Science: Diadem

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To His Egyptian Majesty, King TutankhAmen, death came about 3,300 years ago, after 17 years of life, eight of matrimony, three or four of sovereignty. In those days the throne of the Pharaohs was inherited by sons-in-law. Thus Saa-nekht, having married one daughter of Pharaoh Khu-n-Aten, succeeded his father-in-law, died, was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Tutankh-Amen, who had meanwhile married Khu-n-Aten's third daughter, Amkh-nes-pa-Aten.

King Tut had achieved little of manhood when he died. He was a slim lad, slender, sapplingesque. Nothing so became him as his burial. The world's chief artificers buzzed about him. They stretched him out. His hands, as tired as a pair of autumn leaves, they folded across his breast. Upon his head they set the royal golden diadem, the eager vulture (Nekhebet), the playful serpent (Buto). From his neck they suspended amuletic idols. Pectorals of elaborate cloisonne they strewed upon his breast. A star beaten out of golden foil marked the place where his heart had been. Thirteen finger-rings, all different, they slipped upon his brittle digits. With eleven bracelets they circled his arms. They covered his waist with two girdles, from each of which hung a dagger, zestfully ornamented. They put the royal apron, inlaid with gold, around his pathetically bony legs. For his feet were golden sandals. A sheaf of gold tipped each toe and finger.

Withal, they wrapped him round and round to be a perfect mummy, and lifted him into a box heavy as lead but golden, wherein they also put innumerable amulets of beauty and ghostly merit, as well as two swords, jewel-studded.

And finally the goldsmith worked a mask of head and shoulders, a good likeness, a snug fit.

The reconstruction of the tale of this magnificent interment was slowly accomplished last week by Howard Carter and colleagues in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings at Luxor. After three years of laborious archeology, the diggers opened the royal coffin for the first time. Greatest secrecy attended the event, the pride-swollen, dog-in-the-manger Egyptian officials having exacted a stipulation that no news was to be telegraphed to the archeologically-minded world except the "official communiques" issued to the Egyptian press, which is glumly uninterested in the proceedings.

The unwrapping of the old young body, a most delicate operation, re- quired seven days. The years had reduced it to a powdery condition. X-rays were found useless because the body, fixed in a thick pitch- like substance, impervious to X-rays, could not be extracted from the coffin. Medical experts also reported that a form of spontaneous combustion had destroyed the bandages and rendered the skin and underlying tissues brittle. It was, however, established that the King's age was on the baby-side of 18.

The riches of the find are significant not only because they are rich but actually because they are surprisingly unique. Never before has a royal diadem of Egypt been unearthed. And even the minor trappings of the royal person have hitherto been scarcely above ground. The reason is that previously discovered mummies have been stripped by thieves before the savants got at them. Every yield of ancient splendor laughs ironically at Egypt's squalorous fellaheen of today.