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June Issue 2003
Exhibit at SC State Museum in Columbia, SC, Examines King Tut's Early Death - Murder?
Tutankhamun was called the "boy king" for good reason. He ascended to the throne when he was only nine years old, and died before he was twenty.
Recent hypotheses speculate about this early death, one of which is examined in the Columbia, SC, at the South Carolina State Museum's spectacular exhibit Tutankhamun: "Wonderful Things" from the Pharaoh's Tomb, the collection of 126 breathtaking replicas of King Tut's original treasures which has continued to be wildly popular with the public. The exhibition is on view through Aug. 15, 2003.
The exhibit explains that King Tut ruled in a time when there was great social, political and religious upheaval in Egypt. His father, Akhenaton, had spearheaded a movement to change Egypt from a polytheistic religious structure to a monotheistic one (this is believed to be the first monotheistic effort in history). As one might expect, this did not sit well with the established religious leaders. The movement was crushed, and after Akhenaton's death, the multiple-gods system was restored and attempts were made to erase his memory.
"The return to polytheism was aided by Tutankhamun's great uncle, Ay, who also was the grandfather of Tutankhamun's wife, Ankhesenamun. Ay probably arranged the marriage," says Director of Education Linda McWhorter.
The young pharaoh's early and untimely death, just when he was becoming old enough to assert his independence, may have been a convenience to the factions that had controlled his rule since childhood. Coincidentally (or not!), Ay succeeded Tutankhamun on the throne, though only briefly.
Added to the evidence of political intrigue of the time is the physical evidence. Though the king's mummy was damaged by archaeologist Howard Carter's removal of the priceless treasures on Tut's person, a second examination of the mummy in 1968 revealed possible evidence of a "fatal blow" to the skull behind the left ear.
Was King Tut "crowned" with more than gold? "Could be - but we may never know for certain," says McWhorter.
What is for certain is that the exhibit will fascinate everyone who sees it. Along with such stunning replicas as Tut's mummy and mummiform coffin are treasures such as the striped headdress adorned with the "two ladies," the vulture and cobra divinities; a graceful alabaster ibex vase; statues of Tutankhamun on a leopard and a papyrus raft; sacred udjat (eye) amulet; a golden lion funerary bedhead; an alabaster wedding chest and flask; cartouche box; golden state chariot; the ruler's crook and flail; and scores of more dazzling reproductions.
For more information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the museum at 803/898-4921 or on the web at (www.museum.state.sc.us).
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