Egyptians Unveil King Tut's Face

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's antiquities chief, center, supervises the removal of King Tut's mummy from its stone sarcophagus in the underground tomb.
Zahi Hawass, Egypt's antiquities chief, center, supervises the removal of King Tut's mummy from its stone sarcophagus in the underground tomb. (Pool Photo By Ben Curtis Via Associated Press)
By Anna Johnson
Associated Press
Monday, November 5, 2007

LUXOR, Egypt, Nov. 4 -- King Tut's face was unveiled Sunday for the first time in public, more than 3,000 years after the youngest and most famous pharaoh to rule ancient Egypt was shrouded in linen and buried in his golden underground tomb.

Archaeologists carefully lifted the fragile mummy out of a quartz sarcophagus decorated with stone-carved protective goddesses, momentarily pulling aside a beige covering to reveal a leathery black body.

The linen was then replaced over Tut's narrow body so only his face and tiny feet were exposed, and the king, whose brief life and mysterious death have captivated people for nearly a century, was moved to a climate-controlled glass case to help keep his body from turning to dust.

"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 Tutankhamen for the first time," Egypt's antiquities chief, Zahi Hawass, said from inside the hot and sticky tomb.

"The face of the golden boy is amazing. It has magic and it has mystery," he added.

Hawass said scientists began restoring the badly damaged mummy more than two years ago. Much of the body is broken into 18 pieces -- damage sustained after British archaeologist Howard Carter, who discovered it 85 years ago, took it from its tomb and tried to pull off the famous golden mask, Hawass said.

The mystery surrounding King Tutankhamen -- who ruled during the 18th dynasty and ascended to the throne at age 8 -- and his glittering gold tomb has entranced fans of ancient Egypt since Carter's discovery, which revealed a trove of fabulous gold and precious stone treasures and propelled the once-forgotten pharaoh to global stardom.

Tut wasn't Egypt's most powerful or important king, but his staggering treasures, rumors of a mysterious curse that plagued Carter and his team -- debunked by experts long ago -- and several books and TV documentaries dedicated to him have added to his mystique.

Archaeologists have tried to resolve lingering questions about how he died and his precise royal lineage. In 2005, scientists removed Tut's mummy from his tomb and placed it in a portable CT scanner for 15 minutes to obtain a three-dimensional image. The scans were the first done on an Egyptian mummy.

The results ruled out that Tut was violently murdered but stopped short of definitively concluding how he died around 1323 B.C. Experts, including Hawass, suggested that days before dying at the age of 19, Tut badly broke his left thigh, an apparent accident that might have resulted in a fatal infection.

Hawass said that along with putting Tut on display, experts will begin another project in an effort to determine the pharaoh's precise royal lineage. It is unclear whether he is the son or a half brother of Akhenaten, the "heretic" pharaoh who introduced a revolutionary form of monotheism to ancient Egypt and was the son of Amenhotep III.

"Everyone is dreaming of what he looks like. The face of Tutankhamen 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.

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