Tut’s last tour

posted at 10:26 am on September 27, 2007 by Bryan

A few weeks back, I met a friend of mine in Philadelphia to check out the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute. If you saw the Tut exhibit when it was in the US 30 years ago (I didn’t), it’s pretty much the same show with a couple of differences here and there. If you’re like me and didn’t see it then, it’s a great show, but with one disappointment: The famous Tut death mask remains in Egypt.

It also turned out that it’s a controversial show. Outside the Franklin Institute, my friend and I saw several protesters denouncing the exhibit as racist, or something. Their beef is that the show depicts Tut as either white or Arab, but not black. And true enough, there’s a bust of Tut at the end of the show that’s a reconstruction based on scans of his mummy and facial forensics, built to life size and with stubble added atop his shaven head. The Tut head is one of the exhibit’s newer features, and it’s very cool. The curators chose to display it in a room dedicated to a multimedia examination of how Tut might have died, and the bust lends an eerie reality to the question. The bust happens to be light to slightly olive skinned. That is evidently what annoyed the protesters and had them out in the street on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Too bad for them, they have their own facts wrong.

CAIRO (AFP) – Egyptian antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass insisted Tuesday that Tutankhamun was not black despite calls by US black activists to recognise the boy king’s dark skin colour.

“Tutankhamun was not black, and the portrayal of ancient Egyptian civilisation as black has no element of truth to it,” Hawass told reporters.

“Egyptians are not Arabs and are not Africans despite the fact that Egypt is in Africa,” he said, quoted by the official MENA news agency.

Hawass said he was responding to several demonstrations in Philadelphia after a lecture he gave there on September 6 where he defended his theory.

Protestors also claimed images of King Tut were altered to show him with lighter skin at the “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” exhibit which leaves Philadelphia for London on September 30.

Hawass ought to know; As Egypt’s Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and Director of Excavations at Giza, Saqqara and the Bahariya Oasis, he pretty much controls the Giza plateau to the point that you can’t move or make an Egypt documentary without him showing up in it somewhere. He shows up in the Tut exhibit too, in a photo in the brik-a-brak store at the end of the exhibit that must be 8 feet tall (in real life, he appears to be about 5’6″). The photo’s purpose is evidently to sell the official Zahi Hawass hat, which looks suspiciously like an Indiana Jones chapeau (and would probably sell twice as fast if it were branded as such).

The protesters ought to spend the bucks to actually attend the exhibit. Within, they would quickly see that Tut and his empire obviously did not regard itself as black. The Egyptian craftsmen who made the objects on display in the exhibit portrayed Egypt’s warriors defeating their enemies by running over them with chariots or slaying them in battle in other ways. The Nubians, who were black Africans, were among those enemies, and they must turn up getting killed by the Egyptians in a dozen places across the exhibit. The Egyptian craftsmen themselves, 5,000+ years ago, depicted their own warriors as olive skinned and the Nubians as black. For whatever that’s worth.

The Tut show is still in Philly and will be there for another 3 or 4 days before it goes to Europe. My friend and I spoke with one of the museum’s staff, and according to her Tut won’t be coming back to the US for many years, if it ever returns. In Egypt, it’s controversial to even allow any of the nation’s treasury to leave for any reason. So this show might be the boy king’s last tour.


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I saw this exhibit at the Field Museum in 06. Very, very interesting and I’m glad I did it.

(I wish they would come up with a video game for this, then I could have saved myself the airline, hotel, and rental car costs.)

csdeven on September 27, 2007 at 10:35 AM

I saw several protesters denouncing the exhibit as racist, or something. Their beef is that the show depicts Tut as either white or Arab, but not black.

Where’s Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson when we need them?

Memo to the Reverends: Get your applications in quick.

Mcguyver on September 27, 2007 at 10:39 AM

He gave his life for tourism.

Always Right on September 27, 2007 at 10:40 AM

During the Abolistionist movement, slaves identified with the enslaved Israelites of the Exodus. The Abolitionist slogan quoted God’s message as delivered by Moses, “Let my people go.” Harriet Tubman was called “the black Moses”. Slave owners were called “Pharoah”.

Now, some descendants of slaves want to identify with the nation that enslaved others, including the ancient Israelites with whom their ancestors identified. The irony would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

Bigfoot on September 27, 2007 at 10:41 AM

Hawass ought to know…

Bryan

Unless he’s a liar.

Jaibones on September 27, 2007 at 10:53 AM

Not to even mention that the ancient Egyptians have been gracious enough to history to preserve a bunch of actual ancient Egyptians for us to see their actual ancient Egyptian skins.

It’s almost enough to make me shout a Robinson-esque “Where’s your pet theory now?”

James on September 27, 2007 at 10:55 AM

It seems odd to me that the Egyptians are considered neither black African, nor Arab… despite being in the center of those two very dominant populations. What race would they be then? Surely they didn’t see their race in the same ways we see racial categories today, but it seems most likely that Egyptians had a significant mix of Arab and East African (that is, Black) blood. I disagree with people who want to make Egyptians out to be as dark as people from the Congo, but at the same time, it seems dishonest to say that Nubians didn’t significantly mix with and into ancient Egyptian society and vice versa. Especially when there were periods where Nubians ruled over the Egyptian kingdom.

There are more pyramids in the Sudan than there are in all of Egypt.

Misty217 on September 27, 2007 at 10:59 AM

The famous Tut death mask remains in Egypt.

And that is a shame. Probably the most important, if not most well-known, of all the relics. And I can certainly see why the Egyptians would be less than thrilled to let treasures like these out of the country, given the huge black-market for such things.

And I just can’t believe (*sigh* or can I) that there’s actually protesters demanding that Tut be labeled “black”. And if not, it’s somehow “racist”. Oh, brother…

JetBoy on September 27, 2007 at 11:19 AM

Hawass ought to know…
Bryan
Unless he’s a liar.
Jaibones on September 27, 2007 at 10:53 AM

.
Having seen Hawass on countless shows for many years I give him my full trust. You can determine for yourself if you do some research on ancient Egypt…it is fascinating.
Tut is from the “New Kingdom” era during the 18th Dynasty.

shooter on September 27, 2007 at 11:25 AM

JetBoy on September 27, 2007 at 11:19 AM

According to the staffer that we spoke with, the death mask was slightly damaged during the tour 30 years ago and the Egyptians don’t want to take any more chances with it by allowing it to move anywhere anymore. It’s hard to blame them for that, but darn it, I really wanted to see that mask in person.

Bryan on September 27, 2007 at 11:26 AM

I recall some similar controversy over Cleopatra being “black” too since she was an Egyptian queen. I always thought that was a silly claim since she’s Greek (her father was the Greek general Ptolemy) so she wasn’t even African to begin with except that she was born in Egypt. I hate when the lefties try to racialize history like that. It’s so bloody annoying and irrelevant.

wherestherum on September 27, 2007 at 11:43 AM

Bryan on September 27, 2007 at 11:26 AM

Yeah, the Tut exhibit without that mask is kinda like a tour of the Air and Space Museum without the Spirit of St. Louis…Very cool, but…

JetBoy on September 27, 2007 at 11:44 AM

I was fortunate enough to see the exhibit twice when it was in New Orleans 30 years ago. Once on a school trip and once with my family. It was mezmarizing to me, especially the death mask. To think of how old everthing was, was inconceivable to someone my age. (13 years old at the time)
If you live anywhere near Philly, you need to see this before it leaves. It is something that you will never forget.

RobG on September 27, 2007 at 11:45 AM

Misty217 on September 27, 2007 at 10:59 AM

It would require an Egyptologist or anthropologist with specific knowledge about the genetic origins of the eastern Mediterranean peoples to answer that question I would think.
Arabs may be as unrelated to the ancient Egyptians as Nubians apparently are to be presently considered. Perhaps Arabs do not differentiate that early or are to be considered in context to the rise of Islam on the Arabian peninsula -a relatively recent event.

Nyog_of_the_Bog on September 27, 2007 at 11:56 AM

During the Abolistionist movement, slaves identified with the enslaved Israelites of the Exodus. The Abolitionist slogan quoted God’s message as delivered by Moses, “Let my people go.” Harriet Tubman was called “the black Moses”. Slave owners were called “Pharoah”.

Now, some descendants of slaves want to identify with the nation that enslaved others, including the ancient Israelites with whom their ancestors identified. The irony would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

Bigfoot on September 27, 2007 at 10:41 AM

Even more tragic is that a majority of the Abolitionists didn’t want to free the slaves for freedom’s sake, but because they wanted them out of the New World. Ever look at the debates of the Wilmot Proviso?

Tim Burton on September 27, 2007 at 12:06 PM

I saw the exibit 30 years ago as an elementary school student. The death mask is still a very vivid memory for me. The beauty and intricacy of the workmanship is incredible. It is something I will never forget and I feel lucky to have seen it.

Pulchritudinous Patriot on September 27, 2007 at 12:16 PM

It seems odd to me that the Egyptians are considered neither black African, nor Arab… despite being in the center of those two very dominant populations.
[Misty217 on September 27, 2007 at 10:59 AM]

Misty, you are mixing up timelines, I think. First, the Egyptians at the time were not in the center of an Arab population — you are projecting recent demographical generalities back to 1300′s BC. Arabs were not a dominant population at the time, either, especially as a group or culture. For instance, and I may also be wrong in the timeline, but Berbers were the people who inhabited the lands west of Egypt at the time, not the Arabs, and they were predominant from Egypt to what is now Morrocco.

As for Nubian/Egyptian cross assimilation, I don’t know what basis you use for this occuring to any signifcant extent at the time of Tut’s reign. Nubian expansionist policy wasn’t notable until some 400 years after Tut’s reign.

Finally, the point isn’t whether there was mixing but whether Tut was Egyptian in the sense of what defines being an Egyptian. For that, lineage is more likely to be a key part of that determination than what the characteristics of the empire’s culture and people were.

Dusty on September 27, 2007 at 12:16 PM

We went last month. No protesters, though. Philadelphia is home to one of the most radical black thug “activists” in the nation, remember. MOVE.

rightwingprof on September 27, 2007 at 12:27 PM

Just a note: Cleopatra was a Ptolemy but she wasn’t the daughter of Ptolemy the Macedonian General. The Ptolemy family got Egypt when Alexander’s empire fell to pieces – or rather Ptolemy did and that’s why that’s the name of the dynasty.

Cleopatra VII lost Egypt to Rome in 30BC while Ptolemy I Soter became Satrap of Egypt in 323BC and King in 305BC. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptolemy_I_Soter

Given the family penchant for incest and the usual inbreeding among a ruling clique, they were still vastly Macedonian in lineage.

libertarianuberalles on September 27, 2007 at 12:28 PM

I took my family to see the exhibit in Philly. It was well done – we really enjoyed it. I didn’t see any protestors that day though – interesting that this is seen by some as racist. They’re grabbing for straws.

Stevel on September 27, 2007 at 12:29 PM

libertarianuberalles on September 27, 2007 at 12:28 PM

Thanks for the correction. I knew she was a Ptolemy, but I thought she was the daughter of a general. Of course, I think there were 8 Cleopatras. I think it’s the 7th that’s the famous one, Mark Antony and Caesar and all that. My specialty is Scottish and British history. My Egyptian history is pretty basic.

wherestherum on September 27, 2007 at 12:43 PM

Tim Burton on September 27, 2007 at 12:06 PM

My own understanding of the origins of Anti-Slavery movement, antebellum, distinguishes between abolitionists and free soilers. Abolitionists, which included among them, ex-slaves such as Frederic Douglas and Harriet Tubman, objected on moral grounds and were unquestionably inspired by a Christian ethic. Free Soilers on the other hand objected to slavery on economic grounds and included a body of thought inclined to devise unpractical plans for the repatriation of a freed slave populations to Africa. Other racial separatists in the “Free Soil” movement could be said to have been “magical thinkers” as they believed the ex-slave population would some how mysteriously diminish to insignificant levels as had the native-american population in the east. They were of course, ignorant of the role of small pox and other infectious diseases in devastating native populations in the Americas in the decades and centuries prior.

Nyog_of_the_Bog on September 27, 2007 at 12:54 PM

I saw the exhibit 30 years ago, twice, when it was in D.C. The mask by itself would have been worth the trip. Too bad they’re keeping it home now, a picture, however good, isn’t the same.

When the exhibit was announced, my mother talked about remembering from her childhood the adults discussing Carter and his discovery and passing around newspaper article and pictures. When I suggested a trip to see it in person, she instantly said yes, not her usual form, but she, too, talked about it for days afterward.

Retread on September 27, 2007 at 12:57 PM

Ah, i was starting to miss the afrocentrist clowns. One of the most ridiculous and historically ignorant “movements” around. Like the great O’Donnell said, google it.

madne0 on September 27, 2007 at 2:05 PM

(This is a great comment thread. Oodles of interesting stuff. Thanks all!)

tree hugging sister on September 27, 2007 at 2:25 PM

“Calling race pimp Al Sharpton. Calling race pimp Al Sharpton. You have a call. Please pick up the BLACK courtesy phone.”

“Calling race pimp and adulterer Jesse Jackson. Calling race pimp and adulterer Jesse Jackson. You have a call. Please pick up the BLACK courtesy phone.”

“Gentlemen! Start your Gulfstream V engines. The race to Philly is ON! May the best pimp win.”

georgej on September 27, 2007 at 2:25 PM

You can’t necessarily extrapolate genetic relationships from linguistic ones, but the Egyptians spoke a Hamito-Semitic language, the same language family as Aramaic, Hebrew, and Arabic.

rightwingprof on September 27, 2007 at 2:41 PM

For some reason, this thread has me humming Steve Martin’s Funky Tut from SNL in the 70′s.

“He died for tourism!”

georgej on September 27, 2007 at 2:44 PM

I hate it when people impose modern ideas/beliefs on the past. Don’t they realize that North Africa was pretty well seperated from the rest of Africa by the Sahara among other natural obstacles? Don’t they know that very few places then (to say nothing of today) were as racially egalitarian as we are?

Iblis on September 27, 2007 at 2:59 PM

Dusty on September 27, 2007 at 12:16 PM

My intention wasn’t to say King Tut was black, there were many Egyptian rulers (Including those Nubian rulers and more famous people like Cleopatra) who weren’t “native” to the area anyway. I was refuting this quote:

“Egyptians are not Arabs and are not Africans despite the fact that Egypt is in Africa,” he said, quoted by the official MENA news agency.

which seems to be saying that blacks had no part in Egypt at all. I was also refuting Bryan’s comment that seemed to imply that the Nubians were always considered enemies. I doubt that these two groups never had any sort of non-combative trade relationship given the number of crossover cultural practices between the two groups. I further doubt that these groups were so deeply entrenched in war with each other that they didn’t intermarry frequently, creating a new group of people that came in many shades of brown, similar to black Americans (who are often mixed with white and have lighter skin colors as a result). There are a number of Egyptian drawings that show Nubians giving tribute to and/or mingling within Egyptian society.

Don’t they realize that North Africa was pretty well seperated from the rest of Africa by the Sahara among other natural obstacles?

This is true for most of Western Africa because of the Sahara, but if you look at the regions the Ancient Egyptians inhabited, and see how close the Nubian kingdom of Kush (now Northern Sudan) was to it, then you’ll see that travel between the two regions wasn’t that difficult, especially when you have the Nile running South to North.

All that said, I think it’s silly to go and protest for Tut’s skin to be shown as being very dark… its irrelevant in the great scheme of life, and for this particular instance, likely untrue.

Misty217 on September 27, 2007 at 3:46 PM

We can’t fault all black people for the narcissism of some of them. Having been descendant from slaves is something too much to bear for a few of them. Some have raped and killed because of it, or so they said in court. It’s normal that they should want a claim to something that is not just face paint, spears and loin cloths. Ancient Egypt provides an opportunity to redirect the origins of white civilization Afro-centrically. Ironically, this also means that the Egyptian slave trade was a black operation for hundreds of years. No matter. Some play the slave card, others play the Egyptian card. The slave card appeals to white guilt. The Egyptian card appeals to black pride. Better to appeal to pride than pity. It’s a start, anyway.

Since there are no photographs of that period, the camera being invented a few years later, this claim of a black Egypt is without obvious fatal flaw. Indeed, fauxtography might be used to buttress this contention. And no doubt, should such photos pop up, Allahpundit will be first to note that photographs from 1324 BC weren’t in color, thereby putting the lie to the afro-centrist theory, and Dan Rather, again, for a second time.

What is racist, however, is the claim that the first man on the moon was white. That needs to be exposed. Any true student of history knows that Michael Jackson had the moonwalk down pat long before 1969.

jihadwatcher on September 27, 2007 at 4:47 PM

Jesus was black. King Tut was black. Babe Ruth was black. Give me a break. It’s like me saying that Martin Luther King was white.

SoulGlo on September 27, 2007 at 5:12 PM

Saw the exhibit in NYC when it first came through. I actually don’t remember the death mask as much as the little clay pots to hold his innards. The death mask was plastered everywhere in publications, so maybe they passed the saturation point.

I was also at Cornell when Black Athena came out with the attendant brouhaha. Didn’t do a lot to elevate the academic reputation of the black studies department.

TexasDan on September 27, 2007 at 7:11 PM

It’s pretty obvious that the ancient Egyptians were not black from their sculpture. Those are not black noses on those pharoahs. Take a look at the bust of Nefertiti. Not black.

They weren’t white either. It seems likely that they were Mediterranean people who settled in the Nile delta and built their Lower Egyptian kingdom up from there.

Tantor on September 27, 2007 at 7:13 PM

Tantor on September 27, 2007 at 7:13 PM

Black people don’t always have broad noses. In fact, eastern Africans (Somalis, Ethiopians, etc.) tend to have thinner, longer noses. Small nosed black people also pop up all over Africa.

Also, Ancient Egyptians migrated from the south (Sudan region) and moved north before they settled and created what we now refer to as the kingdom of Egypt. From the Mediterranean… wow. That’s new.

Misty217 on September 27, 2007 at 7:27 PM

Tut: Bigger than “Master Chief”!

saint kansas on September 28, 2007 at 12:39 PM