Ultimate Egypt field trip: King Tut’s Treasures

Psusennes at the Minnesota Science Museum

Photos & text by Lisa Meyers McClintick

With Egypt in the news this past month and kids talking about it at school, it’s perfect timing for spring break field trips to “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharoahs” at the Minnesota Science Museum.

Put more simply, it’s King Tut and more than 100 treasures from Egypt’s ancient sites. Adults love the gold, glamour and amazing craftsmanship. Kids are more drawn to the “Ewwww” factor of mummies. (It’s rather comforting that the one on display is a replica.)

Research Egypt first
It helped to prep our daughters for the exhibit that opened Feb. 18 by checking out a variety of library books. The DK Eyewitness guides to Egypt and mummies were stand-outs thanks to many visuals and quirky stories. Some photos–such as one of a mummified cat or mummified shrunken heads–are way up there on the ick factor. You don’t necessary want to look, but you can’t help it.

In search of the mummy, mummy, mummy

A game from Tut’s tomb

The exhibit’s impressive enough to inspire those hushed moments of awe. Unfortunately, I doubt I was the only mom whose kids’ nagging mantra of “Mummy, mummy, mummy!” were like being at a playground and hearing “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” until you’re ready to crack your skull on the jungle gym.

If you’re visiting with younger kids (my girls are 7), design a scavenger hunt or quiz to get them more engaged and paying attention, rather than hurrying through to see the mummy. If you do this, keep the notebook or paper small and use a pencil. No pens are allowed around the priceless artifacts.

You also can check the museum web site for archaeology and King Tut classes and crafts designed for kids ages 6-8 and 9-12.

DIY King Tut scavenger hunt 
Here are some of the most memorable items to look for:
  • Intricate hieroglyphics show up on many statues and carvings. Have kids seek something specific such as bird symbols.
  • Egypt’s version of toilet seat. Really.
  • A sarcophagus for royal cats. It puts a new twist on the term “cat box.”
  • The king’s chair. Smaller than you’d think.
  • King Tut’s intricately inlaid coffinette that held his mummified stomach.
  • A necklace with golden falcon heads. It’s one of several gorgeous jewelry pieces.
  • Golden head of a leopard.
  • Golden finger and toe covers used on the mummy and golden sandals.
  • Golden sandals etched like woven reeds.
  • King Tut’s game box. Tell the kids it was his Nintendo.

Another Minnesota big-ticket exhibit
The Minnesota Science Museum continues to reel in major exhibitions, which have recently included “A Day in Pompeii,” “Titanic: the Artifact Exhibition,” and “The Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Tutankhamun, though, is its largest to date with 16,000 square feet of exhibit space. You’ll need at least an hour to get through the maze of rooms that lead visitors into a simulated tomb. If you can visit without kids in tow, you’ll want 90 minutes or more to ogle the details and listen to the full audio tour.

If it feels like walking through the pages of National Geographic, it’s no wonder. The National Geographic Society is a key player in putting together this exhibit with cooperation from the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The Science Museum is the only Midwest site that will have King Tut’s treasures. They’ll be on display through Sept. 5.

Advance tickets–which come with an assigned entrance time–are recommended. If you want to see the IMAX film, “Mummies: Secrets of the Pharoahs,” do that first so you aren’t rushed through exhibit.

Tickets start at $16 for kids (without the film). If you like to go to the museum than once a year, the $95 household membership includes regular admission and the Omnitheater show (usually $14.50 to $17 for both), discounts on parking, and special rates for traveling exhibits such as King Tut. Kids’ Tut tickets are as low as $9 in March with a membership. Membership gets families into 200 additional museums across the country.

Weekday King Tut rates are cheaper, but check the site first to make sure special events at the Xcel Center don’t jack up parking fees.

King Tut audio tours ($6-$7) include narration by Harrison Ford. He’s a good fit. It’s impossible to keep out visions of fearless explorers excavating treasures and risking the mummy’s curse–another creepy, intriguing tale to get kids hooked on King Tut and ancient Egypt.

A cat sarcophagus.

 More King Tut trivia

  • The so-called boy king was about 9 years old when he was crowned. That’s also when he married his half-sister.
  • He died at about 19 years old, according to modern CT scans. Modern technology also squelches rumors of murder, pointing instead to an infection from a fracture on his left leg.
  • He had two stillborn daughters who were mummified and buried in his tomb.
  • His father Akhenaten spearheaded a religious revolution to worship one god rather than many.