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


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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