Saturday, November 01, 2008

Trip in Review, Part 2

Tut, Tut.

Day two in Dallas was dedicated to the King Tut exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art. I was a bit tense about getting there on time and finding a parking spot due to the dire warnings of the expected crowds for this rare opportunity to see the Egyptian treasures. My common sense said that a Tuesday three weeks into the exhibition would not present a problem, but I did not want to take chances. So we arrived a good half-hour before our ticket time and discovered that there was ample parking if you were willing to pay for it, and we were through the gates and in line in plenty of time.

The museum itself is quite impressive. We agreed that neither of us was interested in exploring the other exhibits on this particular day and would dedicate as much time as it took for us to feel like we had seen and experienced all of the Tut exhibit. A huge area of the museum had been revamped to accommodate the exhibition and it took us a full two hours to make our way through a half-dozen rooms, read all of the display material and listen to the audio tour.

The exhibition organizers did an outstanding job and every room had numerous items to take your breath away. There were granite statues, calcite sculptures, jewelry, furniture, and lots and lots of gold. Real, gleaming gold. I found myself frequently thinking of two things:

1) What must it have been like to be Howard Carter (the archeologist who discovered the tomb) and to first enter the presence of these items? (Several mentions were made of his looking into a dark room and seeing the gleam of gold.)

2) How unbelievable it was to realize that everything I was looking at was over 3,000 years old.

The second thought was foremost in my mind as we encountered chairs that had the original rush seats, ceremonial objects made of wood that still had a good deal of original paint, glass bottles that showed obvious signs of repair but still mostly intact, and intricate inlaid jewelry.

My genealogist's heart was warmed to find a family tree at the very start of the tour. A good many of the items in the exhibit were not actually from Tut's tomb, but from the tombs of his ancestors and the chart explained how these other burials tied to Tut. One of the most impressive objects on display was the golden sarcophagus of his grandmother, encased in a huge glass case that you could view from every angle. Its core was wood, but the outer shell was covered in gold and precious gems.

The next most impressive object was a tiny sarcophagus that held the mummified liver of Tut. It stood about a foot tall, had extensive engravings inside, and was glorious, gleaming gold.

One of the most touching displays was another tiny sarcophagus. Inside had been found a 5-month-old fetus, complete with a tiny gold death mask, and supposed to have been Tut's daughter.

Many of the rooms were darkened, with spotlights to heighten the effect of the gold objects. For the most part, everyone there was respectful and spoke in whispers as they moved through the exhibit. A couple of school groups created a bit more chatter, but they tended to move through at a faster pace and were not that much of a distraction.

When we reached the end, we were tired but satisfied. The two hours had passed quickly, there was so much to see. We exited into the exhibition gift shop, where I expected I would face a lot of temptation.

I was tempted, but the prices were high and hard to justify. So I satisfied myself with a couple of books, including the official exhibition guide, some post cards of the more outstanding items in the exhibit, a patch for my denim jacket, and a few affordable miniatures that will someday find a home in an Egyptian vignette.

And, my final indulgence. I was one of the few adults who purchased a made on the spot cartouche. The school kids were having a great time putting in their $1 and getting back the heiroglyphic representation of their names on a parchment sheet. I wrestled my way into the line and got a cartouche representing my last name:

I'm so very glad I decided to attend this exhibition. I recommend it highly. From start to finish, it was fun, educational and awe-inspiring.


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