NatGeo’s New Photos Bring King Tut’s Treasures to Life

National Geographic King Tut
Tut’s resplendent burial mask immortalizes his features in gold, glass, and semiprecious stones. The masterpiece also embodies the wealth of Egypt’s 18th dynasty (16th to 13th centuries B.C.), when trade routes converged in the Nile Valley and caravans brought extravagant goods from afar. | Photo by Sandro Vannini

Just ahead of the 100th anniversary of the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb, National Geographic is featuring a gorgeous assortment of interactive photos that provide access to these treasures.

The artifacts were captured by photographer Sandro Vannini while photographer Paolo Verzone shot photos of the soon-to-open Grand Egyptian Museum, where the curators are working on the artifacts and the preservation of the mummies and more. Verzone, who is an award-winning photographer that has worked with international media for more than 25 years, tells PetaPixel that the whole assignment was like a time-traveling experience.

“The museum is a complete visual experience, with moving artifacts and a constant dynamic energy. While there, I was able to document the meticulous work of the Egyptian scientists restoring the artifacts from the tomb of Tut — it was science and history in perfect harmony, in a 3,000-year loop. Together with the scientific and restoration teams, I had the privilege of documenting the new generation of Egyptian archaeologists at work in the field,” he says.

The starting point of his reporting was was the Grand Egyptian Museum, which when finished in 2023 in an area just outside of Cairo, will be hosting more than 5000 artifacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun.

National Geographic King Tut
Many of Tut’s treasures, including this figurine, were kept until recently at the cramped Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which opened in 1902. Artifacts long hidden in storage will be dis- played at the GEM, some for the first time. | Photo by Paolo Verzone/National Geographic

“Every archeological site had its specifics, and I was impressed by the skills of the excavators/workers in each site I visited. I watched their work for hours, and had such an admiration for their skill and knowledge, which was unique in the fact that it had accumulated for generations. Often, their fathers and grandfathers were excavators too, and their knowledge was passed down through each generation. I imagine that under this system, their knowledge dates all the way back to the workers who built the pyramids,” Verzone continues.

National Geographic King Tut
Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, examines a tiny coffin made for a mummified shrew. “For the ancient Egyptians, no animal was too small to be ignored, and each occupied a very particular place in the cosmos.” | Photo by Paolo Verzone/National Geographic

Each curator had a vision and a unique attitude, but all of them had something in common, which I could describe with the word ‘sacred.’ They were approaching each artifact in the most caring and respectful way, and every object or piece was treated like it was carrying the history of all of humankind (and in that sense, they were totally right),” he adds.

Verzone says that he is used to documenting living people, but knew that in this situation he would be dealing with a wholly new subject: mummies.

National Geographic King Tut
A team of geneticists led by Yehia Gad (second from left) examines the mummy of an unidentified boy in the tomb of Pharaoh Amenhotep II. A pioneer in the DNA analysis of ancient mummies, Gad is studying samples from King Tutankhamun and his extended family, looking for clues to their ancestral ties and genetic maladies. | Photo by Paolo Verzone/National Geographic

“I treated mummies with the deepest respect — I viewed them as ‘sleeping souls’ rather than dead bodies, and I wanted viewers to feel their presence and lightness, which is totally different from a dead body. They were like bodies in transition between two worlds, and I approached them in that way,” he explains.

Verzone says that he has read about the discovery of King Tut’s tomb from a very young age since his grandfather was an archeologist. The result is that he knew every inch of the tomb and all of the details of its discovery since hew as a teenager, but says that having the privilege to witness it in person was an incredible experience.

King Tutankhamun lived in great luxury and died unexpect- edly in his late teens. Life-size statues guarded his burial chamber and served as vessels that his ka, or life force, could inhabit during the afterlife. | Photo by Sandro Vannini

“It was like closing a circle of time– a slow-moving circle that started more than 40 years ago, and was completed only this year, in that moment of suspended silence inside the king’s tomb.”

These photos and others are featured in the November issue of National Geographic, titled “Tut’s Treasures.” It explains why this discovery is still important 100 years later and gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the opening of the highly anticipated Grand Egyptian Museum, where nearly all of these treasures will be showcased.

National Geographic King Tut

The 3D interactive exhibit can be seen on National Geographic’s website.

Image credits: National Geographic