Imagine being famed British archaeologist Howard Carter chiseling open a sealed stone door found at the bottom of some mysterious steps uncovered by his excavation team and peering inside by the light of a candle in his hand to see the glint of gold sparkling in the darkness.  When asked by colleagues at that moment if he saw anything, Carter replied “Yes, wonderful things!”  Since that 1922 discovery of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s hidden tomb within the Valley of the Kings this trove of valuable treasure and artifacts has captivated the world’s interest and imagination about King Tut and ancient Egyptian civilization.

Experience the wonder and thrill of exploring King Tut’s tomb yourself without having to trek across the globe to Egypt.  The Cranbrook Institute of Science, located in the suburban Detroit community of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is hosting a special exhibition, TUTANKHAMUN: “Wonderful Things” from the Pharaoh’s Tomb, which is on display through September 3, 2017.  My kids and I embraced our inner Indiana Jones to explore this exhibit which features more than 100 detailed replicas of items that Howard Carter discovered in the Pharaoh’s tomb;  providing an intimate look at life and death in Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty period.

To protect and preserve the priceless artifacts from the richest archeological find of all time, most of the original objects found in Tutankhamun’s tomb aren’t allowed to leave The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo.  Wanting to share the wonder of Tutankhamun’s treasures with the rest of the world, the Egyptian government working with New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art created a collection of replicas of the artifacts that otherwise couldn’t be viewed abroad including King Tut’s magnificent funerary mask, the golden canopic shrine that held the Pharaoh’s organs, and his iconic mummy case.  Artisans from the Pharaonic Village in Giza, Egypt spent ten years crafting these meticulous reproductions.  Unlike the Egyptian museum which prohibits cameras, you can take as many pictures as you like of the items being showcased at the Cranbrook Institute of Science.

While Tutankhamun’s body has been returned to its original burial spot, visitors to the exhibit can glimpse an accurate representation of his mummy.  The display explains how ancient Egyptians created mummies and the religious significance of the practice.  It also provides examples of other instances of mummification around the globe including the Siberian Ice Maiden whose body was freeze dried by frigid weather conditions and the Tollund Man found in Denmark whose body was persevered within a bog.  Warning this content may not be appropriate for young children and parental discretion is advised.  My eight year old twins were a bit spooked out by this part of the exhibit themselves.

TUTANKHAMUN: “Wonderful Things” from the Pharaoh’s Tomb focus really isn’t on treasure but rather highlights valuable artwork and personal items that provide a picture of what it was like to live in King Tut’s time.  A chariot used for transportation, a bed to rest in, tools and utensils for everyday tasks show an advanced society even though it didn’t have the comforts and conveniences of our modern times.  Something we take for granted now like a mirror is shown as a rare luxury of the rich in the exhibit.  The exhibit also shows how some things are still similar between now and then such as just like my family, the ancient Egyptians loved board games.  I was really impressed how the game of senet found in Tutankhamun’s tomb doesn’t differentiate that much from a type of game people in the 21st century might play on a family game night.

My kids also found it really interesting to examine the examples of how the ancient Egyptians communicated and expressed themselves through carving and sculpting stone.  They really took their time looking through the hieroglyphics and statues before them.  It was eye opening for them to consider a time without the technological luxuries of today’s age.

Tickets that include general admission to the Cranbrook Institute of Science along with entry into TUTANKHAMUN: “Wonderful Things” from the Pharaoh’s Tomb cost $23 (for those 12 and older) or $17.50 for Seniors (65+) and Children (2 – 12 years old).  Normal hours are Tuesday through Thursday 10 am – 5pm, Friday and Saturday 10 am – 10 pm, and Sunday Noon – 4pm. Discounted tickets are available after 5pm on Friday and Saturday nights for $16.50 (Adults/Teens) and $13.50 (Children / Seniors).  Kids under 2 years old are always provided free admission.  You can also visit the Cranbrook Institute of Science without going through this special exhibit for a lesser amount.

Make sure to tour the various permanent galleries at the museum after enjoying the TUTANKHAMUN exhibit. My son was awed by the Mineral Study Gallery which showcases nearly 2,000 samples in a variety of shapes, sizes and textures that can be found underground.  Plus they have a nice collection of rocks that have fallen from the sky .. don’t miss looking at all the meteorites in the gallery as well.

My daughter really enjoyed playing around in the Motion Gallery that provides hands-on activities and experiments demonstrating basic physics principals.

Both my kids also loved seeing the realistic depiction of a North American Mastodon called “Hezy.”  Mastodons once called Michigan home and in addition to the giant replica of one they have locally found tusks and bones from these behemoths on display.

From Amazonian shrunken heads to Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils there is a whole lot to take in at the Cranbrook Institute of Science.  For more information about the TUTANKHAMUN: “Wonderful Things” from the Pharaoh’s Tomb and all the other wonderful things to discover at this museum, please visit science.cranbrook.edu

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