Running through January 6 at the Pacific Science Center, the Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs show is strewn with images of beige landscapes, mystical instrumentals, and visitors using camera phones to make videos of placards that no one will ever watch, ever. There's also a giant collection of artifacts from squillions of years ago. The fashions depicted in the ancient reliefs and sculptures present the free fall of ancient trends: simple sheaths worn with nothing up top; fake beards affixed with chin straps; sheer linen capes dense with accordion pleats; blunt cuts dyed black; piled-on eyeliner; fantasy arm bands, disc earrings, forehead pendants, and jeweled collars in dazzling gold; nipples painted gold to match; and wigs shaped into angular mounds, designed to give "the head an enlarged and often literally 'pyramidal' shape," write Michael and Ariane Batterberry in Mirror, Mirror: A Social History of Fashion.
Although they seem so glamorous to you and me, many of the wealthy Egyptians were not actually the white-hot babes their portraits suggest. Men and women were balding, and they had dissolving teeth or faces malformed by incest and disease. Sometimes, the pharaohs were obese, as indicated by the mummified skin folds garlanding the midsections of rulers such as Ramses III and Amenhotep III. (Look for the latter's statue on display. He's presented as a lithe, handsome man, staring at some regal memory, wearing a textured headdress that's all dome-shaped and seemingly "caked with tumid Cheerios," as my notes indicate.)