Wondering Egypt

Egyptian Museum
By Ethan Gelber & the BikeAbout team
  |  Gorp.com

The Egyptian Museum is one of the most important places in Cairo. Packed to the point of overflowing with more than 100,000 relics and antiquities, it is a feast for the eyes and brain. We had only a few hours, so we saw only the biggest and most important things.

The Egyptian Museum is a fantastic collection of rooms that are packed with hundreds and thousands of big and small statues, figurines, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rings, coffins and sarcophagi, boats, weapons, glassware objects, wood and metal tools, masks, coins, seals, mummies, cloth, papyrus drawings, stone and clay tablets with hieroglyphics, jugs, amulets, models, photographs, etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

Wandering from room to room is like taking a stroll through history by appreciating the tools and objects that the ancient Egyptians used when eating, gardening, farming, reading, cooking, writing, celebrating, sleeping, preparing for parties and religious events (and maybe even dates!), mourning, traveling etc. Think about all the things that you use during your every-day routine and then imagine someone putting them all in display cases in a museum. That's what the Egyptian Museum is all about.

Knowing that we would not have the energy to tackle so much stuff, we headed straight for the star attraction in the museum: the 1,700 or so objects on display straight from the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, better known to us today as King Tut.

In 1361 BC, a young boy (only about 9 or 10 years old) named Tutankhaten, ascended to the throne as Pharoah of the New Kingdom. His rule of nine years, until 1352 BC (he died suddenly and without leaving any heirs) was not marked by anything unusual or spectacular. And yet, known today as Tutankhamun, he seems to be the most famous Pharaoh of all.

In 1922, a British Egyptologist named Howard Carter, after several years of searching, found King Tut's tomb completely intact and full of a glorious array of ancient treasures! This is important because all the other tombs of all the other Egyptian pharaohs were looted by robbers over the centuries. Even though all tombs were meant to be secret, of the 60 known tombs in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings in southern Egypt north of Luxor, only that of Tutankhamen was left untouched until Carter's discovery.

The most famous of all the objects discovered in the tomb is proudly lit up in the center of one of the central rooms in the museum: the legendary gold mask that was placed over the head of King Tut's mummy. It is still mesmerizingly beautiful, especially after so many thousands of years hidden away in the desert. But most people don't know that this is just one — although probably the most spectacular — of 11 layers in which the body was placed, including more masks and body wraps (made of gold and precious rocks), coffins of different sizes (also made of, or covered in, gold) and large gold-covered wooden shrines. Even his inner organs were kept in four compartments of a beautiful alabaster container. In addition, the body was accompanied by enormous amounts of exquisite jewelry, beds supported by animal sculptures, chairs, boats, chariots, and lots of other assorted goods intended to be used by King Tut in his next life.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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