Tutankhamun world tour sparks debate among antiquities experts

German specialists in restoration work on antiquities in glass and metal Christian Eckmann works on the restoration process of the golden mask of Tutankhamun at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 18 February 2018
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Tutankhamun world tour sparks debate among antiquities experts

CAIRO: Plans to embark on a worldwide tour to showcase 166 artifacts belonging to Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun set for next month have sparked a debate among antiquities experts, a news report said Sunday.
The exhibition is scheduled to tour seven foreign countries, starting from Los Angeles in the United States on March 23 and will continue over the next 7 years, Egypt Antiquities Minister Khalid Al-Anani said.
The exhibition includes 166 artifacts, excluding the basic pieces of Tutankhamun, Anani added. The full collection of Tutankhamun contains about 5,000 pharaonic pieces, he explained, which are scheduled to be displayed at the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum by the end of this year.
Egypt’s Heritage Task Force said that the duration of the overseas show is 7 years, and it is expected to generate close to $50mn.
But academics and scholars from within and outside the Antiquities Ministry are reportedly campaigning against the exhibition over concerns the monuments may be falsified, stolen or replaced.
A Facebook page has been created to call on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to intervene and open an investigation into the exhibition.
Monika Hanna, a member of the campaign, called the exhibition a “catastrophe,” according to Al-Masry El-Youm newspaper.
She said the law of archaeological artifacts allows the rental of duplicates, not originals, and leasing to scientific bodies or museums, not private companies as per the terms of this contract.
She noted that the “insurance value of the golden coffin of Tutankhamun is low,” amounting to only $5 million, and said the company may pay it to Egypt and claim it was stolen.
She expressed concern over the fact that the monuments will remain outside Egypt for 7 years, and wondered if the inauguration of the Grand Egyptian Museum will be delayed until that time.
Gharib Sonbol, Head of the Central Administration for Restoration and a member of the Foreign Exhibitions Committee, said that an imprint was prepared for all the artifacts that are scheduled to travel to ensure that the pieces will not falsified or replaced.


Revealing the secrets of an ancient Assyrian ruler

Updated 13 min 33 sec ago
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Revealing the secrets of an ancient Assyrian ruler

  • Exhibition on King Ashurbanipal reveals treasures from the 7th-century kingdom that stretched across northern Iraq and eastern Mediterranean.

LONDON: Priceless treasures from the archaeological archives of ancient Assyria are to go on display at the British Museum for the first major exhibition on the empire’s last great ruler, King Ashurbanipal.

Described as the most powerful person on earth during his reign in the 7th-century BC, Ashurbanipal ruled with an iron fist from his seat in Nineveh, now northern Iraq.

He presided over a vast kingdom that stretched from the shores of the eastern Mediterranean to the summits of western Iraq.

During his reign he amassed the largest library in existence, showcasing his scholarship and harnessing the power of learning to build his status as “King of the World, King of Assyria.”

Hundreds of these texts survive, telling the story of life at Ashurbanipal’s famously extravagant court in ancient cuneiform script, hammered out on clay tablets.

These are among the 200 objects on display at the museum, which has brought together pieces from across the world, from the History Museum of Armenia, Yerevan to the Musée du Louvre in Paris to supplement its existing collection of artefacts from the glory days of ancient Assyria.

Many have been brought over from the archaeological sites in Iraq, including Nineveh and Nimrud, cities recently ransacked by Daesh in its attempt to wipe out pre-Islamic history and destroy the region’s ancient wonders.

Gareth Brereton, exhibition curator, said: “As present-day Iraq looks to recover the history of damaged sites at Nineveh and Nimrud, this exhibition allows us to appreciate and relive the great achievements of an ancient world and celebrate its legacy.”

This exhibition, with its magnificent stone sculptures, delicately carved reliefs, lavish gold ornaments and elaborate weaponry, captures the scale and splendor of the era before Ashurbanipal’s empire fell to the Babylonians and recalls a time when the influence of Assyrian monarchs reached across the world.

“This exhibition will bring visitors face to face with a king whose reign shaped the history of the ancient world,” Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, said.

The exhibition “I am Ashurbanipal: King of the World, King of Assyria,” will open in November