Largest Collection of Tutankhamun Relics
When it opens later this year, the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) will be the largest archeological museum in the world. Built on a slope on the Giza Plateau just outside of central Cairo, the museum’s glass facades will offer a breathtaking view of the surrounding pyramids.
The structure—the size of ten soccer fields—will house some 100,000 artefacts. Among them are the contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb, a collection of more than 5,000 objects shown in its entirety for the first time.
Since the tomb was discovered in 1922, only one-third of the Tutankhamun collection has been available for public viewing. Well-known relics like his gold death mask, sarcophagus, chariots, and jewelry, will now be exhibited alongside everyday objects, like walking sticks, garments, games, fruit and jars of oil, beer, and wine, in the exact order in which they were found by British archeologist Howard Carter. The idea is to show what the pharaoh’s everyday life was like—from what he ate to the clothing he wore.
Under construction for nearly a decade, the building’s design was decided by an architectural competition in which 1,557 entries from 83 countries were submitted. The concept, developed by Irish architectural firm Heneghan Peng Architects, is made up of a series of layers. Visitors will explore a forecourt, an entrance hall and a grand staircase lined with 87 statues of Egyptian gods and pharaohs that leads to the plateau level, where the four main galleries are located.
The galleries are organized chronologically by era—the predynastic and Old Kingdom (dating back to 6000 BCE), the Middle Kingdom (beginning around 2050 BCE), the New Kingdom (beginning in 1570 BCE) and the Greco-Roman period.
Aside from the building’s construction, one of the biggest endeavors has been preserving and restoring the museum’s artifacts, and 17 on-site labs have been dedicated to this effort. The largest artifact is a 3,200-year-old, 33-foot granite statue of Ramses II in the museum’s main atrium.