Imagine if you will that you are standing at the bottom of a rock-strewn valley surrounded by swarthy turbaned men on a cool morning in November 1922.  Ahead of you are two quaintly dressed Englishman.  One of them is about to break through a wall of crumbling dusty bricks.  As he does so a single beam of sunlight pierces the dust of ages swirling beyond and as his eyes adjust to the darkness within he lets out a cry, “I see wonderful things”.  The two men are Howard Carter, amateur archeologist, and Lord Carnarvon his benefactor and financial sponsor.  The Valley is the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and the chamber they are about to break into is the tomb of Tutankhamon that has lain undisturbed for more than three thousand years, safe from the grave-robbers by a fall of rock that has completely obliterated the entrance.  On that morning in November Carter uncovered what might arguably be the greatest archeological treasure house of all time.  Beyond lay wonders that beggared the imagination.  Everywhere there were gold and precious things – everything in fact that a divine king might need on his journey to the afterlife, even down to his inlaid ivory game boxes so that he might amuse himself on his journey.

 

Tutankhamun [literally Tut = Image, Ankh = Life, Amun = God, or, Living Image of God] was only 19 when he died, having come to the throne of Egypt when he was barely nine years old as successor to his [possible] father Akhenaton.  We don’t know a great deal about him, in fact, we don’t even know how or exactly when he died.   There is no written evidence beyond what we can see with our own eyes on his funerary objects and the inscriptions on his great golden mummy case.  Theories range from murder to disease but all we really know is that the mummy appears to have a fracture of the right leg that may or may not have happened within days of his death but we don’t know what this means.  It could of course indicate that in a time of primitive medicine he developed an infection which subsequently killed him – we can only guess.  It is these mysteries that make King Tut so fascinating.  Who was he, how did he die, who were his parents, did he die of natural causes or of foul play?  He only reigned for a little over ten years and would probably have been just another obscure king in a long succession of them in a great dynasty that flourished for something like five-thousand years, if it had not been for the circumstances surrounding his discovery.  His was virtually the only hardly touched tomb in the valley and only because a rock-fall obscured the entry-way so thoroughly that tomb-robbers could not find it.  Carter had exhausted all avenues looking for the legendary tomb over many seasons without success and had in actual fact been given a final ultimatum by Carnarvon – find something or pack up and go home.  He was distraught at the thought that all his efforts would now be wasted and he begged Carnarvon to agree to one last effort.  It was therefore his last season on the dig when he had a sudden hunch that he should make one last search in a particular area of the valley.  As well all now know his hunch paid off and he spent the following ten years carefully and meticulously cataloguing and emptying the tomb until he was summarily ordered off by the Egyptian Government, afraid that they would lose what was indeed a national treasure.  Since then the Egyptian Government has guarded the materials jealously and has only given permission for the artifacts to leave the country twice in the ensuing 85 years since Carter discovered them.

 

The DVD Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs is at once a collectors item and a valuable accompaniment to the official exhibition which offers a walk-through and a detailed examination of some 150 artifacts that have been viewed and displayed to audiences around the world.  Narrated by Omar Sharif and ably assisted by a team of experts we follow along as we are given a unique glimpse into the long-dead world of the boy king set against the background of the times.

 

This is a high quality production produced in collaboration with National Geographic. It also contains bonus material including a ‘behind the scenes tour’ and an interactive segment whereby computer users can log-on to a website and access further information and games.

 

For more information log on to:  www.kingtut.org, or www.iconmes.com

 

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