Royal city of Tutankhamun s childhood is focus of US exhibition
PHILADELPHIA: Tutankhamun, ancient Egypt s famous boy pharaoh, grew up 3,300 years ago in the royal court at Amarna, the ancient city of Akhetaten, whose name meant the Horizon of the Aten. This extraordinary royal city grew, flourished – and vanished – in hardly more than a generation s time. Amarna, Ancient Egypt s Place in the Sun, a new exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia, offers a rare look at the meteoric rise and fall of this unique royal city during one of Egypt s most intriguing times. The exhibition, centerpiece of Penn Museum s event-filled Year of Egypt, opens November 12, 2006, and runs through October 2007. Talks, tours, Saturday crash courses on ancient Egypt, theater in the galleries, family workshops, even a Hollywood on the Nile film series, are all part of the Year of Egypt. Amarna, Ancient Egypt s Place in the Sun will feature more than 100 ancient artifacts, some never before on display – including statuary of gods, goddesses and royalty, monumental reliefs, golden jewelry, as well as personal items from the royal family, and artists materials from the royal workshops of Amarna.
Most of the show s artifacts date to the time of Tutankhamun and the Amarna Period, including many objects excavated almost a century ago from this short-lived royal city. With background information about the childhood home and unique times in which Tutankhamun lived, Amarna is a complementary exhibition to the nationally traveled, blockbuster exhibition from Egypt, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. Penn Museum is partnering locally with The Franklin Institute, which hosts the blockbuster Tut show beginning February 3, 2007. The Amarna Period in ancient Egyptian history – circa 1353 to 1336 BCE – has long fascinated archaeologists, historians and the public – and not just because of Howard Carter s spectacular discovery, in 1922, of the intact tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, noted Egyptologist Dr. David Silverman, one of three curators of the Amarna exhibition and national curator of the blockbuster Tutankhamun exhibition. It is during this period that a still somewhat mystifying, short-lived experiment in religious, artistic and cultural change was happening at Amarna, and, from that seat of the royal court, quickly extended throughout Egypt. Located in a previously uninhabited stretch of desert in Middle Egypt, Amarna was founded by the Pharaoh Akhenaten. His wife, Queen Nefertiti, is still known worldwide for her exquisite beauty. She was not the mother of Tutankhamun, but it is likely that Akhenaten was his father. Sometimes referred to as Egypt s heretic pharaoh, Akhenaten radically altered Egypt s long-standing, polytheistic religious practices, introducing the belief in a single deity, the disk of the sun, called the Aten. The new era, however, proved short-lived. By the time that Tutankhamun died, the Amarna Period was coming to an end and the Egyptian people s traditional beliefs and religious practices were being restored. Plans were also underway to abandon the city. Penn Museum s renowned Upper and Lower Egyptian galleries, recently refurbished, offer visitors a rich opportunity to view a wide variety of ancient Egyptian artifacts from several millennia. Materials range from monumental architecture to sculptures, pottery, jewelry, tomb goods, and mummies.