King Tut Visiting Downtown Mexico City

15 Jan

The UNAM's Palace of Autonomy hosting the temporary exhibit of King Tutankhamen

King Tutankhamen is visiting Mexico City! Over 200 reproductions of artifacts found in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter are on display in a temporary exhibit entitled “Tutankhamen: The Tomb, The Gold and The Pharaoh’s Curse,” at the Palacio de Autonomia (a UNAM-run museum site tucked away in a well conserved 19th century neo-classical building).

King Tut in all his glory

Copies of original objects housed in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo aim to duplicate the splendors of King Tut’s tomb. The funeral rituals, process of mummification and customs of ancient Egypt have little in common with pre-Hispanic Mexico. King Tut is believed to have ruled Egypt from 1334 to 1325 B.C. – way before the Mexica’s arrived to the swamplands of downtown Mexico, where the exhibition is housed. The treasures seem foreign, somewhat forced and out-of-place at first, until one passes through the first introductory section and becomes involved in the ambiance of the Pharaoh’s burial setting.

Reproduction of a burial found in King Tut's tomb

Capturing the extravagance of the mortuary chamber of King Tut, located in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of Luxor, is no easy task. Although some of the artifacts are noticeable copies, the majority are exceptionally well-crafted, making using the same techniques and material – including gold – as the original ones.

A sampling of exquisite jewelry which was found in King Tut's tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter

Unlike the previous mega-hits of “Pharaoh: The Sun Cult in Ancient Egypt” Exhibit or “Isis and the Feathered Serpent” both record-breaking expositions housed in the National Museum of Anthropology a few years back – with an obligatory 2-3 hour wait to get in), this exhibit is easily accessible and aims to combine art and entertainment, reproducing not only the wonder of a royal Egyptian burial but fostering mystique which shrouded the discovery itself.

A partial view of the King Tut exhibit on temporary display downtown Mexico City

The legend of the evil spell cast on the early explorers, intertwined with the revelation of the riches of the boy king itself is so deeply embedded in history, that it is a standard scenes in Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum! Needless to say, there was no curse. Archaeologist Howard Carter, who unearthed the cache, lived till the ripe old age of 65 (in the 20s that was considered old age!), surviving 17 years after his find.

The reproductions were made with painstaking care, using similar materials and techniques as the originals, in attempts to re-create the details of the objects found in King Tut's tomb

Do not expect a dry, scientific, conventional display – this is more of a trip back in time, a-la-Disney, with a play of light and sound to further dramatize the setting and the magic associated with the site. Yet, the exhibit is based on fact, including an explanation of techniques of mummification, and a representative selection of mortuary masks, the sarcophagus, a throne, jewelry, a royal diadem, a funeral Canopus vessel, and much more.

The gilded wall with detailed Egyptian hieroglyphs and decorations

The exhibit is small, divided into four main rooms: the first focuses on religion, funeral rites and the process of mummification used in ancient Egypt; the second highlights several of the most outstanding troves of the tomb including guardian statues, the God Anubis, and a golden casket; the third hall showcases the four monumental gold reliquaries which protected the Pharaoh’s sarcophagus, and the sarcophagus itself; and the last room is a recreation of King Tut’s tomb with a reproduction of the sarcophagus and coffin which housed Tutankhamen’s mummified body.

Life-sized proportions give the exhibit a dramatic, theater-like sense

Somewhat expensive for the average Mexican museum ticket ($80 pesos), this reflects a noticeable trend in ticket price-hikes at UNAM-affiliated exhibits (San Ildefonso is another example of this), which is unfortunate, since it is just one more excuse for people not to visit the many cultural offerings of the city – the ticket costs more that the daily minimum wage in Mexico City – certainly unfordable for the average Mexican household. However, for those who will never have the opportunity to travel to Luxor to see the original tomb or Cairo to witness King Tut’s mask or the treasures of the Pharaoh’s burial, this the second best!

For those who won't have the opportunity to visit the real thing in Egypt, this is the second best!

By the way, the income from ticket sales are earmarked for university scholarships according to Rafael Moreno Valle, chairman of the UNAM Foundation, organizer of the exhibit. The Tutankhamen Exhibit is in the Palace of Autonomy (Palacio de la Autonomia de la UNAM) which is open every day of the week, Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm, Sunday 10 am to 4 pm; entrance fee to this temporary exhibit is $80 pesos; Lic. Primo de Verdad 2 (next to the Templo Mayor, access from Moneda Street).

King Tut's famous funeral mask, stunningly reproduced



5 responses to “King Tut Visiting Downtown Mexico City

  1. Dee

    February 8, 2012 at 2:42 am

    lots of interesting info. except the address for the museum?

    • Mexican Museums and Mavens

      February 8, 2012 at 3:55 am

      Dee, the exhibit is in the Palacio de la Autonomia (Palace of Autonomy) of the UNAM, which is in downtown Mexico City, on the street named Lic. Primo Verdad, number 2. That is a small street one block off the main plaza or Zocalo. To get there, you need to walk down Moneda Street which is the street along side the National Palace (to the left of the Palace if facing the building) one block. Primo Verdad is a small pedestrian street only one block long. I hyperlinked the museum site in my blog so you can have easy access to their official page. Just click on the hyperlink! Enjoy!

  2. Lisa Thornton

    February 15, 2012 at 10:49 pm

    I always loved these special exhibits at the anthropology museum. They are always so well done,

    • Lisa Thornton

      February 15, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      Sorry, I mixed up the museums. Getting old…………But I did love this exhibit.


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