Mystery, Gold, and a 3,000-Year-Old Boy King: King Tut at Pacific Science Center in Seattle

A boy king who ru0512_web_tut_shabti_460x470led Egypt 3,000 years ago. His mysterious death and burial in a tomb laden with gold. The amazing discovery of the tomb in 1922 by a British archaeologist.

King Tut’s tomb is an original Raiders of the Lost Ark story, and Pacific Science Center’s just-opened exhibition Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs engages visitors in the thrill of this discovery. The vast collection of stunning artifacts are displayed against backdrops of black and burnt orange. The lighting is low and dramatic. And take a wild guess at who narrates the audio tour: Harrison Ford.

The galleries of the exhibition also build to the finale: a replica of Tut’s burial chamber and many of the original artifacts, which is reached by walking through a canvas tent of the sort Carter used for his expeditions.

With 130 artifacts on display — twice as many as were in the 1970s tour and 100 of which are from Tut’s tomb — there is literally something for everyone. Older kids will be interested in the boy king’s story and its threads of mystery, discovery and gold. There is a 10-foot statue of the pharaoh, a stunning gold mask, jewelry, furniture, ceremonial items and more.

Younger children will be interested in the stone latrine cover — which they’ll recognize as a potty seat — that Egyptians placed on waste boxes that they then emptied. (Someday they’ll understand what a breakthrough for civilization this was.) Another highlight will be a kitty sarcophagus, which decorated the coffin of a royal cat.

UnknownEveryone will be drawn to Tut’s burial chamber, which includes artifacts of his daily life, such as a bed of wood and woven reeds, as well as items designed specifically for the afterlife, including glittering gold sandals, gold covers for his fingers and toes and a wooden boat. Kids will also appreciate the shabtis, figurines whose purpose was to do forced labor in the afterlife, so that Tut wouldn’t have to.

A National Geographic animation walks visitors through the multiple coffins that protected Tut’s mummy, including one of solid gold.

For thoughtful older kids, the exhibit could provide plenty of grist for interesting discussion. For example, a statue of a female pharaoh, Hatshepsut, who adorned herself like a man to solidify her power, brings up gender roles.

Genderbending, religion, history, death, a latrine — Tut has it all.

Tips for families:

- Scavenger hunt Tut: The exhibit seems appropriate for ages 7 or so on up. To engage the younger ones, download our King Tut coloring sheet, which includes drawings of some of the most child-friendly artifacts, and can be used as a scavenger hunt sheet, as well as tips about museum etiquette.

wooden-boat2- Do some prep: There is a huge amount to take in at the exhibit, so some pre-exhibit exploring about Egypt and Tut can pave the way for a visit that engages your kids.

- Fuel up. There are ten galleries to visit, with no potty breaks, so prepare everyone. Similarly, no food or drinks are allowed.

- Double Tut? Because kids will want to go faster, consider going back on your own. (I had the privilege of attending a two-hour media preview of the exhibit yesterday — the ultimate luxury — and I could have spent more time there.)

- Birthday Tut: For Tut-crazy kids, PSF also offers Tut birthday parties

- Junior scientist alert: Just outside of the gift shop is a nifty mini-exhibit on “Modern Science and Ancient Mysteries,” which explains how technology such as DNA testing is shedding new light on Tut’s life and death; there is also a life-size replica of Tut’s mummy (the original is not part of the exhibition).

- 3-D Tut: Two IMAX movies accompany the exhibit, Mummies: Secrets of the Pharaohs and Mysteries of Egypt. A planetarium show, Star Secrets of the Pyramids, which explores ancient Egyptian astronomy’s influence on pyramid design, also adds context.

If you go:

When: Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs runs from Thursday, May 24, 2012, to Jan. 6, 2013 at the Pacific Science Center.

Tickets: Buy timed tickets at Member adults: $20; kids ages 3–15; $10. Non-member adults $27.50 Mon.–Thur.; $32.50 Fri.–Sun. Kids ages 6–15 $16.50, Mon.–Thurs.; $21.50 for Fri.–Sun. Kids ages 3–5, $15.50 during the week and $20.50 for Fri.–Sun.

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