Sunday, November 4, 2007
King Tut's face unveiled to world
The king is thought to have been 19 years old when he died
The face of Egypt's most famous ancient ruler, King Tutankhamun, has been put on public display for the first time.
Archaeologists took the mummy from its stone sarcophagus and placed it in a climate-controlled case inside his tomb in Luxor's Valley of the Kings.
The event comes 85 years to the day after the pharaoh's tomb was discovered by British explorer Howard Carter.
Until now, only about 50 living people have seen the face of the boy king, who died more than 3,000 years ago.
As experts lifted Tutankhamun from his coffin they briefly set aside the white linen covering his remains, revealing a shrivelled black face and body.
The move is part of a plan to protect the remains. Archaeologists say they are under threat from the heat and the humidity brought into the tomb by the vast numbers of tourists visiting each year.
Death mask of Tutankhamun
The gold mask had to be removed with hot knives and wires
"The golden boy has magic and mystery and therefore every person all over the world will see what Egypt is doing to preserve the golden boy, and all of them I am sure will come to see the golden boy," Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told reporters before the body was moved.
Tutankhamun ruled Egypt from 1333-1324 BC and is believed to have ascended to the throne aged about nine.
Although in life he was of only moderate historical significance, in death Tutankhamun achieved worldwide fame thanks to the virtually intact state of his tomb when it was opened by Carter in 1922.
The tomb was packed with a fabulous trove of gold and ebony treasures of such luxury that when Carter first looked inside the tomb and was asked if he saw anything, his famous reply was: "Yes, wonderful things."
Cause of death
The centrepiece of the tomb was the pharaoh's mummified body, covered in amulets and jewels and wearing a solid gold burial mask.
In an effort to extricate the treasures, Carter and his team cut the body into pieces, chopping off the limbs and head, and using hot knives and wires to remove the gold mask which was fused to Tutankhamun's face by the embalming process.
The face unveiled
The body was reconstructed and returned to its original sarcophagus in 1926, only being removed for x-ray testing three times in subsequent years.
The treasures that were unearthed have captivated the world and drawn millions to the Valley of the Kings.
Questions over why Tutankhamun died at about the age of 19, and rumours of a curse prematurely killing those involved with the excavation of his tomb, have only increased the pharaoh's fame.
When the body was x-rayed in 1968, a shard of bone was found in his skull, prompting speculation that he was killed by a blow.
Some historians have argued he was killed for attempting to bring back polytheism having succeeded Akhenaten, who had abandoned Egypt's old gods in favour of monotheism.
However a CT scan of his remains in 2005 led researchers to say that he was not murdered and may have died of complications from a broken leg.
Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said the research suggests the boy king died after the wound became infected, and though not all of the team agreed with the diagnosis, all rejected the long-standing murder charge.
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