Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:43 pm (KSA) 16:43 pm (GMT)

Egypt unveils Tutankhamun's 'beautiful' face

Tutankhamun ruled Egypt between about 1361 and 1352 BC
Tutankhamun ruled Egypt between about 1361 and 1352 BC

The face of ancient Egypt's pharaoh Tutankhamun was put on display on Sunday in the Valley of the Kings, in the first chance to see the face of a ruler who died mysteriously more than 3,000 years ago.

In the dimly lit burial chamber workmen removed the gilded lid of Tutankhamun's mummy case and hoisted it out of the stone sarcophagus where it has lain for most of the time since Tutankhamun's death.

They then moved it to a climate-controlled acrylic glass showcase in the tomb's antechamber and sealed the cover.

Although Tutankhamun's body is entirely wrapped in strips of white linen, his wizened face is visible at one end and his blackened feet protrude at the other end.

The mummy's face has high cheekbones and cracked and blackened skin with an intact nose.

Zahi Hawass, the Egyptian government's chief archaeologist and a passionate promoter of ancient Egypt, supervised the operation, broadcast live on some television channels.

"He has these beautiful buck teeth and ... the tourists will see a little bit of a smile on the face of the golden boy," he added. "This will ... make the golden boy live forever," Hawass told reporters.

"What you will see is a beautiful face," Mustafa Wazery, director of the Valley of the Kings told journalists ahead of the mummy's displacement. "He's a good-looking boy, with a nice smile and buck teeth."

The mummy will be visible to the general public from Monday.

Treasures

Made pharaoh at the age of nine, Tutankhamun became famous with the 1922 discovery of his tomb and the treasures within by British archaeologist Howard Carter

Carter discovered the tomb in the Valley of the Kings near the modern town of Luxor. Its treasures, including the famous funerary mask and stacks of furniture, stunned the archaeological community.

The mummy had to be reconstructed after Carter cut it into 18 pieces in order to gain access to amulets and other jewellery, Wazery said.

Although the artifacts have toured the world, the mummified body has been examined in detail only a handful of times.

Hawass cited humidity, caused by the breathing of thousands of visitors a day, as a threat to further damage the mummy, which has deteriorated over the years.

Culture Minister Faruq Hosni said "the mummy was already damaged by Howard Carter, who used sharp tools to remove the golden mask."

He said Carter damaged the mummy by "exposing it to burning sunshine for many hours" in the desert landscape.

The pharaoh's curse

Tutankhamun died at the age of 19 and ruled Egypt between about 1361 and 1352 BC and is the only pharaoh whose tomb was not stripped by looters in ancient times.

Tutankhamun came to the throne shortly after the death of Akhenaten, the maverick pharaoh who abandoned most of Egypt's old gods in favor of the Aten, or sun disc, and brought in a new and more expressive style of art.

During Tutankhamun's reign, advocates of the old religion were regaining control of the country and turning their backs on Akhenaten's innovations. When he died he was buried in the valley along with many other pharaohs of the period.

Lord Carnarvon, Carter's sponsor and one of the first people to enter the tomb, died shortly afterwards from an infected mosquito bite; giving rise to speculation that Carter's discovery had unleashed a pharaonic curse.

Scientists have in the past suggested that a disease dormant in the tomb may have killed the British aristocrat.

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