We tend to think of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, or “King Tut,” as an ancient big-shot, an Egyptian mover and shaker whose tomb made everyone else’s in the Valley of the Kings look shrimpy.
We might think that, but we would be wrong.
“It’s a mighty small tomb for a pharaoh,” said Cameron Wood, curator of collections at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, which hosts “Tutankhamun: ‘Wonderful Things’ from the Pharaoh’s Tomb” through Sept. 3.
“Things were literally just stuffed in his tomb,” Wood said. “The assumption is that because he died young,” at 18 from a broken leg that got infected, “everyone was caught off guard, and they had to commandeer someone else’s tomb.”
“Wonderful Things” is a traveling show with over 120 replicas produced by expert artisans at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Pharaonic Village in Giza, Egypt, a sort of Greenfield Village or Colonial Williamsburg in the desert.
Cranbrook has added about 50 original artifacts from its ancient Egyptian collection and that of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
In a great gesture toward context, there’s even a section of the show amusingly titled “The Grateful Dead” with photos and information on mummification practices and pyramid-building from around the globe, including Central America.
All in all, the show is full of bright gold and strong colors, apt to dazzle even the most-jaded child.
Plus, Wood added, “We incorporated a computer game where kids can create a virtual mummy.”
Alternately, they can study illustrations and use building blocks to construct New World pyramids of the sort the Mayans erected.
Among the A-plus Egyptian reproductions on display are Tut’s very own state chariot, golden shrines, beds, thrones, jewelry, the boy-king’s spectacular funerary mask, mummy case, and a replica of his royal mummified self.
Small or not, Tut’s tomb, discovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter just before he abandoned the search, proved to be a treasure trove.
Bigger, more-lavish tombs were vandalized and robbed repeatedly over the millennia.
Not so Tut’s, which vanished from memory as his family fell from political favor some 33 centuries ago, and was largely expunged, Soviet-style, from official records by succeeding pharaohs.
“The tomb was raided,” Wood said, “but it wasn’t totally emptied out like others. So it was as nearly complete as any that’s ever been found.”
‘Tutankhamun: “Wonderful Things” from the Pharaoh’s Tomb’
Through Sept. 3
Cranbrook Institute of Science
39221 Woodward, Bloomfield Hills
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; noon-4 p.m. Sundays
$13: adults; $9.50: children 2-12 and seniors 65-plus
($6.50 and $5.50 after 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays)