To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again. – Ancient Egyptian belief
Tutankhamun lives! Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, the traveling exhibit of artifacts from his tomb, has been viewed by tens of thousands of Northern California residents and visitors and his name has been repeated countless times. My wife, son and I were among the throng that flowed through the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on a balmy Saturday afternoon.
The voice of Omar Sharif introduces you to the boy king, in a brief video at the beginning of your visit and in the audio tour that you carry through the galleries. For some of the visitors, his narration would be the first time they would have heard correct pronunciations of Hamun’s and other Egyptian’s names.
The galleries of artifacts are nested tightly together and the magic of lighting defines the different foci and moods of the segments. Walking space all around nearly each temperature- and humidity-controlled display case allowed us to view an artifact from multiple angles.
I was intrigued by the geneology charts, impressed by the jewelry buried with royal bodies, touched by the death mask and coffin of the king’s cousin’s fetus, amazed by the scarab carved from a unique desert glass, awed by the gilded sarcophagus of Tjuya. What made the exhibit more special and significant than other traveling exhibits was the sheer volume of actual – rather than replica – artifacts, ranging from a board game miniature to a stylized, oversized carving of the pharaoh’s head.
Most of all, I was struck that the Egyptians obsession with preserving the body after death showed an unmistakable respect for life.