Mannheim: Thanks to high-tech, Tutankhamun lures you into his underworld – regional culture

Like a doll within a doll, the mummy of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, who died at a young age, was buried in several nested sarcophagi. The replica exhibition, which has toured the world for years, explains how Howard Carter discovered the tomb in 1922, almost 100 years ago. The originals are no longer borrowed from Egypt. Photo: Alfred Gerold

By Wolf H. Goldschmitt

Mannheim. The unfortunate thing about archeology is that it is ultimately a science of destruction. As soon as an ancient site is discovered, it also begins to decay. Each excavation removes patina that can never be replaced. And as soon as the first tourists are allowed to enter the sensation, the find usually falls victim to its own celebrity. What a blessing that modern technology, thanks to high-tech copies, conserves cultural treasures from antiquity and makes them accessible to everyone. The most recent exhibition in the armory of the Mannheim Reiss-Engelhorn Museum (REM) With a true-to-detail replica, takes you into the Egyptian cult of the dead, in which there has only been one name for almost 100 years: Tutankhamun, affectionately known as “Tut” by his fans.

The poor pharaoh with the clubfoot and the early end at the age of only 18 is far less important during his lifetime than his famous father Akhenaten, who wants to convert the country to monotheism. On the other hand, more than 3300 years after his death, the boy achieved the status of a rock star who died prematurely. The discovery of his almost intact grave in the Valley of the Kings, the salvage of the immense gold treasures and the media-effective marketing of “King Tut” at the beginning of the last century lay the foundation for a fame that continues to this day. With his assessment of the presentation, curator Wilfried Seipel gets to the heart of the matter: “We see an oversized gem here.”

Tutankhamun myth

The boat models on display, which in the underworld become miraculously large and functional, the suitcases that held food for the long journey, the boomerangs, the countless amulets: all convey the reality that death was a matter to be relied upon had to prepare in order to be prepared for a meeting with the guardians of the underworld. The three inner coffins, which weighed a total of 1,100 kilograms and weighed a total of 1,100 kilograms, are a shining highlight. The outermost one is a gilded wooden coffin, inside a second one, also gilded and colorfully decorated with inlays made of glass paste. The third, weighing 110 kilos, was once made of solid gold.

But there are also naturalistic artifacts: the boy king on a boat with a harpoon or his sandals, which are much larger than his feet. The steps are strikingly reminiscent of modern flip-flops. “The young king can also be seen as a trendsetter,” said the Egyptologist Wolfgang Wettengel yesterday during a tour of the press. Only the printed underside of the soles is hardly contemporary: They show the defeated enemies of the Pharaoh, who crushed them all with the royal slippers under his feet.

“Even the discovery of the grave reads like a novel,” continued Wettengel. The life story of the British archaeologist Howard Carter, which is inseparably linked to the pharaohs tomb, is full of adventure and a lust for discovery. The visitors experience it in a short film with which the tour starts over two floors. The strip shows how one of the workers reported on November 4, 1922 that steps carved into the rock had been found. The stairs lead to a wall and Carter opened an opening in it. “Then I widened the hole and peeked into it,” the researcher later recalls, “as my eyes got used to the light, details appeared inside the chamber, strange animals, statues and gold – gold shimmering and shimmering everywhere”. His financier, Lord Carnarvon, stands spellbound behind him. When he asks impatiently if Carter could see anything, the discoverer stammered: “Yes, wonderful things!”

However, they are not set up properly, but stacked wildly, under, above and next to each other – like in today’s self-storage. In the antechamber, for example, gigantic chests sit enthroned on beds with animal feet, curiously shaped boxes pile up underneath, a dismantled gold wagon lay in one corner, wheels leaned next to each other on the wall. The treasure chambers are also like a junk room. Both are set up true to detail in the exhibition, the eye hardly knows where to look first. Gold shines everywhere. And again and again the sheer mass of objects and splendor alone amazes the visitor. Almost seven million people around the world have the See “Tutankhamun – His Tomb and Treasures” already seen.

Info: The exhibition will be shown from Friday to February 27, 2022 Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the armory of the Mannheim Reiss-Engelhorn Museum.

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