Once Upon a Tomb

The last time the boy king of Egypt, Tutankhamun, showed off his jewelry collection in the United States was 1977. Well, he’s back, in a new exhibit called “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs,” but he’s traveling light.

“It isn’t the blockbuster exhibit from the ’70s where 50 of the best objects were displayed in the United States,” says Kathryn Kinev, G.G., FGA, who recently saw the exhibit in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Kinev owns Jewel Creations in Atlanta and is an expert on the ancient art of granulation. She’s also a docent at Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum, known for its collection of Egyptian antiquities.

Kinev says the new exhibit is sparse on jewelry but still worth a visit. Many of the artifacts in Gallery 7, which focuses on the role of Tutankhamun as king (Tut was just 10 years old when he reversed his father’s unconventional belief in one God and restored the traditional religion, re-establishing belief in the Egyptian pantheon), are gold, gold leaf, sheet gold, or gilded. There are statues of the king and of the traditional deities and, of course, jewelry.

“There are nine objects in the exhibition that are set with gems, such as obsidian, rock crystal, feldspar, and carnelian,” says Janet Hong, senior administrative assistant at the Field Museum in Chicago. “All nine objects are from Tutankhamun’s tomb and were buried in his tomb at around 1342 B.C.”

Those objects include Tut’s royal diadem; a ceremonial dagger; an elaborately inlaid pectoral that held Tut’s “heart scarab”; a broad collar; and gold pectorals inlaid with carnelian, feldspar, or glass.

“The dagger that was found on Tutankhamun’s body is rather spectacular,” says Kinev. “The dagger itself is made of gold, and the handle is granulated with inlaid cloisonné of red and blue. The patterns of the granulation and the design suggest a Near Eastern or Aegean origin or the work of foreign goldsmiths in the pharaoh’s service.”

Kinev examined the piece through the case and says the granules appear worn. “This suggests to me that the dagger was a prized possession and worn often,” she notes.

The exhibition first went on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and is at the Museum of Art of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., through April 23. It moves to the Field Museum in Chicago on May 26 and concludes its run there on Jan. 1, 2007, after which it will travel to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, its final U.S. destination.

For information, call the Field Museum at (312) 922-9410 or visit fieldmuseum.org. Information also is available at kingtut.org.