Tripping with Tut

New York City seems to be hitting the Tutankhamun trifecta with three exhibits opening that highlight the ancient Egyptian burial rites.  Those desiring to revel in the King Tutankhamun’s (reign ca. 1336–1327 B.C.) bling will have to wait until April 23, 2010 when Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs comes to the Discovery Times Square Exposition. According to the press material, the over 130 items on display include his royal diadem and one of the canopic coffinettes that contained his mummified internal organs.

In The Funeral of Tutankhamun (on display until September 6, 2010), the Metropolitan Museum of Art turned down the glitz. Instead of drawing from their collection of ornate objects that shine forth with a royal glow, they highlighted the ordinary items used in the pharaoh’s mummification and burial rites. While Tut received a proper royal sendoff, according to the display markers, many of these objects could have been used to prepare those who couldn’t afford an Egyptian burial fit for a king.

The Brooklyn Museum’s exhibit Live Forever (on display until May 2, 2010) lays out in greater detail how burials were conducted according to one’s financial status. For example, one can examine a range of coffins from the elaborate wood and stone coffins crafted for the wealthy to the earthen coffins that poor made for themselves. Those who could not afford to decorate their funeral equipment in gold would find other means to imitate the appearance of the rich man’s grave goodies. But as history has proven so far, no matter how you decorate your dead, in the end, we’re all dust to dust.

Becky Garrison is a satirist/storyteller whose most recent book is Roger Williams’s Little Book of Virtues (Wipf & Stock, March 2020). Also, she edited Love, Always: Partners of Trans People on Intimacy, Challenge and Resilience (Transgress Press, 2015). Her six books include 2006’s Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church (PW, starred review).