February 17, 1967, it is the crowd at the Petit Palais in Paris. The crowd comes to admire the most beautiful pieces of the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Obtained after infinite negotiations between France and Egypt, the exhibition still holds today the attendance record.
On the evening of 4 January 1967, a foreign head of state arrived in Paris in the greatest secrecy. The face covered with a golden mask, he is escorted in the middle of the night by a squad of bikers, CRS, firefighters and plainclothes policemen from Le Bourget airport to his place of residence in the capital.
The arrival of the monarch, surrounded by exceptional security measures, was preceded by the shipment of sumptuous furniture necessary for his stay. A military ship, a cargo plane and another commercial flight were needed to move the whole thing. As usual, the French, who regularly boast of having cut the head of their king, adore nothing as to receive and admire those of others. The latter, although deceased a few thousand years ago, is more expected than the Queen of England. Everyone wants to see him, approach him …
The exhibition "Tutankhamun and his time" is the big deal of this beginning of the year 1967 in Paris, at least in the field of culture. The pharaoh, who died at the age of 18 in 1327 BC, fascinates far beyond circles of archeology lovers. Son of Akhenaton, the sacrilegious inventor of monotheism, and probably of one of his sisters or of Nefertiti, the double cousin of his father, Tutankhamen has distinguished himself, during his short reign, by restoring the cult of Amon and resettling the capital of ancient Egypt to Thebes.
"The tomb of Tutankhamun legitimizes the" treasure hunt "side of archeology. Vincent Rondot, Egyptologist at the Louvre
But, if Tutankhamen passed to posterity, it is thanks to the discovery of his tomb, intact, by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in 1922. Visited shortly after its closure at IIe century BC, the monument then fell into oblivion, like the young pharaoh, whom his successors have done everything to erase from historiography. Until November 26, 1922, when Howard Carter enters the burial place with a candle in his hand.
Carter, convinced that the tomb of this obscure sovereign could deliver unsuspected secrets, convinces the Earl of Carnarvon, a rich British patron of a dig concession in the Valley of the Kings, to finance several campaigns from 1917.
That of 1922 is the last: the funds are running out and Lord Carnarvon is getting impatient. "Demonstrations of such strength, there are very few in archeology, explains Vincent Rondot, director of the Egyptian antiquities department at the Louvre. If Tutankhamun touches us so much, it is because the discovery of his tomb legitimizes the "treasure hunt" side of archeology. It also validates the cliché of the Pharaoh, oriental despot covered with gold. "