Lecturer brings King Tut story to life at Evanston Library

Leona Liu

With a safari-style field hat on his head and a trowel and knife dangling from holsters on his belt, National-Louis University social studies Professor Roger LaRaus appeared ready to excavate an ancient tomb as he took his audience on a “journey across time and space with King Tutankhamen.”

LaRaus told the story of the legendary young king of Ancient Egypt Saturday at the Evanston Public Library to a group of about 50 adults and children. The half-hour presentation featured a slideshow and replicas of Egyptian artifacts found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb.

LaRaus, who is also a textbook author and has appeared on CBS News, NBC Evening News and the Today Show, discussed the mummification process, the riches found in the tombs and the lives of ancient Egyptians.

“The story of King Tut fascinates people because in the Egyptians we see ourselves,” LaRaus said. “They had a language, political and economic institutions and a sense of history. In short, they had culture.”

Many at LaRaus’ lecture said they went to prepare themselves for the Chicago Field Museum’s coming exhibition, “Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs,” which will run from May 26, 2006 through Jan. 1, 2007.

Dee Dee Kenny of Evanston brought her 8-year-old granddaughter, who is interested in Egyptian culture.

“We both learned a lot of stuff about Egypt we didn’t know,” Kenny said.

LaRaus fed the audience little-known facts during the presentation.

Although many historians say King Tutankhamen was murdered by a blow to the head, LaRaus said he actually died of an infected knee . Using a CT scan, researchers discovered the spot on the back of King Tut’s head mistaken for an injury was actually resin on the X-ray, LaRaus said.

LaRaus emphasized the craftsmanship of each object featured in his slides. He cracked a few jokes, too.

“Now this is just like the deodorant you and I use,” he said, pointing to a slide of an artifact from King Tut’s tomb. “We all have deodorant holders made out of gold, right?”

At the end of the presentation, audience members were able to get an upclose view of the artifact replicas, such as King Tutankhamen’s mask from Egypt and his golden dagger.

LaRaus, who has traveled the world and been inside King Tutankhamen’s tomb, said he got the idea to give interactive lectures when he was curriculum administrator for Evanston schools. He always dresses for the topic he is lecturing on and has been costumed as a Civil War general, a Roman legionary and a medieval knight.

His next lecture will be in May at the Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences in Beijing on the topic of citizenship.

Reach Leona Liu at [email protected]