeological finds of the 20th century. And now, an exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum allows visitors to become virtual archeologists, viewing an exact recreation of the tomb and its opulent contents.
It's a big show for the Natural History Museum and one that is meant as a showcase during the Balboa Park Centennial celebration.