King Tut and China’s Terracotta Warriors Take Atlanta

Discover the fascinating burial practices of two ancient civilizations at these popular exhibits.

How ideas of the afterlife have changed! These days we say, “You can’t take it with you.” But for the royals of ancient Egypt and China, death was just a passage into another realm where they would need all kinds of useful things. So they prepared vast, well-stocked tombs.

Two awe-inspiring Atlanta exhibitions showcase the fabulous contents of two such royal resting places: China’s terracotta warriors at the High Museum of Art and the King Tut exhibit at the Atlanta Civic Center. The underground palace complex of Qin Shihuangdi, China’s first emperor, was “staffed” by thousands of life-like clay soldiers and officials. The tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun was crammed with exquisite sculptures, furnishings and jewelry. You can view hundreds of objects from each, and the very different ideas of the afterlife they represent, during your Atlanta vacation.

China’s Terracotta Warriors: Uncanny Realism

The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army” at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art includes objects from the enormous underground burial complex of the ruler who unified China. When Qin Shihuangdi died, in 210 B.C., he was interred with slightly larger-than-life clay figures representing foot soldiers, charioteers, generals, civil servants—and even jugglers and musicians, to delight him.

More than 8,000 figures have been excavated so far, most of which are still in place at the site in China. Only 15 are in this exhibition, but unlike in China, the installation allows you a close, intimate view of them.

The figures convey an impression of deep thought, meditative suspension and timelessness; perhaps this is from their stillness, or because their eyes are open, but all their mouths are closed and straight—none are curved into a smile. While they were cast in molds, each face was individually sculpted, with remarkable realism and detail.

In addition to the figures, you will see objects that bring to life this period of Chinese history: coins, weapons and armor, pendants, vessels, ritual objects and architectural fragments. There are models of one of the first emperor’s palaces, and of the terracotta figures being crafted on a sort of manual assembly line.

Your Ticket to the Tombs. High Museum of Art Atlanta, 1280 Peachtree St. NE. Entry to “The First Emperor” is on the half hour. Tickets: $18 for adults, $15 for students and seniors 65 and over, $11 for kids 6 to 17, free for children under 6; includes access to all galleries of the museum. Hours: Tues. to Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibit runs through April 19, 2009. The High Museum of Art is adjacent to Arts Center station. Tel. 404-733-5000,

After Atlanta, the exhibit moves to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, May 22 to Oct. 18, 2009, followed by the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., Nov. 19, 2009 to March 31, 2010.


Next: King Tut Artifacts: Exquisite Detail

King Tut Artifacts: Exquisite Detail

At “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” at the Atlanta Civic Center, you proceed through installations that explain the history, religion and royal culture of ancient Egypt. There are exquisite sculptures of pharaohs—some small enough to hold in your hand and others towering overhead—architectural fragments, sacred objects and multimedia displays.

One gallery holds a breathtaking collection of jewelry recovered from royal tombs, all fashioned from gold and semiprecious stones. Then the story is told of the discovery and excavation of King Tut’s tomb. There’s a rare archival film clip, showing objects being carried from it.

Finally, with a theatrical flourish, you are ushered into a series of rooms meant to replicate the underground chambers where archaeologists found Tut’s mummy and the objects he took with him when he died in 1323 B.C. You’ll see furniture, vessels, jewelry and even the pair of solid-gold sandals that were on the mummy’s feet.

Your Ticket to the Tombs. Atlanta Civic Center, 395 Piedmont Ave. NE. “Tutankhamun” tickets are for visits scheduled on the half hour. Admission: $27.50 for adults 18 and over, $16.50 for kids 6 to 17, $24.50 for students and seniors 65 and over. Hours: Mon. to Thurs., 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Fri. to Sun. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Exhibit runs through May 17, 2009. The Atlanta Civic Center is three blocks east of the Civic Center MARTA (rapid-transit) station. Get tickets by calling 877-TUT-TKTS (877-888-8587), For more information on the King Tut exhibit go to

Bonus: Buy a combination ticket with the Georgia Aquarium. Tickets: $39.99 for adults 13 and over, $29.99 for kids 3 to 12, $34.99 for seniors 65 and over. Free shuttle transportation is available between the two venues. Combo offer ends May 8, 2009. Buy tickets at

After Atlanta, portions of this exhibit move to the de Young Museum in San Francisco, June 27, 2009 to March 28, 2010, and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, June 27 through October 2009.

A Photographic Record

View another King Tut exhibition at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. “Wonderful Things: The Harry Burton Photographs and the Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun” documents the 1922 excavation of the pharaoh’s tomb through photographs made at the time. While less dramatic than the main exhibitions, it powerfully evokes the thrill of archeological discovery.

Your Ticket to the Tombs. Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University; 395 Piedmont Ave. NE. Donation $7. Hours: Tues. to Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sun., 12 to 5 p.m. Exhibit runs through May 25, 2009. Tel. 404-880-3242.


Next: Atlanta Art & Hotel Package

Atlanta Art & Hotel Package

Atlanta area Marriott hotels offer a package for two including one night’s accommodation, parking and breakfast, “front of line access” Tutankhamun tickets and “next available time” First Emperor tickets. At the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, walking distance from the Civic Center and a quick train ride from the High Museum, rates start at $199 for the Atlanta High Museum package and $259 per night for the VIP King Tut and First Emperor package. Valid through April 19, 2009. Atlanta Marriott Marquis, 265 Peachtree Center Ave.; tel. 404-521-0000;

Read our Atlanta Family Hotels article for more lodging information.

Destinations: Atlanta

Themes: Art and Museums

Activities: Arts and Entertainment, Museums