If we learned anything from the recently divulged genetic studies of the Egyptian mummies, it's that royalty was not exempt from physical afflictions. But this makes me unhappy. I want the people who seem to have everything to truly have everything. I know they are human in that they digest their food and sometimes might be under the weather. But so frail at age 19? Much was hidden under that majestic Golden Mask.
I grew up watching "The Ten Commandments" so my knowledge of the era had the men as robust as the young Yul Brynner and the women as comely as Anne Baxter. Not to mention Liz Taylor as Cleopatra. But now we learn that Hollywood lied.
Queen Elizabeth of England never made it look fun to stand around wearing a hat and carrying an empty purse. And I don't particularly like horses, although I could get used to servants and big estates. Ah, but the ancient Egyptian royalty (at least in the movies) knew how to live. All the lounging around by fountains wearing flowing gowns and sandals, and having massages with precious oils. Plus it's warm in Egypt, which suits me.
In October I went to a speech at the Danville Community Center on the King Tut exhibit at the de Young Museum by docent Kate Sculti. She wove a magic web for the audience of the ancient dynasties of Egypt and their tombs full of gold and treasures. She mentioned that the mummies were having genetic testing done so we would have it confirmed at last whether Pharaoh Akhenaten and Kiya, brother and sister, were the parents of King Tut. And they were.
Tutankhamun married his half-sister, Ankhesenamun, who was Akhenaten's third daughter by his wife Nefertiti, Sculti told us. The couple had no surviving children, although mummified fetuses of two stillborn babies were found in Tut's tomb. Genetic testing is also being done on them to find out if they were his offspring.
I'd planned to go to the exhibit at the de Young, "King Tut and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," which runs through March 28. It's even free this weekend. A few decades ago, I traveled to the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings and visited King Tut's actual tomb but all the treasures had been removed. The Valley was fascinating nonetheless, especially other tombs that had hieroglyphics. The opening to King Tut's tomb was inconspicuous, which is why it was undiscovered all those centuries. It's mind-boggling to imagine its discovery in the 1920s. And viewing the exhibit would bring one's imagination back even another 3,000 years. But somehow a visit to his treasures is not the same, knowing that King Tut had suffered as do the rest of us mere mortals, even more so.
All of this post-post-post-post-mortem business is making me nervous. Is not even an ancient king entitled to some privacy? When Tutankhamun was buried with such an eye toward secrecy I'm sure it was to ensure the safety of the treasures. I doubt if the ancient Egyptians ever dreamed that their pharaoh's physical secrets would be explored and broadcast around the world with clever headlines.
Now what will we do with our new knowledge? Will Steve Martin rewrite the lyrics of his famous song? One line still holds: "He gave his life for tourism." I just hope that Hollywood doesn't decide to make another, realistic movie about ancient Egypt. It's one thing when modern movies portray towns in the old West as dirty and dangerous. Or when war is shown with all its blood and guts. But ancient Egypt? Let's just stay in deNile.