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Splendor of the Inner Sanctum

Carved into the Valley of the Kings, Tut's tomb hid his mummy and funerary regalia until archaeologist Howard Carter revealed its contents to world acclaim. Though the peripheral rooms were looted in antiquity, the burial itself remained untouched. The layered treasures included four nested boxes, or shrines, of gilded wood, then three mummy-shaped coffins—two gilded and one of solid gold—all inside a red quartzite sarcophagus. At the center rested Tut himself, with a stunning mask of gold covering his head and shoulders.

Guide to the Great Beyond

Scenes infused with magical powers surround Tut's burial chamber and map out his journey to the next world. After the funeral procession, his successor, Aye, symbolically revives the dead king. Nut, the sky goddess, welcomes Tut to the realm of the gods, and Osiris, god of the afterlife, embraces him along with his ka, or spiritual double. Baboons on the far wall represent the start of his passage through the 12 hours of the night—a journey symbolized by a boat bearing a scarab, emblem of the sun god.

An angry wind stirred up ghostly dust devils as King Tut was taken from his resting place in the ancient Egyptian cemetery known as the Valley of the Kings. Dark-bellied clouds had scudded across the desert sky all day and now were veiling the stars in casket gray. It was 6 p.m. on January 5, 2005. In a few moments the world's most famous mummy would glide headfirst into a CT scanner brought here to probe the lingering medical mysteries of this little understood young ruler who died more than 3,300 years ago.

All afternoon the usual line of tourists from around the world had descended into the cramped, rock-cut tomb some 26 feet (8 meters) underground to pay their respects. They gazed at the murals on the walls of the burial chamber and peered at Tut's gilded face, the most striking feature of his mummy-shaped outer coffin lid. Some visitors read from guidebooks in a whisper. Others stood silently, perhaps pondering Tut's untimely death in his late teens, or wondering with a shiver if the pharaoh's curse—death or misfortune falling upon those who disturbed him—was really true.

When the valley closed to the public at dusk, Egyptologists in jeans and laborers in long robes and turbans got to work. Shouting directions and encouragements over the roar of fresh air being pumped into the tomb, they quickly attached ropes to the head and foot of the coffin lid and lifted it out of the sarcophagus. After a pause to reposition the ropes, they slowly pulled up a plain wooden box. Inside, cradled by cotton batting and yellowed muslin, lay the mortal remains of King Tutankhamun: a serene face with a scarred left cheek, a barrel chest, skeletal arms and legs, all blackened by resins poured on during his burial rites.

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