Friday, 9 October 2020

London Visits pre-lockdown, Saatchi Gallery: Tutankhamun – Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh … part 8 …

 

I wasn’t expecting to be bowled over by Tutankhamun … I guess I should have been ready to be truly amazed … but I was really visiting because I thought I should … not understanding ‘why’ … boy have I lots to learn.


Replica of wall painting found in tomb

 


At school we’d have all come across the Egypt with its pyramids and pharaohs … and I knew about Howard Carter – maybe learnt after school …

 

Howard Carter - 
archaeologist and Egyptologist

 



… and as there’d been an exhibition in London in the 1970s, which the world and its mistress seemed determined to visit (I gather over 1.6m people visited), Tutankhamun was on my radar … but hence my realisation I’d better take a closer look.  I’ve never liked queuing … and the queues in the 1970s are today described as “nightmarish” … so I’m glad I never went then!

 

 

Poster for film

 

The strange thing is … last Sunday (4th Oct) there was a film on tv entitled ‘Agatha and The Curse of Ishtar’ … a typical Agatha History alternative history – it revolved around archaeological digs in Iraq – and where it suggested Agatha met the love of her life – the archaeologist Max Mallowen.  It was a delightful romance … but now looking at the Tutankhamun blurb reminds me how little I know – apologies an unnecessary note!

 

 

Thankfully I went at the end of the day … when there were fewer visitors – which made viewing easier …

 

I was just astonished at the workmanship on show.  The exhibition was so well arranged … I hadn’t realised that Tutankhamun’s name was (totally) forgotten … suppressed by Horemheb, the general who commanded the Egyptian army, who had been appointed by the experienced courtiers/elders, to serve as Crown Prince, while Tutankhamun was young.


Faience vessels for perfumed oil


 

Horemheb was away fighting when the young king unexpectedly died … which may be why at that time he did not succeed to the throne.

 

Statue of boy king makine
his way in the Netherworld



Tutankhamun’s closest advisers were Ay, his vizier, and Maya (the overseer of the treasury and royal building projects) … it was they who oversaw the preparations for the burial and performed the rituals.  This also established as Ay as Tutankhamun’s heir and, consequently, as rightful king of Egypt.

 


Ay ruled for four years, then Horemheb assumed the throne … whereupon he ordered the names of Tutankhamun, Ankhesenamun (his widow and his half-sister), Ay (his vizier), Akhenaten, his Pharaoh father, to be destroyed from all monuments, statues et al … or replaced their names with his own – he also ordered that the city of Amarna be dismantled – where Akhenaten’s tomb was found.

 

Valley of the Kings found at Luxor


Horemheb ruled for 14 years and was the last pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt.

 

Horemheb nearly succeeded in removing Tutankhamun’s reign from history … but for the intrepid dream of an Englishman – Howard Carter, Lord Carnarvon’s assistant when he was sponsoring excavations in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.

 

Lord Carnarvon reading



Carter began to work with Lord Carnarvon in 1907, supervising excavations of nobles’ tombs in Thebes … in 1914 Carnarvon received the concession to dig in the Valley of the Kings.  Work was suspended during WW1 …

 


By 1922, Lord Carnarvon had had enough with the lack of results trying to find Tutankhamun’s tomb and returned to Highclere Castle (perhaps best known today as the setting for the Downton Abbey franchise).

 

Highclere Castle
(aka Downton Abbey)


Carter not one to give up on a dream … decided to personally finance one last clearance… whereupon Carnarvon confirmed he’d actually sponsor the last dig in the Valley of the Kings.

 


The area in front of the tomb of Ramesses V and Ramesses VI, was still crowded by the remains of the huts occupied by the workers, who had built this later tomb.

 

Highly decorated tomb walls


Carter supervised the work of recording the workers’ huts, photographing, documenting and finally clearing them.  Then the 1920s workmen were ordered to dig through the debris on which the huts once stood …

 

 

… hey presto, Carter turned up on November 4th 1922 for a regular day of work … but silence reigned … a flat stone surface had been uncovered … this was the uppermost step of the stairway leading underground …

 

 

Hawk carving with Horus

… Carter just knew that a momentous moment had been reached in archaeological history … Lord Carnarvon was telegraphed – he returned to Luxor on November 23rd … then they could explore further, find the contents … learn more about the history of the boy king.

 

The treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb are quite extraordinary … all 5,366 objects (“wonderful things” – as described by Carter) give us an understanding of the importance of ritual and of his life, albeit entombed here with him … and serving to help him find his way to and thrive in the netherworld … to live forever.

 

Tile Faience


Incredibly the mummy of the young golden pharaoh had remained in its nest of coffins, lying peacefully and undisturbed for more than 3,000 years.

 

Zahi Hawass – the world’s most famous Egyptologist – wrote the catalogue accompanying the Exhibition – which celebrates the centennial of Tutankhamun’s discovery and in 1922 the return of all the Treasures, presently meant to be travelling to ten exhibition cities, for permanent display in the new Grand Egyptian Museum.

This is Life's Egyptian
Number celebrating
Tutankhamun's tomb find

 


I dithered about adding this visit to that ‘long’ day … but am so glad I did … and depending what suppression Covid does to their other appearances … I consider myself extremely fortunate that I went before lockdown.

 

This has got quite long … but I wasn’t sure what to do … and suddenly thought I could write an A-Z about Tutankhamun and his golden treasures … which will bullet point aspects of the workmanship of those times, the history of this most famous of Pharaohs, and snippets that I found fascinating …

 

It’s been interesting to note in the comments that four of you have remembered seeing previous exhibitions or wanting to … Swedish Inger, who when her mother visited Los Angeles in 1970 – went to the exhibition that year; Aussie Denise visited in London in 1972 – when I wouldn’t brave the nightmarish queues … kudos to her for doing so, Canadian Deniz, now in Switzerland, is keen to visit the exhibition currently on in Zurich.  I thought there was a.n.other … but apologies I have forgotten.

 

Right – I’d better get writing my A-Z … after I’ve got back into the blogging vein and getting over to comment on your sites …

 

Saatchi Gallery's website for the Tutankhamun exhibition


More reference sites shortly, or on the A-Z post ... I just want to publish this!


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

36 comments:

Liz A. said...

I heard of this, but I never did visit an exhibition. Sounds like you were fascinated by it all.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Yes, it was a school trip and what a trip it was; I have never forgotten it! Thanks for this hop along memory lane &*> YAM xx

Annalisa Crawford said...

Several people I know visited, I think one managed it as a day trip - all the way from down here! I'd have been worried about missing the last train home.

The whole story is fascinating. To have so many items from that period is amazing.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Thanks for such detailed information; I've read books on the subject in the past but I've obviously forgotten most of it. Somehow it's difficult to identify with the people of Ancient Egypt as being members of the same human race as us; everything was so different in their society. I have the same problem, though to a lesser extent with the Roman world.

Hels said...

Even though Ancient Egypt was not fascinating to me at uni, Howard Carter was held up as a role model to young students. Lord Carnarvon had just about given up on his own project and so his workers would have left as well. I know Carter found the burial chamber and sarcophagus totally by accident, but he persevered. In the years after, when things went badly in my career, I remember how Carter became an important author in Ancient Egyptian studies.

Keith's Ramblings said...

I've not yet visited this exhibition but I have been in his tomb in the Valley of The Kings. I was struck by how small it was - how they managed to get thousands of items in there with him is quite a mystery. His mummy remains in its gilded sarcophagus and the wall paintings are stunning but sadly, no photography is allowed. The entry fee was extremely high but worth every piastre!Thanks for another interesting and informative post Hilary.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thank you for another fascinating post, Hilary. I'm glad you were able to visit before the pandemic. I would love to go there.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I thought it had come to the States at some point.
All that treasure, and they say Tutankhamun was not as wealthy as others who still lay buried and hidden.

Jacqui Murray said...

These ancient rulers were so interesting. They ruled with an iron fist, by subjugation. I wonder if that was necessary.

Deborah Weber said...

I'm utterly fascinated by all things ancient Egyptian, and this post was a real treat for me. And I absolutely vote for A-to-Z coverage - how fun! I'm really glad you got an opportunity to see this, and wish I had been there with you.

Botanist said...

My memory is a bit hazy because I was still young at the time, but I do remember visiting the British Museum in the early 70s and I'm fairly sure the Tutankhamun exhibition was on at the time. I don't remember anything about long queues though.

retirementreflections said...

Hi, Hilary - This is definitely an exhibit that I would LOVE to visit. Thank you for taking us there!

Anabel Marsh said...

I thought I remembered a Tutankhamun exhibition in Edinburgh, maybe 25 years ago, with his golden mask. However, I looked it up and it was even longer ago - 1988 - was called Gold of the Pharoahs and the golden mask was the funerary mask of King Psusennes I. So much for memory! It was also excellent though, I do remember that correctly.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

I have always loved the ancient Egyptian exhibits, Hilary. Thank you so much for all this treasure of information about King Tut. I truly enjoy reading your posts. All best to you, my dear.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Liz – it was absolutely amazing and I loved it … sorry you missed it …

@ Yam – that’s great you remember seeing the exhibition back then – school trips can be the best.

@ Annalisa – gosh that’s some commitment from Cornwall up and down in a day … yes I always worry about the train trip home – though don’t do the late night ones any more. I think my A-Z will be fun …

@ John – I didn’t realise there was so much to Tutankhamun and his brief reign … but I’ve learnt … so the A-Z will be an interesting write up: I learn that way too. I’ve never properly read about Egypt or that era … I guess at some stage the Romans and the Greeks might pop up here too … way to learn. I struggle with books sometimes … I can’t take it in. You’re right it beggars belief that they were as human as we are today …

@ Hels – I never liked history much – though you’d not say that now; Howard Carter spent time with Flinders Petrie, who is a hero of mine (sort of!) who encouraged Carter’s meticulousness in recording everything, but in particular being very careful as he excavated.

I don’t think it was totally by accident – it appears Carter did suspect that the burial was there … but had been buried under the rubble of the huts of those very early pyramid builders, presumably because Tut had been whitewashed from history as far as the ancient Egyptians were concerned – so they weren’t concerned his site was covered over – which is where Carter found the tomb. Carter was a great administrator and illustrator as well as Egyptologist.

@ Keith – lucky you … I was never inspired to visit Egypt, I don’t know why … just one of those things. I bet actually seeing the tomb in its glorious surround must have been extraordinary – and I can believe the entry fee was huge – but as you say worth every piastre. I hope you’ll enjoy the next A- Z one …

@ Joylene – Yes I’m glad I went before total lockdown came in … I won’t go up to London now for a while.

@ Alex – yes London was the third city … it had been to LA, and to Paris … I tried to find out where else it was going … but couldn’t easily find out – especially now covid has stopped things in its tracks. Not sure if Deniz will get to Zurich – as I gather it’s on there.
The gold aspect is interesting … he only reigned for 10 years yet was revered …

@ Jacqui – Yes ancient rulers are fascinating … some ruled with an iron fist – but others such as Tutankhamun reigned because of the hierarchy of the 18th Dynasty. So the Dynastic regime presumably had control ensuring that the traditions, including who became king, were adhered to – that certainly seemed to happen here.

@ Deborah – oh how wonderful … it’s a pleasure I’ll enjoy writing up the A-Z. It was an extraordinary exhibition and I’d have loved to have had you visiting with me.

@ Ian – you were very lucky if you didn’t have to stand around queuing … I just remember seeing The Evening Standard’s photo of the queues outside and round the block to get into the British Museum … that put me off!

@ Donna – it was quite extraordinary … and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the A-Z, when more will be shown …

@ Anabel – Tutankhamun has certainly been doing the rounds over the years hasn’t he … oh oh I see you saw the Gold of the Pharaohs of the 21st Dynasty … I wonder if they copied Tut’s mask – looks similar. It’s extraordinary what they were able to create and craft over 3,000 years ago.

@ Victoria – I’ve learnt a great deal now I’ve written this post up … you’ve obviously studied and seen lots more than I have …

Thanks so much to you all – I’ll get to writing the A-Z up – which by the sound of it you’ll all I hope enjoy a great deal … lots to it. Take care and all the best - Hilary

L. Diane Wolfe said...

The entrance was under the huts - who would've ever guessed?

Joanne said...

Glad you did queue up and see this exhibit. Any time a Tut or Egypt exhibit comes to the Kimbell in Ft.Worth it's crazy crowded but always worth it. The scale, the art, etc is just fabulous. I believe they are having a Queen's exhibit in 2021 and I'm psyched already. Ray likes the Egyptian stone, mummy's, et al. I always read the articles about new findings - I think there was another recent one - a bunch of new tombs. The preservation and the strength of the materials they used so long ago is striking. Anyway -glad you are now exploring this aspect of history and blogging about it. Oh, and a friend of mine's husband lives in NYC and studies hieroglyphics as a hobby....just a thought, in case you need something new to learn. Take care

Jo-Anne's Ramblings said...

I liked the post being stuck at home day after day made reading this uplifting

David M. Gascoigne, said...

I suppose that King Tut has become the gold standard for museum exhibits, and I have regretted more than once that I did not stand in line (usually a very long line) when the exhibit was staged in Toronto many years ago. It was my loss, to be sure.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Diane - I know ... but at least Carter suspected the tomb was there - mind you it was the last place available to look in the Valley of the Kings.

@ Joanne - in fact ... in this day and age you buy a timed entry ticket ... which makes life so much better: so no queueing thankfully.

You're lucky - the Kimbell seems to be a forward looking Museum - I'd love to be nearer to London ... still at least I can get there in normal times. Yes they've found more archaeology in the Valley of the Kings, and other artifacts and hieroglyphic writing ... I'll add a note to the A-Z post.

Oh Joanne - you've opened up another door ... to learn hieroglyphics ... I must say I'd love to attend a workshop one day - as an overview.

@ Jo-Anne - well that's great you're enjoying the posts ... that's why I started the blog - to have something positive when my mother was so ill.

@ David - it appears you might be right ... that early exhibition in the 1970s really did set a high bar - but I note that Anabel above went to see an exhibition in Edinburgh on the 21st Dynasty - where similarities occurred.

I have to say I'm so pleased this Tutankhamun exhibition was on and I made the decision to visit it ... it's really opened my eyes to so much.

Take care all of you- I'll get writing my A-Z ideas for next week - Hilary

Rhodesia said...

Interesting post as always and most of what I did not know.
I have to say I did enjoy seeing the pyramids and the sphinx in Egypt, but the drive there and back shattered my nerves to such a degree that I do not remember as much as I would have liked. I flew from Jhb to London in 2021 to see Nigel who was working there at the time. The only flight I could get was Air Egypt with a long stopover in Cairo. Never again. The food did not agree with me. Everyone was smoking. All I wanted to do was sleep in Cairo, but those of us who were in-transit were shepherded to a taxi and taken on the tour, no apparent choice in the matter. Oh well, it was interesting in many ways to say the least of it!
Have a good weekend stay safe, Diane

Inger said...

What I love about you (well one thing I love about you) is how you always, without fail, jump in and learn as much as you can about the things that interest you in life. About the many things that interest you. And thus, turn around and teach us, your readers, a few things as well. Thanks for this interesting post.

bazza said...

The Saatchi Gallery is such a lovely place to visit isn't it? I assume that you are talking about the one in King's Road?
(BTW Have you read Kingsley Amis' comic novel The Egyptologists? It's nothing to do with Egypt being about a group of married men who under the guise of pretending to be interested in Ancient Egypt, form a secret drinking club to get away from their wives.)
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s technically tremulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Jz said...

I have been watching a series about lost treasures of Egypt (#746) and they were talking about the new Grand Museum of Egypt - man, would I love to go see that!
Especially if I could be transported in after hours so I can poke around without battling the crush of humanity... Oh, it doesn't work that way?

Lisa said...

I was lucky enough to see it in New Orleans Louisiana back in the 70s. Like you I was more than amazed. It was overwhelming, stunning, and I remember it vividly. Thanks so much for writing about the exhibit!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Diane – thank you. How interesting the way you got taken to see the pyramids … almost kidnapped – no choice. I can understand why you remember the highs and the lows of your trip back to London via Cairo in 2012 … sounds horrifying – but inadvertently a treat. Going on a coach is something I really don’t like, being crammed with lots of people – not my favourite either, smoking is off etc etc …

@ Inger – thank you … I need to learn, and often find things I think will appeal to anyone who happens to read here … so if friends (commenters) come on they hopefully find something to interest them – which as you say guides to an interesting snippet or two or aspect of life that’s remembered …

@ Bazza – do you know I could hardly walk by the time I got there (I’d been wandering the streets of London all day, having come up from Eastbourne earlier by train) … so didn’t take it in – except the setting – looked amazing and one day I’ll go and take a look around – yes the King’s Road Museum.

I haven’t read Kingsley Amis’ comic novel – but have just ordered it … as a light read – I hope.

@ Jz – oh how interesting … I haven’t seen anything on the film/tv about the new Museum … I must keep an eye open for it … I’m sure there’ll be something on it when Tut’s treasures are finally returned there in 2022.

Yes – wouldn’t it be fun to be able to explore behind the scenes in many of the museums … or castles, noble houses etc … without humanity around – not keen on the masses! – and I’d have to be magicked in!

@ Lisa – you were lucky you were able to see the New Orleans exhibition … I would never have seen the British Museum one, and obviously didn’t – nightmare queues. So glad you’ve such wonderful memories … I’m just glad I was able to see the Saatchi one, and yes I was and still am staggered.

Thanks so much – lovely to have your memories and small tales about your visits over the years. I’m sure my A-Z will add extra interest … take care - Hilary

Liza said...

It's remarkable to be able to view ancient history like that.

Pradeep Nair said...

I didn't know so much about this part of Egypt's history. Amazing information. Thanks for sharing. Loved reading this.

Sandra Cox said...

Fascinating. You find the most interesting exhibits.
Cheers,

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I've always been fascinated by that period in Egypt's history.

Elsie Amata said...

Hi Hilary,

I know I say this all the time, but I learn so much here. Today, I looked up perfumed oil to see if it's the same as an essential oil. It's not. Who knew? Not me. I also wanted to see what it was used for back in the day. See, you teach me so much! Have a great rest of your week!

Warmly,
Elsie


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Hi Hilary,

This is so *fascinating*! History for all ages here. We had a mummy exhibit that included Ramesses some years ago here in Charlotte and I took my son...we enjoyed it so much.

Thanks for the post and for reigniting my interest in this subject. :)

Yolanda Renée said...

How wonderful to have seen and learned so much from that visit. I love the history of it all but wonder at the desire to dig up another's tomb. Is it the gold and jewels that drive them or the search itself? I know we learn so much from these tombs but it still seems odd to me. ;)

Love your continuing journey!

Kay G. said...

Would have loved to have seen the exhibit also.
Thanks for such great detail about it!

Empty Nest Insider said...

Hi Hilary, It’s quite a coincidence that the Agatha Christie movie was based on this incredible exhibit. I’m sorry that you’re in lockdown now. Thank goodness you managed to see so many interesting sights before the pandemic. I’m sure you will continue to keep your spirits up, while spreadIng good cheer to all! Take care and stay safe, my friend!

Julie

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Liza – it was a stunning exhibition to be able to see … and you’re right, as you say to also get to appreciate some of that ancient history …

@ Pradeep – nor did I know much about Egypt’s early history – I’ve learnt a lot from the exhibition and writing these two posts up. So pleased you enjoyed it …

@ Sandra – thank you … I go where I can, when I can …

@ Lynda – the more you get into it – I can believe one could easily get hooked … and there’s a lot of it … over 30 dynasties …

@ Elsie – that’s great … I’m delighted you enjoy visiting and seeing what’s appeared here … I learn too! I hope my idea of perfumed oil back then matches yours … it’s in my next post …

@ Elizabeth – yes … definitely history for all ages – if I’m writing it up. Ah you had a Ramesses exhibition … that dynasty came after Tut’s … but similar in many ways. That’s great I’ve reminded you about that visit with your son and the interest you both had there …

@ Yolanda – it’s history … from which we learn so much – the necessity to discover. I guess so many of the tombs and thus pharaohs have been found … and they can piece together Egyptian history … I’m sure it’s the excitement … and the knowledge that can be gleaned from the tomb’s contents and decoration … so much still being learnt.

@ Kay – that’s a pleasure … I’m so pleased I managed to visit … I hope you enjoy the next post …

@ Julie – the Agatha Christie was only based on an archaeological exploration murder … and where she’d met her 2nd husband – but coincidence it came up … as I was writing these posts – not set specifically at Tut’s tomb …

I’ve been to other exhibitions I need to write up about … still awaiting my eagle eye to hone in!

Thanks so much to you all – I hope all are well … life is tricky for all of us … so stay safe, take care and see you around at your blogs soon - Hilary