Friday, November 23, 2007

Tut Mummy on Public Display for First Time

Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass (center) supervises the removal of the mummy of King Tutankhamun from his stone sarcophagus on November 4, 2007.

The mummy was moved to a high-tech glass display case in the tomb's antechamber, the first time the famed boy king has ever been on public display.

Photograph by AP Photo/Ben Curtis, Pool

The mummy of King Tutankhamun today went on public display for the first time—85 years to the day since his tomb was discovered in Egypt's famed Valley of the Kings.

Until now the boy pharaoh's remains had rested in his sarcophagus in the burial chamber of the tomb, which lies just north of the city of Luxor.

But on Sunday morning the remains—settled inside a wooden box—were carefully transferred to a high-tech glass display case about 30 feet (9 meters) away in the tomb's antechamber.

The valley was frenzied with TV camera crews, photographers, and journalists, who converged below the gravelly sun-drenched hills near the tomb.

The atmosphere seemed fit for a modern-day movie star, underscoring the enduring celebrity of a king who died more than 3,000 years ago.

The move will help preserve Tutankhamun's mummy, which experts say has been deteriorating rapidly because of exposure to heat and humidity.

The new display is also expected to increase visits to the tomb from about 350 to 900 tourists a day, generating funds for the protection of Egyptian antiquities.

"I can say for the first time that the mummy is safe, the mummy is well preserved, and also at the same time, all the tourists who will enter this tomb tomorrow morning will be able to see the face of Tutankhamun for the first time," said Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence.

(National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)