Tutankhamun’s tomb unveiled in Cape Town
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
The tomb treasures of King Tutankhamun included thousands of objects that have been replicated for an exhibition opening in Cape Town this week.
And this exhibition, Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures, comprises 1,500 replica artifacts that runs at GrandWest from June 2.
Tutankhamun was ancient Egypt’s youngest pharaoh – or ruler – and held the throne for nine years from about nine or 10 years old.
Dr Tarek el-Awady, an Egyptian archeologist part of the exhibition team, told Weekend Argus the team chose to replicate only the “masterpieces” Tutankhamum was buried with. It was customary for ancient pharaohs to go the grave with their riches and sometimes even their pets.
Tutankhamun was buried with 5,389 objects and this exhibition showcases a reconstructed version of his tomb to scale.
German-based SC Exhibitions, which funded the show seen worldwide by five million people to date, said the “exquisitely reconstructed burial treasures (were) produced by the finest Egyptian craftsmen under scientific supervision”.
The exhibition includes “state-of-the art technology and video material (to) provide a vivid illustration of the culture and spiritual world of the ancient Egyptians”.
“Visitors will also discover what these magnificent historical finds reveal about the religion, deities, dynasties, and mysterious hieroglyphics of the empire on the Nile,” reads the exhibition notes.
El-Awady said Tutankhamun had been profiled over hundreds of years as a symbol of great pharaohs as he ruled during ancient Egypt’s golden age.
“This history is part of world history and Tutankhamun’s tomb was a unique discovery. It will still be useful (information) 150 years from now,” said el-Awady.
“It is the only Egyptian tomb found in tact. It’s not only the gold of Tutankhamun that was an important discovery, but also his story and the story of the tomb’s discovery.”
El-Awady said the exhibition details how the tomb was discovered, of a man who ruled 2,500 years ago in Africa.
“When we see his tomb, it is the smallest royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings. If this is the treasure, what about pharaohs like Ramses the Great who ruled Egypt for more than 60 years? What of the pharaoh who built the pyramids?” he asked.
“Through the exhibition, we learn about the history of the dynasty when Tutankhamun lived and ruled Egypt. It offers historical background.”
El-Awady said the exhibition relied not on any religious texts but “historical facts”.
“The exhibition is built on the story of the discovery… what was seen when the tomb was first opened,” he said.
“Our exhibition has nothing to do with holy books. It is an educational instrument for people to know about history. It is built on historical facts.”
Unlike the recent Hollywood film Exodus, it is also not a reimagining of what life might have been like for Tutankhamun who lived at the time of prophet Moses.
El-Awady said Exodus was riddled with factual inaccuracies.
“I would love this film if moviemakers said it has nothing to do with the real story. I’m not asking filmmakers to take history and make it a film.
“But if they make films like this they should tell people this is just what they think. It is not built on historical fact,” he said.
“In terms of the time, décor, clothes, events, everything… It has nothing to do with real history. We don’t know who was the pharaoh of the exodus (of Moses from ancient Egypt).
“Many people prefer to put Ramses as the king of that time. But we have other facts. When Ramses died he was over 90 years old and he was suffering from problems with his spine.
“Someone like this, he cannot ride a chariot or lead an army.”
He added: “But still, we love movies. And a movie will not destroy history. If Hollywood made a million movies about ancient Egyptian history it would not change the facts.
“As scientists we should not interfere in the art of cinema. Filmmakers should not read history books and then make films. Then it would be a documentary film.
“Hollywood should make movies the way they make movies. They won’t destroy our history. People will read historical books and know what they see was just a film. Scientists have their jobs and filmmakers have their jobs.”
El-Awady also turned during the interview to religious extremist group Islamic State (IS) that recently declared all statues from ancient Egypt should be destroyed as these were worshipped.
Islam forbids idolatry but el-Awady said it did not prescribe destroying cultural or historical artifacts such as the pyramids or Sphinx.
“Unfortunately IS connects itself with Islam. But Islam has nothing to do with destroying ancient history. These are radical fanatical groups who connect themselves with Islam but do not know anything about Islam,” said el-Awady.
“You can be sure that in Egypt, after it became an Islamic nation, that Muslim rulers protected the pyramids and tombs. They issued laws preventing people from stealing and dealing with antiquities.
“Why only now do we hear these crazy things that we have to destroy the pyramids and Sphinx? This has nothing to do with Islam.”
He added: “If they (IS) were the followers of (Islam’s) Prophet Muhammad they would never call for throwing down the pyramids or the Sphinx.
“If ancient people worshipped a statue and then their religion changed, should I after 2,000 years destroy these statues because someone worshipped it in ancient times? Of course not. This statue is part of Egypt’s cultural heritage. Our duty is to understand it and put it in a museum.”
El-Awady said a number of programmes were underway in Egypt to ensure museums were built to maintain ancient Egyptian remains.
He said educational programmes were also run at schools to encourage learners to know more about their world famous heritage.
“People think there is a huge gap between their own lives and their past. This is not true. We have promising educational programmes for schools and local communities to show them this connection,” he said.
Tutankhamun: His Tomb and His Treasures runs at the SunExhibits centre at GrandWest until September 27.
Ticket prices range from R80 to R160 per person and there is a special discounted family package of four tickets. Children of five years and younger are admitted free of charge.
Log on to www.tut-exhibition.co.za for more information.