The Discovery of King Tut Exhibit at the Saint Louis Science Center
Visitors to the Saint Louis Science Center have an unusual opportunity to view a painstakingly-detailed replica of King Tut’s tomb and more than 1,000 objects found in it.
On a November day in 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter, after nearly a month of clearing an area in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, chiseled his way into an underground burial chamber. With only a candle for light, he gazed into the room. As his eyes adjusted to the light, what he saw amazed him and soon grabbed headlines around the world.
Carter had made perhaps the most incredible archeological find of the 20th Century—the tomb of King Tutankhamun, better known as King Tut—with the burial chamber and its contents which remained untouched for centuries.
He would later end his description of the room’s contents including a solid gold coffin with Tut’s mummified body inside two outer coffins with five words: “Everywhere the glint of gold.”
Beginning May 27, visitors to the Saint Louis Science Center can relive Carter’s experience in an exhibit called “The Discovery of King Tut.” They will walk in Carter’s footsteps and experience the treasures of Tut’s tomb as they were when he discovered them. An audio tour based on Carter’s diary will help visitors understand the significance of the objects in the tomb, items meant to accompany the king on his journey to the afterworld.
On display are replicas of items such as a gold mask; a portable shrine with Anubis, an Egyptian god of death; the inner gold coffin; the state chariot and the Throne of Tutankhamun.
“Guests will experience what Carter and his team found when they opened the tomb and unearthed the ancient artifacts,” said Bert Vescolani, president and CEO of the Saint Louis Science Center. “These immaculate replicas of King Tut’s treasures, placed in a detailed re-creation of the tomb, will transport guests to back to this amazing discovery,”
Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, sometimes called the Boy-King, ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago. He was only nine years old when took the throne but his reign was relatively short— he died 10 years later. Although he was a minor figure in Egyptian history accomplishing little during his reign, King Tut’s popularity skyrocketed with the dramatic discovery of his tomb and its pristine contents.
Later in the 20th century, interest waned.
But President Richard Nixon reignited that interest in the 1970s by writing into an agreement with Egypt that a display of items from King Tut’s tomb called “Treasures of Tutankhamun” would tour the United States as part of the country’s bicentennial celebration.
Today the fragile originals can only be exhibited separately and are no longer permitted to tour outside of Egypt. But thousands of people marvel at Carter’s findings through the tomb’s re-creation and replicas of the artifacts that leading Egyptian artisans scientifically reproduced over five years.
Tickets for “The Discovery of Tut” are on sale now. More information and tickets are available at slsc.org, at the Saint Louis Science Center, 5050 Oakland Avenue or by calling 314-289-4424.
“We believe the scientific discovery of Tut’s tomb will be fascinating to people,” said Jackie Mollet, managing director of visitor services for the Science Center. “Egypt in general is fascinating to many people, and this will give St. Louisans and visitors to St. Louis a feel of what it was like to discover the tomb and go through those steps just as Howard Carter did 100 years ago.
“It is a replica but it is a beautiful representation of the tomb,” she said. “All of the artifacts were re-created by artisans in Egypt modeling everything after the exact artifacts.”
As old as Carter’s discovery is, it still hold lessons for today, Mollet said. With new technology, scientists have learned more about mummification, ancient Egyptians’ diet and health and living conditions from the artifacts, she said.
“The one thing we’d like for people to come away from this with is the inspiration to continue to discover things. That’s what we’re all about at the Science Center—we want to inspire people to look deeper, to learn about new things, to want to learn more about the world around us and new discoveries,” Mollet said.
Visitors wanting to learn more about mummies and ancient Egypt should put June 2 on their calendars. That’s the Science Center’s monthly First Fridays event. The theme for the June 2 event is “The Mummy.”
Carter Lupton, curator emeritus of ancient history at Milwaukee Public Museum, will speak on “From Horus to Boris: Egyptian Mummies in Fact and Fiction” at 7 p.m. in the OMNIMAX® Theater.
In a 7:30 p.m. event called “An Amazing Science Demonstration: Unwrapping Mummification,” a Science Center staff member will perform the mummification process on a mannequin. An hour later, Lupton and Egyptologist Jonathan Elias will discuss what CT scans reveal about mummies.
At 9 p.m., “Doctor Who” episodes will be shown in the James S. McDonnell Planetarium. The evening will end with the 10 p.m. showing of “The Mummy,” a 1999 horror film, in the OMNIMAX Theater.
All the activities are free but tickets are required for Lupton’s talk and the films. Tickets are limited and available at any Science Center box office beginning at 6 p.m. that day.
The panel discussion and demo will be at CenterStage; no tickets required.
First Fridays at the Science Center feature free hands-on activities, public telescope viewings, scifi trivia, special prices for OMNIMAX® films and a free 10 p.m. screening of a classic science fiction movie in the OMNIMAX® Theater. For more information and to learn which activities are geared toward adults and which are for all ages, visit the Science Center website’s First Fridays page.