The treasures of King Tut will go on display in this country for the first time in a quarter century in an exhibit featuring the ancient ruler’s gold crown, carved dagger and a massive gold and cloisonne necklace.
“Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaoh” will include about 130 of the 5,000 Egyptian artifacts found in King Tut’s tomb. The last time a similar exhibit toured the country, in 1976-1979, 55 items were displayed.
“Now Tutankhamun is back, giving a new generation the chance to learn firsthand about the life and magic of this ancient monarch,” Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said.
King Tut ascended to the throne at about age 8 and died around 1323 B.C. at 17. Some archaeologists have speculated that he was murdered because a 1968 X-ray found bone fragments in his skull.
Hawass worked with National Geographic to obtain permission from the Egyptian parliament to display the artifacts. Money raised will help pay for the country’s massive new archaeology museum, a children’s museum and for preservation of the Pyramids, Sphinx and other national treasures.
The decision to allow the exhibit to travel marked the reversal of a policy set in the 1980s that confined most of the objects to Egypt, after several pieces were damaged during an international tour.
Hawass said he hoped the show would provide understanding of ancient Egypt while improving ties between that country and the United States.
The exhibit, which has already been staged in Germany and Switzerland, will make its U.S. debut at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on June 16 and run through Nov. 15. It will feature displays of gold objects along with exhibits on death and the beyond and an interactive room on the discovery of King Tut’s tomb.
The exhibition will travel to the Museum of Art in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in December 2005, Chicago’s Field Museum in May 2006 and a fourth museum yet to be identified. It will then head to London’s Dome of the Millennium. Hawass said negotiations are underway with Japan to show the exhibit.
Tickets for the Los Angeles exhibit will range from $6 for school groups to $30 for adult weekend tickets. The prices are being set by exhibition backers Anschutz Entertainment Group, which developed the downtown Staples Center, and Arts and Exhibitions International.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which helped organize the first tour of King Tut’s treasures, decided against hosting the exhibit because it said it did not want to charge visitors a separate admission fee.
The Met’s “17-year-old policy of not charging visitors to see special exhibitions should be maintained,” museum spokesman Harold Holzer said Wednesday.
Exhibit organizers defended the price of tickets, noting that most of the money will go toward preservation of artifacts in Egypt. Tickets averaged about $12 for the 1970s exhibit in Los Angeles, which was significantly smaller than the current show, said Tim Leiweke, president and chief executive of AEG.
More than 8 million people across the country visited the first exhibit. Leiweke said he expects that number to increase for the return of the artifacts.
Among the artifacts that will not be on display is the famed gold mask placed on the King Tut’s mummy.
“It took an act of parliament to get these artifacts out of the country,” said Terry Garcia, an executive vice president for National Geographic. “It’s such a priceless national treasure that the possibility that something could happen to it was just too great.”