Sunday, May 16, 2010

To Bury a Pharaoh

Archaeology Magazine (Eti Bonn-Muller)

Met curator Dorothea Arnold takes a fresh look at the leftover materials from Tutankhamun's mummification.

More than a century ago, a rather unspectacular discovery was made in Egypt's Valley of the Kings. Excavations funded by American lawyer Theodore Davis uncovered a cache of large ceramic jars filled with ratty scraps of mummy wrappings, linen bags with embalming material seeping out the seams, and collars of dried flowers. Some 14 years later, in 1922, Howard Carter, who had been on Davis's earlier expeditions, used this cache to help locate the tomb of a pharaoh—today known simply as King Tut—that lay some 110 meters away. The cache, which consists of the leftover materials from Tutankhamun's mummification, provides rare insight into the days leading up to the young pharaoh's burial. (The recently discovered KV 63 is another embalming cache from about the same time as Tut.)

In the collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art since 1909, these items are now the subject of an exhibition, "Tutankhamun's Funeral," on view through September 6. Dorothea Arnold, curator in charge of the museum's Department of Egyptian Art, spoke with ARCHAEOLOGY's Eti Bonn-Muller about Davis's discovery and the light it sheds on the ancient world's most well-known burial.

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