(* All photos taken by author.)
‘The greatest archaeological find in recorded history’ is how the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen has been labelled. Visiting the exhibition in Geneva’s Palexpo Halle brought me face to face with the tomb’s many treasures. (Some replicas of the originals, that is, but copies that provided an excellent perspective of the tomb and its original artefacts.)
Setting the scene, the first section of the exhibition was devoted to some background information on the land of Ancient Egypt. Rounding the first corner the visitor is met by a large copy of the Rosetta Stone; its three scripts of Greek and hieroglyphics and demotic Egyptian invaluable to deciphering the once curious Ancient Egyptian alphabet. Moving on, aspects of life back then and showcasing some of the genealogies of Egyptian dynasties brings you to the central part of the exhibition, the tomb.
Contents of two of the tomb’s four rooms are placed exactly as they would have been upon their discovery by Howard Carter and his excavation team a little over ninety years ago in spaces the exact same sizes as the tomb’s rooms. What really strikes you here is just how small each room and the tomb as a whole is, not to mention how much was packed into these small spaces. This trend continues into the burial chamber section complete with the sarcophagi and coffins and perhaps the centrepiece of the exhibition: a replica of Tutankhamen’s death mask. Once again, all is in proportion to the originals, including the large container-like structure that housed the sarcophagi and coffins like a set of Russian dolls.
The exhibition also included material on the life of Carter, chronicling the major events of his life and his methods in the field of archaeology. He had a fortuitous meeting with Lord Carnarvon, who later became his benefactor in Egypt. At this time Carter’s career had reached a low point. Good fortune intervened later upon the discovery of the Pharaoh’s tomb in 1922 after a number of fruitless years searching the Valley of the Kings. Perhaps unearthing this extraordinary find was Carter’s destiny.
Leaving the exhibition I noticed that I had spent just about two hours inside. Certainly there was plenty to keep the visitor preoccupied. I was happy that I had made the visit.