By Demola Ojo
For those looking for an extra reason to travel to Egypt, the country’s Ministry of Antiquities last week displayed the golden coffin of famous pharaoh, Tutankhamun, which is under restoration for the first time since the boy king’s tomb was discovered in 1922.
Tutankhamun, a pharaoh of the 18th Egyptian dynasty, ruled Egypt from 1332 to 1323 B.C. He is most famous for his age; experts believe the boy was 10 when he took the reins of the world’s most powerful empire and his death aged just 19 has puzzled experts for decades.
The restoration process of his golden sarcophagus began last month after the three-tiered coffin was transferred to the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo from the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, southern Egypt.
It was the only sarcophagus left in King Tut’s tomb after the two other coffins of Tutankhamun were moved to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir square in 1922.
“We are showing you a unique historical artefact, not just for Egypt but for the world,” Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Enany told a press conference at the new museum, which overlooks the famed Giza Pyramids.
The golden coffin of the boy king will be displayed along with other Tutankhamun artefacts towards the end of next year when Egypt’s new mega-museum is opened to the public. The restoration is expected to take around eight months.
The outer gilded wood coffin stands at 2.23 metres (7.3 feet) and is decorated with a depiction of the boy king holding the pharaonic symbols, the flail and crook.
This is the first time Tutankhamun’s coffin has been pictured outside his tomb since its discovery almost 100 years ago and the first time it has ever been worked on.
Archaeologists are racing to repair the damaged sarcophagus, which is now weak and cracking apart.
Preliminary examination carried out on the outer coffin inside the tomb revealed that it has suffered from general weakness.
It had also developed cracks in its gilded layers of plaster, especially those of the lid and base prompting the need for an immediate intervention to restore the coffin inside a suitable environment.
British archaeologist Haward Carter discovered the tomb of the 18th dynasty king in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor in 1922. The tomb was untouched and included about 5,000 artefacts.
Many believe Tut’s remains are cursed as the opening of his tomb was followed by a string of deaths of people involved with the discovery.
Archaeologists, and even their family members, died from horrible illnesses or in strange accidents – and some say the deaths weren’t a coincidence.
Tutankhamun’s tomb was opened on November 29, 1922. Some of those involved in the excavation died soon after.
Lord Carnarvon a financial backer of the excavation, he died from an infected mosquito bite April 5, 1923.
George Jay Gould I, a tomb visitor, died May 16, 1923 from a fever following his visit.
Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey, an Egyptian prince, was shot and killed by his wife July 10, 1923.
Colonel Aubrey Herbert, MP – the half-brother of Lord Cardnarvon – died from blood poisoning related to dental work September 26, 1923.
Sir Archibald Douglas-Reid, the radiologist who X-Rayed Tut’s tomb died from a mysterious illness January 15, 1924.
Sir Lee Stac, the Governer-General of Sudan, was assassinated driving through Egypt’s capital, Cairo on November 19, 1924.
Others who died a few years later but whose deaths were still attributed ti the “Curse of the Pharaohs” include :
A. C. Mace (died April 6, 1928) – a member of Howard Carter’s excavation team, who died from arsenic poisoning;
The Hon. Mervyn Herbert (died May 26, 1929) – another half-brother of Lord Carnarvon, who died from malarial pneumonia;
Captain The Hon. Richard Bethell (died November 15, 1929) – Howard Carter’s personal secretary, who died from a suspected smothering in a Mayfair club and;
Richard Luttrell Pilkington Bethell (died February 20, 1930) – the father of Richard Bethell, supposedly threw himself off his seventh floor apartment.
Interestingly, Howard Carter who opened Tut’s tomb, died aged 64 from Hodgkin’s disease in 1939. His older brother William died the same year.