September 15, 2008: Barry Cauchon

Hi all: With so many fantastic exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the world, it’s sometimes hard to keep on top of what is going on out there. The article below covers an event that occurred late last year. It did not happen in a museum or a gallery but rather in a tomb. If you missed this one now’s a good time to catch up.


King Tut's mummy on public display in the Valley of the Kings.

King Tut's mummy on public display at the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

In the 85 years since the tomb of King Tut was discovered, the body has never gone on public display. Although all the treasures from the tomb have been removed, the mummy itself has been kept in it’s original sarcophagus in the burial chamber. In late 2007, the boy king was finally brought out of hiding and put on public display for all to see.


On November 4, 1922, Howard Carter and his team were excavating the tomb of Ramses VI in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, Egypt. The plan was to excavate the ground beneath some ancient huts, found near the base of the tomb. While digging the ground beneath these huts they came upon the first of twelve steps that would eventually lead into the undiscovered tomb of King Tut.

Unlike most of other tombs in the Valley, which had been robbed of all their treasures, the tomb of Tutankhamun was almost completely intact. Evidence showed that it had only been broken into twice in it’s 3300 year existence. Very little had been removed (although definitely some treasures were taken). However, the golden treasures within the burial chamber, such as the Golden Mask and other jewelry which covered the body, could not be reached by tomb raiders due to the construction of the burial tomb itself. Carter was ecstatic when he reached the walls of the chamber and discovered that the seals had not been broken meaning the mummy and it’s contents were still 100% inside. This proved to be true.


Carter and his financial backers had far more interest in the golden treasure rather than the mummy itself. When they first started examining the contents of the sarcophagus, they noted that the entire mummy was encased in a hardened resin which had been poured over the body during embalming. To remove the jewelry and other treasures buried with the body, they had to dismember it. The mummy was cut in half at the pelvis and then separated into 18 pieces.

If this initial damage was not bad enough, years of tourists entering the tomb created high levels of trapped humidity and heat. This created an ideal environment for mummy-damaging bacteria and mold to grow.

1968 & 1978 X-RAYS

The mummy has been X-rayed twice. Once in 1968 and again in 1978. Other than these two events, the mummy had remained undisturbed until 2005. It is estimated that only about 60 people have viewed the body since the time of it’s discovery.

2005 – CT SCAN

Move ahead in time to 2005. As part of an initiative to bring King Tut back into the public eye, and to prepare for the upcoming US tour of the Tutankhamun exhibit, the Egyptian government and National Geographic planned to take a CT scan of the mummy to determine if the king had been murdered or not. The scanner was brought to the tomb and the body scanned. During the operation, the Egyptian specialists noticed that Tutankhamun’s mummy had decayed far faster than anyone had expected. At the rate it was deteriorating, they believed it would be completely consumed within the next 50 years.

The Egyptian government not only wanted to save the mummy from further damage but also wished to find a better way to bring in the critical tourist dollars. So they decided to put the mummy on public display, within an environmentally controlled showcase, inside the tomb.


On November 4, 2007, exactly 85 years to the day that Carter’s men found the first step, a team of Egyptian specialists from several institutions removed the body of Tutankhamun from his sarcophagus and carefully transferred him to his new home in an adjacent antechamber.

The mummy was placed inside a high-tech display glass case made by Glasbau Hahn of Frankfurt, Germany. I had the pleasure of working for Glasbau Hahn for twelve months in 2005-6 and they are one of the leaders in museum showcase fabrication in the world. This showcase is airtight, with humidity and temperature control. It is also filled with a nitrogen-rich mixture that is lethal to bacteria and mold. These features will protect the mummy from further decay and allow the public to get it’s first look at the boy king since his discovery so many years ago.

If you get over to Egypt and get a chance to visit the tomb of King Tut, please let us know what you thought.



Published in: on Monday, September 15, 2008 at '12:55 pm'  Comments (22)  
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22 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. actual i read about tuts in my class
    i m very great full to see tuts mummy
    this is r dreams come true


  3. Warm greetings to each in everyone of you. I was able to dropped by in this site when I clicked in the King Tutankhamun’s photo, lying in his temperature controlled coffin. I also read a lot about him and I got collections of pictures in print and even in my cellphone. Trully it fascinated me so much. In next year, I am having plans to go to Egypt, for sure I will be able to get a chance to visit him in his tomb.

    • Hi Evelyn: I’m very glad that you like King Tut. When I was the Sr. Project Manager for the King Tut exhibit in 2005 I was so lucky to get a chance to see the artifacts up close. I also was lucky enough to be surrounded by experts in Egyptology so I got a great education on the pieces. I do hope you get a chance to go to the Valley of the Kings and visit King Tut and his tomb. What a cool trip that will be.
      Have a great day.

  4. Arrived back from Egypt last Saturday – What a trip!

    A great time to visit the Valley of the Kings is now -not only is Tut’s mummy on display, but 15 metres from the entrance to his tomb you will see workers sorting lots of pottery pieces recently found at the latest tomb discovery.

    Also, just ahead and up to the right, about 30 ft up, we saw a line of workers on a discovery, just like you see in old pictures.

    WORD OF WARNING – You MUST buy the extra ticket for Tut’s tomb at the entrance BEFORE you enter through the entrance gate, or you will not get into his tomb!
    The ordinary entrance ticket only allows you to visit 3 tombs of your choice, but not Tut’s.

    After seeing how small Tut’s tomb is, go to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and see just how much was in it, including 3 chariots, a throne, statues, cases and cases of amazing, beautifully crafted items.
    It’s worth going just to see the SOLID gold beautifully decorated coffin, as well as his jewellery and, of course, the famous mask – it looks like it was made yesterday.

    Also, turn right immediately you clear the security check just inside, and walk up the staircase in front of you, turning left half way up. The entrance to the mummy room is by the top of the stairs (pay for ticket here). This ticket covers entrance to the second mummy room, which is at the top of the staircase on the other side of the building. Both hold about 10 Pharaohs each, mostly famous ones.

    ANOTHER WORD OF WARNING – If you go inside the MIDDLE pyramid at GIZA, be warned that as you enter the Kings chamber you will be looking ahead at the sarcophagus and may not notice in the gloom that the floor drops about 12 inches. I fell down it and badly grazed my leg and arm. My head missed the wall by an inch or so. I honestly could have been killed as I fell so hard. My son also fell at the same time but didn’t injure himself. There is a wooden slope ONLY in the centre, we both fell one each side.

    If you’ve always promised yourself a trip to Egypt – do it.

  5. we visited egypt for the second time this year and went to luxor,one of the places we saw was the valley of the kings.the entrance fee also included passes to three tombs and we paid £10.00 extra each to go in king tut`s tomb,our guide had told us it was a bit plain and small and he was right,but it had something the other tombs do not have a was worth every penny to see king tut and the gold coffin, and it is something i will never forget. we saw the pyramids last year that was brill to, we went in the small one and when we came out my knees were like jelly(very chlostrophobic),anyone thinking of going to egypt do it brilliant.

    • Hi Gillian: Thanks for your comments. You are so right. Seeing the actual mummy is amazing. So many people believe that they will see the mummy at the touring exhibits of King Tut but I have to keep reminding them that the mummy has never left the Valley of the Kings and is now in a glass showcase (humidity and temperature controlled) inside the tomb.
      Thanks so much for your great report. Hopefully others will want to go to Egypt and see the sites. They are amazing.
      The new Cairo Museum is currently under construction and it promises to be a wonderful place. Can’t wait to see it when it’s all done.

  6. what hapend with his parents

    • Hi Karen: Experts aren’t sure who Tutankhamun’s parents were. They believe his father was Akenaten, who was also a Pharaoh. His mother was probably one of Akenaten’s lesser wives. Perhaps one day they will discover the truth but for now it is still all guesswork.
      I hope that helps.
      Have a great day.

  7. that is so awsom

  8. its cool how most of his body parts are still attached after hundreds of years even if his was mummyfied

    • Hi Ryan: Have you had a chance to see the touring exhibit? His mummy is not in it, but there are over fifty artifacts taken from the tomb that are on display.

  9. About a year ago the touring exhibit was in Toronto, and I just happened to be there at the time, so me and my father went to check it out. Everything was pretty amazing, but I wasn’t terribly impressed, simply because I was 5 months away from heading to Egypt. At the beginning of July 2010 I travelled all over Egypt on a school trip. Along with the pyramids, the high damn, most famous temples, and the Cairo museum, we also visited The Valley of the Kings. It did cost $20 extra to go into King Tut’s tomb, but it was one of the most memorable parts of the trip. I just stood there for a long long time trying to grasp what I was looking at.

    Seeing these pictures in books and online are cool, but when you actually see it for yourself, it changes everything. I was very disappointed when we found out there were no cameras allowed within the site, so seeing this picture now is great.


    • Hi Chris: Thanks for the comment. Yes, I agree. The touring exhibit(s) have been publicly disappointing. Unfortunately, the major Tut pieces remain in Egypt and they do not plan on releasing them to tour. So smaller or secondary pieces were allowed out. Of the over 3000 pieces that were recovered from the tomb, only about 100 are touring amongst the two touring exhibits currently out there. Most are small and ‘unexciting’. The people who run the tour have done their best to work with the collection but it is still hard to create excitement when the major artifacts are not included.
      Nonethe less, it is wonderful that you got over to Egypt and saw the sites you did. I have never been there so I am envious of you. It sounds like it was a great experience and I am very grateful that you shared it with us here.
      I have friends currently working on the new Cairo museum. From what they tell me, it is amazing. Much of the money made on the touring exhibits have helped to finance the museums being built or refurbished there.
      Again, thanks for writing.

  10. I did visit Egypt and saw the mummy… it was amazing!!

  11. I’m an Egyptologist, I was a guide in the King Tut exhibition when it had it first stop in Switzerland (2004) and I worked in the Valley of the Kings several times. The last time I was there was in 2006, a year before the mummy went on public display.
    My personal view on this is a little bit different: I don’t like seeing mummies displayed publicly. Those were once living people and they never intended to become a public display. Think about how kings in ancient Egypt have been treated: they were seen as gods. It’s very disrespectful to display them today. Most tourists are not really interested in what they see in the Valley of the Kings, they go there because it’s included in the trip or because it’s “something you have to have seen once in your lifetime”.

    • Hi Cindy. Thank you very much for your comments. I may have seen you in Basil in 2004 when I first became involved with the Tut exhibit. Your viewpoint is absolutely welcomed. Can you tell me how long you have felt this way? Have you always had this belief or is it a realization that came to you after several years of seeing these kings and queens put on display? Nowadays I think that wonderful locations such as the Valley of the Kings have lost their magic for tourists of today. One hundred years ago the discoveries coming out of Egypt were world news. Nowadays, its so easily accessible by NatGeo and Discovery Channel documentaries and books, that the lustre is gone. Most people don’t have an appreciation for history at all and so when they are actually exposed to real history right under their feet, they seem to just not care. It is a shame and a really good observation on your part. Thanks for commenting, Cindy.

      • Hi Barry :-)
        I guess when I got my first book on mummies, I was deeply fascinated by them. Seeing a person who has been dead for so long and who might have been a famous king in life, was very amazing. Growing up, I went to museums in Europe and they never showed unwrapped mummies. Then, when I visited the Cairo Museum for the first time, I saw those famous kings that I read so much about. I had this sad feeling: they were so important in life, really god-like, and now they are on public display :-( During their lives, not many commoners might have seen them in person, and now all those “commoners” are staring at them… I bet not many of those tourists would appreciate being on public display after their death ;-) King Tut has always been my favorite king, so it made me double sad when I first heard that his mummy will be displayed. When I worked in the Valley of the Kings, I visited his tomb every day during my mid-morning break and it was amazing to know that his mummy is still in his tomb. I told a lot of tourists that his mummy is still in his sarcophagus and those people were amazed to hear this. It was a very special place.
        You’re right, sadly most people don’t appreciate seeing real history. When I worked in Egypt, I had to tell tourists on a daily basis “Don’t touch this!”. It’s very sad that a lot of people don’t show respect (but I have to say, not all tourists are like that!).
        How funny would it be if you would have seen me in Basel :-) I loved working in the exhibition! It was an amazing time! I could lead the absolutely last guided tour of the exhibition in Basel and it was a great way to say goodbye to the artifacts :-)

      • Hi Cindy. First of all, thanks for correcting the spelling of Basel. I couldn’t remember and forgot to look it up. Since I’ve been back in Canada, I’ve met a man from Switzerland who has become a friend. Small world, but he grew up in Basel.
        I never had the opportunity to go to Egypt during my time with the exhibit (which is such a shame because the Valley of the Kings is definitely on my bucket list). Thanks again for your thoughts. I think they add a great deal to the discussion and appreciation of how we display and present history.
        Have a great day.

  12. The guard in the tomb opened the barrier to the mummy to let me get a better camera angle for 10 Egyptian pounds. We were alone since it was off season during a bad tourist year.

  13. At the bottom of the pedestal of a walking statue of Pharaoh Ramesses II inside a museum in Chicago was in hieroglyph the curse of Tutankhanam.

    The curse is popularly one of death by most painful inner thigh muscle seizure that spreads, where undulating contractions, like a snake, remove all oxygen from a victim, in effect, micron strangulation. At The Terrrifying One Abu Haul (ابو خؤل) as the Great Sphinx at the Giza Pyramids was called, also referrenced its name from ancient Greek of the Strangler.

    Cats thought having nine lives, mysteriously died in a frozen, contorted clawing death position, with shanks separated and twisted out.

    You don’t have to be superstitious, just irreverant, of the rights of the dead. There are many treasures in Pharaohs tombs, the greatest of which was life. For Egypt the mother of the world, life is Eternal, either blessed or cursed.

    Zahi Hawass quotes an example of a curse: “Cursed be those who disturb the rest of a Pharaoh. They that shall break the seal of this tomb shall meet death by a disease that no doctor can diagnose.”[5]

    Deaths popularly attributed to Tutankhamun’s “curse”

    The tomb was opened on 29 November 1922.

    Lord Carnarvon, financial backer of the excavation team who was present at the tomb’s opening, died on 5 April 1923 after a mosquito bite became infected; he died 4 months and 7 days after the opening of the tomb.[22][23]
    George Jay Gould I, a visitor to the tomb, died in the French Riviera on 16 May 1923 after he developed a fever following his visit.[24]
    Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey of Egypt died 10 July 1923: shot dead by his wife.
    Colonel The Hon. Aubrey Herbert, MP, Carnarvon’s half-brother, became nearly blind and died on 26 September 1923 from blood poisoning related to a dental procedure intended to restore his eyesight.
    Sir Archibald Douglas-Reid, a radiologist who x-rayed Tutankhamun’s mummy, died on 15 January 1924 from a mysterious illness.
    Sir Lee Stack, Governor-General of Sudan, died on 19 November 1924: assassinated while driving through Cairo.
    A. C. Mace, a member of Carter’s excavation team, died in 1928 from arsenic poisoning[25]
    The Hon. Mervyn Herbert, Carnarvon’s half brother and the aforementioned Aubrey Herbert’s full brother, died on 26 May 1929, reportedly from “malarial pneumonia”.
    Captain The Hon. Richard Bethell, Carter’s personal secretary, died on 15 November 1929: found eating poison in his bed.[citation needed]
    Richard Luttrell Pilkington Bethell, 3rd Baron Westbury, father of the above, died on 20 February 1930; he supposedly threw himself off his seventh floor apartment.
    Howard Carter opened the tomb on 16 February 1923, and died well over a decade later on 2 March 1939; however, some have still attributed his death to the “curse”.[26]

  14. his breast ribs missing….so strange…

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