More than 100 of ancient Egypt’s finest artifacts give new life to pharaoh Tutankhamun and the great kings of old.
The mummification and entombment of Egypt’s pharaohs ranks as one of the ancient world’s most widely known practices, satisfying both our age-old curiosity surrounding death and our fascination with the gold, jewels and other treasures such rulers amassed in life. Thousands of years ago, these kings were laid to rest with all their earthly possessions—bones preserved, organs placed in canopic jars, opulent riches testifying to their importance. And thanks to modern archeologists, the discovery of these objects has allowed Egypt’s storied pharaohs to achieve their greatest desire: to live on forever in the afterlife.
Ironically, it is a relatively minor ruler, Tutankhamun, who in death commands the most reverence. Since the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, his priceless cache—from a small board game to his iconic, solid gold funerary mask—has travelled the globe and inspired generations of professional and amateur Egyptologists alike. The Art Gallery of Ontario provides fresh opportunity to glimpse some of these precious artifacts in its latest exhibition, King Tut: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs.
As its name implies, the boy-king Tutankhamun headlines this blockbuster showcase, but the exhibition also looks at Tut’s predecessors, lending broader perspective to religion, art and courtly life between 2600 and 660 BC—some 2,000 years of ancient Egyptian history. Thutmose III, controversial Amenhotep IV (also called Akhenaten), and Khafre, whose image adorns the Sphinx, are among the pharaohs who make an appearance in beautifully rendered and exceptionally well preserved stone carvings.
Thus acquainted with Egyptian antiquity, visitors are invited to share in the awe experienced by British archeologist Howard Carter when he unearthed Tut’s final resting place almost a century ago. Inside the four-chambered tomb Carter found thousands of significant objects, more than 50 of which are on display at the AGO. Ornate shabtis (figures carved in the pharaoh’s likeness and meant to take his place when labour was called for in the afterlife), canopic jars and a variety of gold adornments are prominent, but perhaps the most affecting artifacts are a small woven-reed bed and chair—reminders that this monarch rose to power, ruled and died before he even reached adulthood.
The Art Gallery of Ontario is open Tuesday to Sunday. King Tut admission is $16.50 to $32.50 and includes entry to the AGO’s permanent collection; call 416-979-6648 for more information and to purchase tickets.