Nov. 20, 1997
Vol. 17, No. 5

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    75 years after discovery, boy-king still fascinates

    When King Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered 75 years ago -- a discovery that has been hailed as the greatest archaeological event of this century -- James Henry Breasted, the founder of the Oriental Institute, was one of the first people to read the inscriptions on the tomb's walls.

    Breasted's interpretations of the inscriptions and the discovery of the magnificent artifacts in the boy-king's burial chambers helped to galvanize public interest in ancient Egypt.

    To commemorate the anniversary of the opening of the tomb and the Oriental Institute's role in the discovery, the institute is sponsoring several special events, including a symposium, an exhibition of the commercial uses of Egyptian images, and a film series, which began earlier this month.

    The film series continues at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23, in Breasted Hall, with King Tut: The Face of Tutankhamun, a look at the scientific studies that confirmed the pharaoh's age and royal heritage, as well as the ways in which the tomb's treasures are imperiled by modern civilization. On Sunday, Dec. 7, the institute will show Egypt: The Habit of Civilization from the PBS series "Legacy: Origins of Civilization." The films are free and open to the public.

    The events surrounding the discovery of the tomb, and new evaluations of the findings, will be explored in the symposium "Tutankhamun: New Perspectives on his Life and Legacy," on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Scholars will discuss the legacy of Tutankhamun's tomb, the dramatic advances in our knowledge of ancient Egypt, and the turbulent life and times of the young king who ruled Egypt from 1335-1325 B.C. The event is co-sponsored by the Oriental Institute and the Graham School of General Studies.

    John Larson, Oriental Institute Museum Archivist, will discuss the discovery of the tomb and the Oriental Institute's involvement in its interpretation. William Murnane, professor of history at the University of Memphis, will present new evaluations of the socio-political events of the Amarna period, which immediately preceded Tutankhamun's reign. Peter Dorman, Associate Professor in the Oriental Institute, will talk about what the artifacts reveal about the life of Tutankhamun; and Emily Teeter, Associate Curator of the Oriental Institute Museum, will discuss the impact of the discovery on the way scholars work in Egypt and the way modern museums exhibit artifacts.

    In conjunction with the symposium, "Tut-Mania" -- an exhibit of modern objects decorated with ancient Egyptian motifs -- will be on view in the lobby of the Oriental Institute.

    "Images derived from the objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun have been used to decorate an astounding and amusing range of items from Frisbees to computer mouse pads," Teeter said.

    Although Egyptian motifs have been appropriated by other cultures since antiquity, the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb had a particularly strong impact on the use of the images. "There was a tremendous increase in the use of Egyptian motifs, especially those derived more directly from objects recovered from the tomb, such as the funerary mask," Teeter said. "The use of designs from the tomb, and their application on the most incongruous items, which have no possible association with ancient Egypt, attest to Egypt's enduring attraction."

    The fee for the symposium is $41 for Oriental Institute members and $49 for non-members. For more information or to register, call 702-9507.