Before the Science Museum of Minnesota opened the doors to its King Tut exhibit Friday morning, the sizable but quiet gathering proved that comedian Steve Martin was prophetic in 1976 when he sang, "Now when he was a young man, he never thought he'd see people stand in line to see the boy king."
First in that line was Anoka's Heather Blesi, 20, who said she had become "a huge fan in social studies class and on the History Channel." She was most intrigued by "all the gold, all the treasures he had."
When the doors finally slid open -- fittingly, in "Open, Sesame" style -- at precisely 9:45 a.m., she and her family walked in along with the first of 150 sixth-graders from Lakeville. First on the agenda: a short film narrated by the world's most famous archaeologist, Indiana Jones -- er, Harrison Ford.
Another "Open, Sesame" door later, the crowd started taking in treasures large (statues, a coffin), medium (a cat sarcophagus, a boat that "grows" in the afterlife to full size) and small (earrings, gold finger and toe protectors).
"That's called having too much gold," one gawker said at the protector display.
"There's no such thing as too much gold," another replied.
Many of the Lakeville kids wrote and drew in their "discovery journals" as they fanned out among the artifacts. Scott Moore stood in awe before the inner coffin of Queen Meritamun and wondered aloud, "Is there a mummy in there?"
Over the next two hours, two clear patterns emerged.
First, a room featuring a video about Howard Carter, the archaeologist who unearthed Tutankhamun's treasures, stood as empty as the tomb itself had been for millennia. Meanwhile, the nearby "gold room," filled with amulets and small statues, was Sardine City. Obviously, this bunch, no matter how interested in history, was there for the bling.
Secondly, and not surprisingly, kids like gross stuff.
Jarek Haugen called an ancient latrine unsanitary. "It looks like somebody peed on it," he said. "I wouldn't sit there." Yet he lingered at the display.
Sidney Bertzina was mesmerized -- from a distance -- by a coffinette, a vase-like object in which internal organs were stored. "Eww, that's where they keep the guts and stuff," she said second before making a bee line for the object.
In the exhibit's final room, the swarm around a glassed-in replica of Tut's body was two deep.
"He's missing two toes," one boy said. "Cool!"
Soon, another school group arrived, third-graders from the Mississippi Arts Creative Magnet School in St. Paul, wearing shiny silver-and-blue Egyptian headdresses. Their science teacher, Katherine Schaefer, found contemporary contexts and metaphors for the ancient objects.
"It's a very, very foreign culture to them. They're third-graders. They're excited about pretty much anything in life," Schaefer said, looking as if she were born to wear the headdress. "This will stick with them. And when they start studying Egypt in the sixth grade, they will remember a lot of this."
Especially the bling -- and the gross stuff.
Bill Ward • 612-673-7643