Sunday, January 2, 2011

King Tut and I

King Tut-Sheva Apelbaum

A few weeks ago, our entire grade took a field trip to New York City to visit the King Tut Exhibit in Times Square.  We had been learning about Egyptian history and the pharaohs and this trip was planned to help us finish the unit. I was excited when I found out that I would be able to see the King Tut exhibit in person.

We took a two hour trip to the city and when we finally got there, 300 grumpy kids stumbled out of 5 buses and got into an unending line that led into the gallery.

Eventually, everyone gathered in a very dark room to watch a brief introductory movie about King Tut and Egypt as it was during his lifetime. After that the real excitement began. Two big doors swung open and we walked  into the exhibit. It was amazing to  be within arms reach of 3,000 year old artifacts.

We learned that even though Howard Carter was credited with  discovering the tomb, it was actually Carter’s water carrier who discovered the steps that led into the tomb. Carter then smashed the upper part of the sealed door that led into the tomb. Surrounded by many people, some of whom included Lord Carnarvon and his daughter, Carter peeked into the tomb that lay undisturbed for almost 3,000 years.

King Tut Boat-Sheva ApelbaumAkhenaton and Sheva ApelbaumThe exhibit was spread out throughout a winding collection of rooms.  Among the artifacts, there was a large scale model boat that was found outside Tut’s tomb. The boat was thought to have brought the pharaoh to the afterlife (interestingly, the ancient Greeks believed in a similar idea). There was also a statue of Tut’s father, Akhenaton, who had tried to replace all of the major Egyptian gods with one,  Aten, the sun disk.

King Tut-Knives-Sheva Apelbaum King Tut Seat-Sheva ApelbaumIn other rooms there were statues of other Egyptian Pharaohs who had ruled before King Tut and their relatives. Some of interesting artifacts were King Tut’s daggers and his royal chair and footrest. The chair was made out of wood and was covered with gold leaf and inlays.  There was also an Egyptian pillow that was made out of blue glass with a gold band in the middle.

Apparently, King Tut suffered from many diseases. As a child, he had scoliosis and had to use a cane. During the excavations of his tomb, over 100 canes were found.  He also suffered from malaria.

The last room in the exhibit was dedicated to theories as to how the young king died. One suggestion was that the King was murdered by Ay, his successor. Another theory was that he may have fallen off of his chariot and suffered severe physical trauma. Yet another was that he died from Malaria or from an infection to his leg.  

One of the fascinating things I discovered about King Tut and his family was that his father Akhenaten  and mother Nefertiti (possibly The Younger Lady) were brother and sister.  King Tut himself was married to his half sister Ankhesenamun

From the DNA testing of several of the royal mummies, it appears that Egyptian royalty tended to have incestuous marriages.  This custom continued to be practiced in Egypt as late as the Ptolemaic period (1400 after King Tut).  Cleopatra VII was married to her younger brother, Ptolemy XIII. Her mother and father, Cleopatra V and Ptolemy XII, were also brother and sister.

This widespread practice is interesting because the Egyptian society of the time represented the peak of sophistication and it’s likely that other surrounding cultures imitated the Egyptian custom.   Today, however, such marriages are a taboo and are considered the exact opposite of sophistication. It would be interesting to find out what caused this practice to disappear.

When we got home from the exhibit, I made my mother promise to take me back before the exhibit closed. So, this past week we did just that.  Seeing it for the second time was just as impressive. 

I highly recommend that you take the time to visit this exhibit. It’s on the pricey side, so you may have to bring your mommy’s purse (hee hee!) but it’s worth it.


  1. Hi Sheva,

    I really enjoyed reading your post.
    Thank you so much for sharing I hope to have an opportunity to be there some day.


  2. Dear sweet Sheva, thank you for letting me use your wonderful essay as a guest post at my blog party!
    You always do your work so perfect and thoroughly - I LOVE that!!! Nishika! Yael.