Tutankhamun- His Tomb and Treasures at the RDS

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.

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8 Responses to “Tutankhamun- His Tomb and Treasures at the RDS”

  1. puesoccurrences Says:

    I saw some of the artefacts in various American tours (of the ACTUAL objects, I was surprised to hear that this was replicas! The real stuff is frequently on tour. I was also lucky enough to go to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. BUT my abiding memory of Tutenkhamon, I’m sorry to say, is Steve Martin’s ‘King Tut’ song originally performed on Saturday Night Live:

    Thanks for the great review, Lisa!


  2. puesoccurrences Says:

    Thanks Juliana- I will have to say it wasn’t until a friend pointed out that they were replicas that I realised- It doesn’t advertise them that way on the posters- Still worth going to see.
    Awesome clip! I have never seen it. Thanks so much for attaching!!

  3. puesoccurrences Says:

    sorry for pathetic spelling and bad punctuation in above comment! argh


  4. antonella Says:

    I must confess the price has put me off a little bit (at weekends the price of an adult ticket is 18 euro) but I may give it a try in the next few days

  5. puesoccurrences Says:

    It is expensive and I will have to say my brother very kindly bought my ticket for me. The price was one of the sticking points for me… I think I would pay it havnig been.
    Let us know if you go and think it is worthwhile for what you pay.


  6. Felix Larkin Says:

    I saw the actual pieces in the British Museum’s Tutankhamun exhibition in 1972. That exhibition commemorated the 50th anniversary of the finding of the treasures. Your excellent review, Lisa, sent me to my bookshelves to see whether I could find the catalogue for the exhibition which I vaguely remembered buying. And I did find it – must be a collector’s item now! I found that I had preserved inside the catalogue a set of stamps which the Royal Mail issued to mark the 50th anniversary. I remember that I had to queue for hours to get into that exhibition in 1972, but it was well worth it. Don’t know whether I really want to see the replicas, though I am sure it is all very well done – but is it not like “Disneyland-on-the-Nile”?

  7. puesoccurrences Says:

    Haha- it is definitely not like Disneyland-on-the-Nile. Good to hear there is value in holding on to all of those catalogues. I am a bit of a hoarder with material of that nature so now I can justify it a bit more!

    There seems to be a lot of business in exhibitions of this sort at the moment- like the Bodies exhibition which was held in Dublin a few years ago- educational and interactive. How many people would get to see the originals in their lifetime? How many people would get to see and have the human anatomy explained to them in this way without exhibitions of this sort? If its well done, and clearly there is a demand for it, then I am all for it but I suppose the problem with exhibitions of this type is that there is no quality control and so as Antonella pointed out- what are you getting for 18 euro? I was talking to a friend recently who said they were very disappointed at the dinosaur exhibition at the RDS last year and they paid a lot for it.

    I would be interested to hear what anyone else thought about it but we had a really good afternoon.


  8. Richard Says:

    Dear Lisa Marie Griffith,

    would you bother to tell me who owns the copyright of this foto (golden mask) up there and if there’s a possibility to use it in a project?

    Best regards, Richard

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