King Tutankhamun: The Mystery Unsealed

[2 March 2006]

By Dan MacIntosh

With King Tut, it seems like the more you know about him, the more you want to know. If you're in such a dire need to know way, this DVD will feed your need.

Whenever the King Tut exhibit comes to town it’s easy to get lost in the shear beauty of the voluminous gold that was discovered in his tomb. But this DVD is less about Tut glitter, and much more about the story behind this Egyptian pharaoh’s amazing life, as well as the tale of his archeological discovery. It’s told from a number of different angles here, but no matter how many different ways you care to look at it, this is an eternally fascinating bit of history.

The main portion of this DVD is an overview of Howard Carter’s 1922 archaeological dig, which amazingly turned up King Tut’s tomb. Taken from a History Channel cable TV program, and narrated by actor Frank Langella, this DVD puts the viewer into Carter’s shoes, so to speak. It’s also illustrated with old photographs, newspaper clippings, and sometimes with the voiceover of an old-time radio broadcaster. Langella begins by telling us that, before Carter struck his gold, it was assumed that most of these sacred pharaoh sites had already been plundered beyond recognition. Other tombs had been found before, but few had been preserved as well as Tut’s. Experts believe tomb raiders may have been scared out of Tut’s resting place before they could take all its good stuff, which is why we were left with so many rare treasures.

As the story goes, another explorer, Theodore Davis, had dug in and around the same general region of Tut’s tomb before Carter came along. Although he found Tut’s name written on the walls of its vicinity, he did not experience the glory of excavating this wonderful historical booty. Later, Carter picked up where Davis left off by partnering with Lord Canarvan. Just as these two curious men were about to give up on the whole project, the team discovered an enticing descending staircase. Once these stairs were cleared, and the wall at the bottom was punctured, Canarvan asked Carter, “Can you see anything?” To which Carter excitedly replied, “Yes, wonderful things!” And these “wonderful things” have left the world awestruck ever since.

Tutankhamun’s life story is just as fascinating as the gold that decorated his ornate gravesite. He was young, approximately 18 years old, when he died. Experts here speculate that his untimely death—whatever its cause—was probably a sudden one. One clue to his young age was a small glove that was found there, because it’s too tiny to fit an adult. Many of the objects left in his tomb appear to have been originally designed for somebody else and for someone else’s burial. Plan-B, so to speak, was to hastily re-make these expensive after-life curios and put them into Tut’s final resting place.

While his earthly life may have been short, it’s speculated that King Tut was nevertheless a beloved and respected leader. This belief is based upon many of the events that led up to his brief reign. The man that experts believe was Tut’s father, Akhetaten, was viewed as a heretic for trying to establish an extreme change in Egypt’s religious practices. To put it simply, Akhenaten replaced Egypt’s polytheism with monotheism, which then put a lot of priests out of work. He also went on close down all the sacred temples. Then when Tut began his rule, he also reinstated the priestly religious practices that existed prior to Arkhetaten, which certainly made a lot of unemployed religious men happy again.

In addition to the primary program on this disc, there is also a segment called “The Curse of King Tut”. As legend has it, there is said to be a deathly curse placed upon anybody that disturbs Tut’s tomb. Experts here, however, don’t believe such a curse was ever instituted by the ancient Egyptians. Granted, a few archeologists passed away in strange ways. But it’d be foolish to tie such deaths to any kind of a supposed curse. Additionally, there’s another bonus program called “Howard Carter: Triumph & Treasure,” which is an A&E Biography show. This segment tells the story of this fortunate explorer’s storied life.

Nothing can ever replace the eye-opening experience of witnessing the contents of King Tug’s tomb in person. But if you want to learn the story behind all the jewels, King Tutankhamun: The Mystery Unsealed is an excellent place to start.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/king-tutankhamun-mystery-unsealed/