This weekend I went to the exhibition “Tutankhamun – His Tomb and His Treasures” at the Museum of Museums near Manchester’s Trafford Centre. Partly just for fun, and partly because Mary Chubb mentions the huge excitement over Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb as some of the “social background”, if you will, in her book “Nefertiti Lived Here”. I was hoping to catch some of the flavour of that excitement as well…
It was an excellent exhibition. The usual introductory hall, with panels describing ancient Egypt and the development of Egyptology, but this one also included a reproduction of the Rosetta Stone. I knew that one of the languages was hieroglyphic and the other was Greek, but I hadn’t quite registered that the third was demotic, which was the “workday” script of ancient Egypt, as it were. Then there were films about Tutankhamun, and about Howard Carter, and then we turned a corner and found ourselves face to face with a reproduction of the antechamber of the tomb, just as Carter would have seen it. There is a British Museum page showing one of the original photos here. Except that doesn’t begin to give you any sense of the impact, because nearly every item is covered in gold. It speaks volumes for the self-discipline of Carter and his colleagues that the whole affair did not degenerate into a snatch and grab. I was too startled and overwhelmed to take a photo at this point, although non-flash photography was permitted.
Although I knew, of course, that the tomb contained a mixture of Amarna-period pieces and later pieces, I wasn’t aware that the cloisonné on the middle sarcophagus (close-up above) was an explicitly Amarna period design. So maybe I need to do a small patch using that pattern.
I took quite a lot of photos, which came out, on balance, much better than I expected them to, and may even turn out to be interesting and useful.
There was a short exhibition at the end which included some of Howard Carter’s watercolours – he was clearly a very fine archaeological artist and illustrator, and then we were sent out though the inevitable shop. Where I couldn’t fail to take one final photo…!