By Lisa Marie Griffith
My brother invited me along to Tutankamun: His Tomb and Treasures at the RDS last weekend. Considering his wife was away and we were on a family day out, I have two nieces 3 and 7, I was well aware I was there as much for reinforcements as for my interest in history. It is always great to see what type of things kids reaction to in exhibits and trips though so I was delighted to go along. I was a bit unsure about how I would find this exhibition. The artefacts on display are models of the original. You are paying for the story of Tutankhamun and the discovery of his treasures rather then a chance to see the real thing. Because of this they exhibitors really had to set the tone well and tell the story of the tomb well.
One of the things that struck me in the long queue outside the exhibit was that there was such a broad range of ages, and groups in the queue. This was not just a family day out, there was a couple in their 70s behind me, two sisters in their 30s a head of me and a couple who looked like they were in their late teens in sight too (I know this because the ice cream fuelled 3-year-old was introducing herself to the crowd). The exhibition itself was also packed. This is something that I was a little surprised about. The last time that I saw that many people at a museum exhibit was ‘The Life and Times of the Electric Guitar 1931-2006′ at Collins Barracks 5 years ago and even then that was primarily a male audience, more specifically fathers and sons.
The exhibit starts with the Rosetta Stone which was carved in 196 B.C. The stone was discovered by Napoleon’s soldiers as they marched through Egypt. Scholars were aware of an ancient Egyptian language but had no way of translating the hieroglyphics. The Rosetta Stone was inscribed with three passages each in different languages. One in hieroglyphics, one in a more modern Egyptian and the last in Ancient Greek, which French scholars were familiar with and which allowed them to unlock the previous two paragraphs through this translation Egyptology was born.
The second part of the exhibition centres on two video clips. The first explains who Tutankhamun is and the second centres on the discovery of his tomb in the Valley of the Kings by Howard Carter and his patron, 5th Earl Carnarvon. The importance of this find is explained through the historiography of the events which I personally liked. It brought the story up to the point where Carter and Carnavon were about to break through the tomb wall. The significance of this event was that all other tombs of this kind had been disturbed. This one had not. The video clips also kept my two nieces quiet and happy- which can be difficult to do!
In the third part of the tour there is an audio guide of what Carter and Carnavon found as they entered the tomb. This was done particularly well. The group stood in front of glass cabinets which were laid out with the objects as they were found and lights flashed on to each part of the tomb which was being referred to by the guide. 2 glass cases are explained and in the final part the tomb itself was reveled.
The final part of the tour showed a full-sized replica of each of the three golden tombs and each of the three sarcophaguses that Tutankhamun was nestled in. These were spectacular and really signify the wealth and power of these men as well as the riches they were buried with. His burial mask and mummy was displayed much to the delight of the 7-year-old. They also displayed, and sometimes reassembled, each of the treasures which he had been buried with. His chariot and throne were really beautiful.
At this point, however, my exhausted nieces gave up. We had spent 1 hour 45 mins in the exhibit so they were doing very well. My brother and I could probably have stayed another 45 minutes but were delighted the girls had enjoyed it that much. Keeping kids that young, that happy for long can be a difficult task and it was easy to tell that the older children were thoroughly enjoying the exhibit too.
The tickets are 8 euro for 6-16, 4 euro for each child after this and 10 euro for adults. I thoroughly enjoyed this as I had little knowledge about Egyptology prior to going. The exhibit was a really fantastic way to do popular history. I am not sure it is for the experts, but for new comers to the topic or those interested in presenting a stimulating account of history to a newcomer I would certainly recommend it.