LOS ANGELES—US black activists demanded Wednesday that a bust of Tutankhamun be removed from a landmark exhibition of artefacts from the Egyptian boy king’s tomb because the statue portrays him as white.
The bust that activists object to is a central part of “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs,” the first US exhibition of relics from king Tut’s tomb in nearly 30 years, which opens here Thursday amid Hollywood fanfare.
The face of the legendary pharaoh, who died around 3,300 years ago at the age of just 19, was reconstructed earlier this year through images collected through Cat Scans of his mummy, found near Luxor in Egypt in 1922.
But Legrand Clegg, a historian and prosecutor of the Los Angeles area city of Compton, is demanding that the bust of King Tut be removed from the show because its rendition of his face is a “distortion of reality.”
“They have depicted King Tut as white, but the ancient Egyptians were black people,” he told AFP.
!(>tut.jpg! We do not need modern scientists to reconstruct the bust and tell us what to see. Do not deprive black children of their heritage,” Legrand said in an appeal to organisers to remove the likeness from display.
Clegg said the protest would take the form of a peaceful picket outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where the 27-month three-city tour of the United States is poised to open.
The action comes after Los Angeles city officials declined to intervene with exhibition organisers to remove the bust.
“There is no evidence that King Tut was white,” Clegg told city officials at a public meeting last week. “Egypt is on the continent of Africa.”
Clegg maintains that the inhabitants of ancient Egypt were descended from the black Nubian people that inhabited that country and neighbouring Ethiopia.
He said his group would protest as long as there was a “suppression of black history,” that he said was “conspiratorial” and “has to stop.”
Organisers of the exhibit billed it as a “blockbuster” display that will leave its mark on the worlds of archaeology and the American public.
Clegg said his drive was supported in his quest to have the bust removed by the Compton branch of the powerful National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The show, which boasts 130 funerary objects some of which have rarely or never travelled out of Egypt before, opens its doors 26 years after the last US display of artefacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb ended in 1976.
Evan Henerson, U-Daily News (Los Angeles), June 15
Nobody can be sure exactly what the boy king Tutankhamun looked like. But a group of African-American activists charting the “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” exhibition are certain of one thing: He didn’t look white.
Three separate teams of researchers reviewing the data from the mummified corpse have concluded that Tutankhamun, who was part of the 18th Egyptian dynasty, was a Caucasoid North African. Clegg contends these conclusions fly in the face of separate research by a New Zealand and British research team that label Tut Negroid.
“The big variable is skin tone,” says Terry Garcia, executive vice president for mission programs for National Geographic, one of the exhibition’s presenters. “North Africans, we know today, had a range of skin tones, from light to dark. In this case, we selected a medium skin tone, and we say, quite up front, ‘This is midrange.’ We’ll never know for sure what his exact skin tone was or the color of his eyes with 100 percent certainty.
“Maybe in the future, people will come to a different conclusion,” Garcia continues. “From what we know, there is no doubt this individual was of North African descent.”
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