Houston Museum of Natural Science Features King Tut’s Tomb Discovery Experience

One hundred years ago, on Nov. 4, 1922, after seven long years, British archaeologist Howard Carter and his workmen discovered a rock-cut step in the bedrock of the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. He had been searching for royal tombs, in particular that of the “Boy King” Tutankhamun. Less than one month later, after further excavation of the staircase and passageway, the sealed doorway to the tomb was breached and what he laid his eyes on would change the world forever.

“At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold – everywhere the glint of gold … ‘Can you see anything?’ … Yes, wonderful things!”

He had finally found the pharaoh’s tomb that he and his employer Lord Carnarvon had been searching for all those years.

Now, members of the public will be able to rediscover the magnificent awe of that first encounter with King Tut’s Tomb Discovery Experience, opening Oct. 28 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS).

“With King Tut’s Tomb Discovery Experience, we hope to replicate the experience of one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries ever made,” said Joel Bartsch, President and CEO of HMNS. “We’re thrilled to be able to bring visitors that same sense of wonder and astonishment that Howard Carter first experienced 100 years ago in the renowned Valley of the Kings.”

This special exhibition provides visitors with a first-hand experience of Tutankhamun’s tomb at 1:1 scale through the recreations of objects, treasures, and the equipment of the King’s burial chamber, giving a sense of the area as it first appeared to Howard Carter and his team.

The display reveals how Tutankhamun was buried in a series of four gilded wooden shrines that surrounded a stone sarcophagus, which housed three nesting coffins that protected the King’s mummy. This is displayed as a cross-section, which has never before been attempted. Reproductions of objects from the tomb made by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities complete the recreation.

As visitors continue through the exhibition, a recreation of the burial chamber shows projected animations of the painted walls, providing a more immersive experience. These animations translate the ancient hieroglyphic texts and images which commemorated Tutankhamun’s funeral and predicted his journey through the afterlife.

“Through time, robbers discovered and emptied all of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Only the tomb of an obscure pharaoh named Tutankhamun remained hidden and intact for over 3,000 years,” said Tom Hardwick, Consulting Curator of Egyptology for HMNS. “That is what has lent to the mystery and intrigue of King Tutankhamun for the last century: that his burial allowed us to peer into the lives of Egypt’s royalty and see how they were laid to rest, surrounded by their possessions, in their transition to the afterlife.”

Other exhibition highlights include informative videos about the discovery of the tomb and Tutankhamun’s life, an excavator’s tent with tools, and an interactive video game.

There is also a touchable display featuring rocks, semiprecious stones, and metals like those used to create some of the objects found in the tomb. Newly taken photographs of artifacts from the tomb will also be featured, allowing visitors unprecedented insight into the tomb and its contents.

What other secrets remain hidden in the Valley of the Kings? While we wait to uncover them, we continue to gain insight into the lives of Egyptian nobility from a moment in time that left Howard Carter amazed and his eyes glimmering. A moment that set the world abuzz in 1922 and still mesmerizes today with equal amounts of mystery and mystique.

King Tut’s Tomb Discovery Experience is now open at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. King Tut’s Tomb Discovery Experience is generously supported by the John P. McGovern Foundation, the Harriet and Truett Latimer Endowment Fund, and HMW Entertainment.

Entrance into the exhibition requires a separate ticket. Visit HMNS.org for tickets and information.

Photos: V. Sweeten