Review: “Beyond King Tut” at the National Geographic Museum

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The objects in the tomb of pharaoh Tutankhamun—or, as a new exhibit at National Geographic Museum, Tutankhamun demonstrates—were meant to commemorate the life of the Egyptian ruler and guide him to the next. Since their first discovery almost exactly 100 years ago, remarkable artifacts such as the golden funerary mask of Tut, as it is known today, have attracted widespread interest and admiration. But Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience emphasizes the non-physical aspects of the boy king’s importance. Its centerpiece is an animation of the dead king’s journey to the afterlife, as visualized from the text known as the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

The organizers of almost the entire virtual reality exhibition had little choice but to take this approach, since relics from Tut’s tomb are no longer available for viewing outside of Egypt. The display showcases some impressively designed spaces that evoke the tombs, caves, and burial chamber of the pharaoh, complete with a massive replica of the sarcophagus. However, the bulk of the exhibits are based on what is more substantial than sound and light.

“Beyond King Tut” was produced in partnership Pachin Entertainment Groupthat created”Beyond Van Gogh” And the “Beyond MonetExhibits and Immersive Experiences, a company whose creative producer, Mark Lash, oversaw the design of “King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs,” an art show that toured between 2004 and 2012.

You’ve seen “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.” Now try the real Van Gogh.

In the first room, we learn about Tut, who died at the age of 18 or 19, around 1323 B.C., and Howard Carter, a self-taught British artist and archaeologist, discovers his buried tomb under rubble in November 1922. After this introductory video is over, it opens The door is automatic, giving access to a room that evokes the exterior of Tut’s royal tomb, the only largely untouched one found in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

Carter and his financial backer, the Earl of Carnarvon, hosted the international press in 1923, but they would not allow most visitors into the vault. (National Geographic reporter Maynard Owen Williams among those excluded.) The seemingly weathered walls in this gallery feature simulated gaps that reveal faint video images of such mulberry-related relics as the statue of Anubis, the dog-headed god of death. These glimpses evoke Carter’s first look at the tomb.

The museum’s 3D theater contains a mock sarcophagus and an illustrated video lecture that sweeps across three walls. Among its themes is the way in which animals represented many aspects of Pharaonic Egypt and its ruler. The eagle symbolizes Upper Egypt, for example, and the Lower Egypt cobra; Both were included in the emblems of Tut, who presided over the united regions. It was also a symbol of 12 monkeys, one for each hour of the late king’s supposed transit through the underworld.

Beyond it is a gallery recounting Tut’s life, as told by artifacts at his burial place, such as a knife and scabbard, a ceremonial staff with a bowed head, and pottery decorated with hieroglyphs. Also on display there is a family tree, based in part on ongoing DNA research.

Walking down a long corridor, you’ll pass four sets of video screens flashing images and text, resulting in a large cut-out image in the shape of a funeral tutu mask. His golden face was flooded with constantly moving light, seeming to change his appearance.

The main event is a 20-minute fictional video depicting the first night of Tut’s afterlife, during which he supposedly fought a giant serpent and was judged by the gods: the requirement for the eternal survival of the pharaoh is a spirit lighter than a feather. The story unfolds in moving images projected onto the four walls, as well as the floor, which at one point catches a video fire under your feet. In this Disney-like tale, King Tut—who was said to be weak and sick in real life—was heroic and noble.

No one will ever know how true this characterization is, but for a century, the wonders excavated from Tut’s tomb have sparked imaginations around the world. “Beyond King Tut” is more informative than most cures to the legacy of the boy pharaoh, but it doesn’t resist the flourishing of imagination.

King Tut: The Little Pharaoh, The Great Phenomena

The boy king, whose life story unfolds in this virtual reality novel, has left a huge legacy.

  • King Tut, who was installed at the age of eight or nine and died only a decade later, was a younger pharaoh. But over the past century, he was one of the most famous. This is because his tomb has yielded most of the artifacts of any ancient Egyptian ruler.
  • Tut, who left no heirs, was the last of his family to rule during the Eighteenth Dynasty in Egypt. He is the son of Akhenaten who transformed Egypt from polytheism to the worship of a single divine being: Aten, the sun god. During Tut’s rule, traditional deities were restored, including Amun, in whose honor Tut changed the end of his name, which may mean “the living image of Amun”.
  • The cause of Tut’s death is unknown, but most scientists attribute it to natural causes. Medical experts indicated that the young pharaoh was suffering from malaria or sickle cell anemia.
  • Some of the actual pieces from Tut’s tomb were on display at the National Gallery of Art and other American museums beginning in 1961. The larger exhibition “Treasures of Tutankhamun” began its tour at the National Gallery in 1976 and has traveled to six other American cities. Such pieces are unlikely to leave the Cairo area again, as they will be staying in The Grand Egyptian Museumslated to open later this year.
  • Tut-mania has inspired a lot of pop culture, including “The Mummy,” a movie franchise that started with Boris Karloff’s 1932 spin-off, and “King Tut,” which was a new hit in 1978 by Steve Martin. Both are referenced in the last room of Beyond King Tut.

Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience

National Geographic Museum, 1145 17th St. N.W. nationalgeographic.org/society/visit-our-museum.

the prices: $20; Students, Seniors, Military, and Educators $16; Ages 5 to 12 dollars; Under 5 years free.