Sunday, November 04, 2007

Egypt unveils King Tut's mummy

Luxor, Egypt: The linen wrapped mummy of King Tut was put on public display for the first time on Sunday - 85 years after the 3,000-year-old boy pharaoh's golden enshrined tomb and mummy were discovered in Luxor's famed Valley of the Kings.

Archaeologists removed the mummy from his stone sarcophagus in his underground tomb, momentarily pulling aside a white linen covering to reveal his shrivelled leather-like black face and body. The mummy of the 19-year-old pharaoh, whose life and death has captivated people for nearly a century, was placed in a climate controlled glass box in the tomb, with only the face and feet showing under the linen covering. "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, and all of them I am sure will come to see the golden boy," Egypt's antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told reporters under the intense Luxor sun.

Hawass said scientists began restoring King Tut's badly damaged mummy more than two years ago after it was removed briefly from its sarcophagus and placed into a CT scanner for the first time for further examination.

Much of the mummy's body is broken into 18 pieces that Hawass described looked like stones that were damaged when British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the mummy, took it from his tomb and tried to pull off his famous golden mask. But Hawass said he fears a more recent phenomenon - mass tourism - is further deteriorating Tut's mummy.

Thousands of tourists visit the underground chamber every month.

"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," said Hawass, who wore his signature Indiana Jones-style tan hat. The mystery surrounding King Tutankhamun and his glittering gold tomb has entranced ancient Egypt fans since Carter first discovered the hidden tomb on November 4, 1922, revealing a trove of fabulous gold and precious stone treasures. Archaeologists in recent years have tried to resolve lingering questions over how he died and his precise royal lineage. Several books and documentaries have been dedicated to the young pharaoh.

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