In 1978, my mom took my sister and I to the Seattle Center to see the traveling exhibit of treasures from the tomb of King Tutankhamen. Like the rest of the country, the city was awash in "King Tut Mania.” An example is the 1978 hit novelty song “King Tut” by comedian Steve Martin. Caution: it’s extremely catchy. I showed this to my kids the night before our visit and it was stuck in my head the entire time. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
In the waning days of the 1978 tour in Seattle, the line to get in snaked around Seattle Center. We were informed by a member of the staff that it was highly improbable that we would make it in that day. Discouraged, we made the best of it and rode the elevator up to the Space Needle restaurant where we had a memorable afternoon snack while taking in the rotating 360 degree view of Seattle.
Since I missed seeing the actual exhibit that time, I was determined not to miss it again. This is the last stop of the tour before returning to Egypt and, for many reasons, it will probably be the last time the artifacts leave Egypt. So I wasn’t going to miss it this time, even though the iconic blue and solid gold death mask was deemed too fragile to make this trip. It, along with the sarcophagus, stayed back in Egypt this time.
To avoid the long lines experienced in 1978, the Pacific Science Center (host to the exhibit) now requires pre-purchased tickets with a specific entry time. These are in 15 minute increments and are wonderful not only for avoiding the entry lines, but also for spacing out the number of people entering at any one time so there is a fairly even flow through the exhibit. Once in, you can stay in the exhibit as long as you want and can move around to view the items in any order at your own pace.
The exhibit is set up so that you move from room to room, with each gallery representing a different theme. The first ones do not have any items from King Tut’s tomb at all. Instead, each displays items that help set up context for the upcoming Tut artifacts. Using everything from royal statues to a stone toilet seat (really!) these items give insight into the history, culture and daily lives of ancient Egypt.
There is a very solemn atmosphere in the exhibit and I found myself in awe of the huge statues that grace the first few rooms. Their detail and artistry is especially evident since you are able to get close enough to touch them (but don't!) with no glass between you and the art. I couldn't help but imagine the hands that crafted these over 3000 years ago and wonder about the lives they must have lived.
The last few rooms with King Tut's artifacts are impressive. There is some beautiful jewelry and an intricate little game board. Did you know that King Tut was buried in solid gold flip flops? Those are there, too.
Even with a comedian’s novelty song persisting in my head, I enjoyed each experience with this exhibit. I have heard complaints that this exhibit doesn't have some items like the blue and solid gold death mask, that it has many items that aren't from King Tut, and that it isn't as good as the ones in Cairo or the 1978 tour. While I do agree that using the blue and gold death mask on all the advertisments for the exhibit is a bit misleading, there are still other magnificent artifacts including another solid gold mask. And unless you plan to travel to Cairo (or back in time) this exhibit is your best option and I highly recommended it.
In my next post, I'll give some tips that I found helpful to maximize your time and enjoyment of the exhibit.
Have you been to see it? Are you planning a visit before it ends? Share your stories in the comments below.