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Author Topic: AKHENATEN/TUTANKHAMUN  (Read 67032 times)
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« Reply #1125 on: June 28, 2009, 11:34:01 am »

                                            King Tut exhibit opens to the masses

Janny Hu,
SFChronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, June 28, 2009

For Anita Jackson, it was all about the eyes. She stepped forward for a closer look at the gilded coffin of Tjuya, an ancient Egyptian priestess, and those orbs of blue glass, obsidian and calcite seemed to stare right back.

"It just takes my breath away," Jackson said softly. "I've waited for years to see this, and it's amazing, the attention to detail in 1300 B.C.

"I mean, her eyes - they were looking at me and wanting to tell me a story. I want to hear her story."

The 52-year-old San Francisco resident was among the thousands who descended upon the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum on Saturday as "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of Pharaohs" was opened to the public. Roughly 300 visitors were let in the doors every half hour.

And 30 years after record-setting crowds visited the original King Tut exhibit, the story of Egypt's boy king remains a major draw in San Francisco.

Jon Rhodin was first in line about an hour before the museum opened at 9 a.m. After seeing the show here in 1979, he brought his wife and daughters back for his encore, and none left disappointed.

"I'm reminded of how much better it is in real life than in pictures," said Rhodin, 47.

"You kind of get that sense of awe," added his wife, Maureen.

As visitors filed through the museum Saturday, there seemed to be something for all ages.

Four generations of Laura Gaines' family have now been through the Tut shows in the city. Gaines, 60, saw the original exhibit with her mother and daughter, and returned Saturday with three grandchildren.

Aliyah Ellis, 7, wanted to know what the canopic jar of Queen Kiya was for.

"What they did was put body parts in it," explained Gaines, who visited Egypt four years ago. "Maybe lungs or a liver."

"Golden Age" will be at the de Young for the next nine months, and while it lacks the pizzazz of the original exhibit - the iconic death mask and coffin are now too fragile to travel outside Egypt - it offers deeper insight into Tut's family and ancient Egyptian rituals.

An entire room is devoted to the religious revolution brought on by Akhenaten, believed to be Tut's father, and the exhibit highlights the importance of women in Egyptian society.

Mary White, who also saw the original show, appreciated the spacious layout and variety of the updated, 11-room exhibit.

"I was at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo a few years ago, and everything was crammed so tightly because there's so much," said White, 63. "I had a guide who sat us down in front of a map for most of the three hours, saying 'See this, see this.' The information here is really nice."

The new Tut exhibit features 50 objects from Tut's tomb and 80 from those of his ancestors - more than twice the number from the original show. Each of the objects comes with a detailed explanation written by Renee Dreyfus, curator of ancient art and interpretation at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

There are also lessons in reading cartouches and the mummification process, as well as photographs by Harry Burton, who documented archaeologist Howard Carter's excavations of the tomb in the 1920s.

Spencer Tsubota, 7, is still a few years away from studying the Ancient Egyptian curriculum mandated for California sixth-graders, but he has a head start on his classmates after Saturday's tour.

"Daddy, did you know there was a knife found on King Tut's waist?" said Tsubota. "Did you know that there were seven coffins inside each other before the mummy was placed in?"

"I thought it was beautiful," said Dana Tsubota, Spencer's mother. "The presentation of information was really unique and digestible, obviously, for even my 7-year-old.

"It's great exposure to an ancient period brought to life."

The opening of the exhibit - organized by National Geographic, Arts and Exhibitions International, and AEG Exhibitions, with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities - went smoothly, though there were a few comical glitches.

San Francisco resident Kevin McGoorty was trying to have his name printed in hieroglyphics at a vending machine just outside the gift shop, but exceeded the 12-character limit by one. McGoorty settled for a translation of his first name.

Back inside the gallery, Jackson was still in awe.

"I had no idea what I was going to see," she said. "I've watched the National Geographic specials, but to actually be a foot away is amazing."

E-mail Janny Hu

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the
San Francisco Chronicle
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