recess radio program

King Tutankhamen
    by John Cech


In early November of 1922, Howard Carter, made one of the most famous discoveries in archeological history, that of the tomb of the boy king, Tutankhamen. As Carter peered through the small opening he and his crew had dug, into the darkness of the tomb, which had been sealed for thousands of years, he was asked if there was anything there. He said that through the torch light he could see something inside -- "wonderful things."

At the time, there had been a fascination in the West with the world of ancient Egypt for more than a century, interest that was sparked by European conquerors and colonizers. But with King Tutankhamenís tomb and the fabled curse that is alleged to have followed its opening, the mystique surrounding ancient Egyptian civilization grew exponentially throughout the 20th century, fueled by novels and films, and more recently by an endless stream of documentaries that have explored everything from the Egyptian reverence for cats (cats were regarded as sacred, and the punishment for anyone who harmed a cat was death), to the mysteries of mummification (which are still a mystery today), to the mystery of the construction of the pyramids. Did they use ramps or winches suspended from flying saucers. We still donít know that answer today either.

At some point, children also get swept up in the excitement of these archeological wonders. Perhaps itís from seeing one of the recent action movies about vengeful mummies, which make the 1932 classic, The Mummy, starring Boris Karloff (which gave some of us our first taste of things Egyptian) seem like a quiet walk on the beach. But today there is also a great deal more information about Ancient Egypt available for children -- from coloring and activity books, atlases, histories, keys to decyphering hieroglyphics, and hybrid kits, like Jacqueline Dineenís Lift the Lid on Mummies: Unravel the Mysteries of Egyptian Tombs and Make Your Own Mummy! that comes complete with little plastic Canopic jars for .... well, Iíll spare you the details of their use, but Iím sure that the budding Egyptologist in your family will be happy to acqauint you with this burial custom. Jim Weiss, the award-winning storyteller, has recorded a CD of tales for young people called Egyptian Treasures: Mummies and Myths, that offers some deeper background about ancient Egyptian beliefs. And then there are the CDs that seek to channel the music of Ancient Egypt into our lives today, ambiently, authentically -- these universal lullabyes, like Ali Racyís Floating Lotus, are truly "wonderful things."

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Copyright 2004 © John Cech

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"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."