King Tut taught me lessons about life as my father lay dying

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King Tut taught me lessons about life as my father lay dying

Why watching the painstaking restoration of the tragic pharoah's 4,000 treasures was doubly poignant

Bettany Hughes

Being a television presenter can be perilous. It’s easy to edit complex, hour-long conversations down to a series of wide-eyed reactions: “Wow!”, “Incredible!”, “No way!” But earlier this year, walking into a laboratory on the outskirts of Cairo, currently housing the treasures of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb, all I could blurt out, over and over again, was: “Amazing! Amazing! AMAZING!” Sheer wonder rendered me all but speechless.

Because what was in front of me was, indeed, truly wonderful. In the state-of-the-art premises in Giza, behind Cairo’s new Grand Egyptian Museum, due to open next year, the contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb – more than 4,000 belongings – were being lovingly teased back to life.

Two women delicately pieced together a horse’s harness and a golden leopard’s face; a bespectacled gentleman electronically scanned one of the six ceremonial chariots in the room, their wheels worn with use; paraffin wax – first used by Howard Carter to preserve these monuments close on a century ago – was gently scraped from the surface of a gilded day-bed. I confess, one flake of 1920s wax (destined for the bin) is still in my rucksack...

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