Face of King Tut unshrouded to public
Published Sunday, November 4, 2007 3:30PM EST
The buck-toothed face of ancient Egypt's most famous ruler, King Tut, was revealed Sunday, marking the first time the 3,000-year-old mummy has gone on public display.
Archeologists slowly removed the mummy from its quartz sarcophagus inside its burial chamber and placed it inside a climate-controlled glass case.
The blackened and shriveled body of the 19-year-old pharaoh was wrapped in a white linen sheet with only the face and feet showing.
"I can say for the first time that the mummy is safe and the mummy is well preserved, and at the same time, all the tourists who will enter this tomb will be able to see the face of Tutankhamun for the first time," Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said Sunday.
The life and death of the boy-pharaoh has captivated audiences since his tomb was discovered by British explorer Howard Carter some 85 years ago in Luxor's Valley of the Kings.
"The golden boy has magic and mystery and therefore every person all over the world will see what Egypt is doing to preserve the golden boy," Hawass said from inside the tomb.
Scientists began piecing the mummy back together more than two years ago after it was found in 18 separate pieces.
It believed Carter tried to pull off Nebkheperure Tutankhamun's famous gold mask, damaging the fragile mummy.
Hawass said mass tourism to the king's ancient tomb is causing further deterioration of the mummy as thousands flock to the chamber every month. It's estimated the tomb receives between 350 and 900 tourists a day.
"The humidity and heat caused by ... people entering the tomb and their breathing will change the mummy to a powder. The only good thing (left) in this mummy is the face. We need to preserve the face," Hawass said.
The Egyptian Tourist Authority estimates more than nine million people visited Egypt last year -- up from 8.7 million the previous year.
The mummy is expected to stay in the tomb's antechamber indefinitely, unlike other Egyptian artifacts which are housed in museums around the world.
Hawass said experts will also begin trying to determine the pharaoh's precise royal lineage.
It remains unclear if Tutankhamun is the son or half brother of the "heretic" pharaoh Akhenaten, the son of Amenhoptep III.
In 2000, Japanese and Egyptian scientists conducted DNA tests on Tutankhamun and Amenhotep III, alleged father of Amenhotep IV, whom Tutankhamun succeeded.
Over the years, archeologists and scientists have conducted a number of tests on the mummy in the search for clues to his mysterious past.
In 2005, CT scans of the body allowed a group of international scientists to reconstruct a model of Tut's face that depicted a young man with soft features, a sloping nose and an overbite.
The scans revealed the pharaoh was 5-feet-six tall and healthy when he died.
"Everyone is dreaming of what he looks like. The face of Tutankhamun is different from any king in the Cairo museum. With his beautiful buck teeth, the tourists will see a little bit of the smile from the face of the golden boy," Hawass said.
Theories abound that Tut, who died around 1323 B.C., was either murdered by a blow to his skull or killed in an accident that crushed his chest.
Tutankhamun ruled Egypt from 1333-1324 BC and is believed to have ascended the throne between the ages of eight and nine.
With files from The Associated Press