Eternal Tut

Even if ancient Egyptians were happy to see the Amarna Pharaoh’s names disappear in the dust of time, Tutankhamun shows himself eternal as he returns again, dedicated as ever to the welfare of his people. Unlike the Tut exhibit of 29 years ago, this tour delivers revenue to everyone. “In the previous exhibition on Tutankhamun, the museums in the United States received everything,” explains Zahi Hawass, the man responsible for overseeing and preserving Egypt’s ancient heritage. “Now, there will be no more free meals. In the current exhibition on Tutankhamun, the museums, organizers, and Egypt will all profit!”

Hawass goes on to detail that in Egypt the revenue will go toward major heritage restoration projects encompassing all of Egypt’s remarkable antiquities, including Pharaonic, Jewish, Coptic, and Islamic. Hawass details some of the current projects underway. “We are in the process of constructing 13 new museums, including the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), Civilization Museum, and the Akhenaten Museum as well as site museums. We are also instituting site-management programs, new storage magazines, and changing the system of guarding at sites.”

In addition to his position as secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Hawass is also the director of the Giza and Saqqara pyramids, and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. He was a Fulbright scholar to the U.S. and earned his Ph.D. in Egyptology from Penn, coming here to study with David Silverman and David O’Connor, and he currently serves on the museum’s board of overseers.

During the Tut tour of the late 1970s, when the show went to Germany and a precious artifact incurred damage there, Egypt decided not to loan out the objects again. But Hawass, a visionary as much as he is a skilled archaeologist, knew Tut had to be released to the world again. “Two years ago I was able to convince the government to convince the Parliament that it is very important that King Tut must come back to restore our monuments. We need Tut. [In the past] American museums sucked the blood of the monuments and brought no money to the monuments.” That’s all changed. The partnership now is equal and everyone is benefiting. When Tutankhamun resided in Fort Lauderdale some $150 million dollars poured into the local economy; likewise, Los Angeles County earned around $168 million. So, it seems Tut is looking out for everyone’s interests. His reputation as the Restorer holds, in more ways than one.—B.B.

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The Radical and the Restorer

(Left) Gilded Coffin of Tjuya,
nearly covered in reddish gold.


©2006 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 11/04/06