Chariots of the Boy-King

Project Update – 21 Feb 2024

It’s now just over a century since the nearly intact tomb of King Tutankhamun was discovered in Egypt. But even today, the 18th dynasty king remains lodged in our collective popular culture – a famous name that conjures an exotic mix of ancient mystery, spectacle, intrigue and power.

Tutankhamun’s reign was brief (around 1332–1323 BCE), but his material legacy is a remarkable, enduring collection of some 5,000 artifacts. For the first time, the young pharaoh’s collection will be displayed together at the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), a huge, billion-dollar complex that has been decades in the making.

Among the star exhibits in the Tutankhamun Gallery, designed by Atelier Brückner, are the pharaoh’s five ceremonial gold chariots. Goppion was tasked with the design, manufacture and installation of nearly 200 display cases at GEM, but the chariots presented an appropriately epic challenge.

The sheer collective size of the chariots – each one 2.5–3m long – demanded something extra. We created a bespoke 12m x 4m x 2.9m showcase, which required eight large glass panels. Exacting design was essential to ensure maximum legibility: we didn’t want any joints interrupting visitors’ full view of the spectacular chariots. Shipping required open top containers and special A-frames to ensure safe delivery of the fragile cargo. Gently does it…

Another challenge for Goppion was the partly organic composition of King Tut’s chariots, which have vulnerable ancient wooden parts. Protecting these requires a secure ambient microclimate with a centralized RH system.

The machines that regulate the RH for this huge showcase were located inside a plant room in the floor below the gallery. These were connected to the showcase with flexible pipes, fabricated from food hygiene-grade materials to prevent any bacterial generation. This ensures the air within the showcase is kept clean and fresh for the safety of the chariots.

Work continues on the GEM complex as it opens to the public in phases, but soon visitors will be able to enjoy an unparalleled celebration of one of the ancient world’s greatest civilizations.