Typical ancient Egypt image of a Mask similar to Tutamkamon's with white copy space.

The Infamous Pharaoh Tutankhamun: The Boy King

As kids we were taught about the seven wonders of the world. From Machu Picchu in Peru to the Taj Mahal in India. But did you know that the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt was given an honorary status? This was built as a tomb for an Egyptian Paharoh, Khufu. This led to me to the most infamous Egyptian Pharaoh that most of us know – King Tutankhamun.

About King Tut:

King Tutankhamun, or simply known as King Tut, was the son of Akhenaten. He was also the last from royal lineage to rule the kingdom from 1333-23 BCE. Though the period of reign differs from one account to another, he took the throne at the age of nine and passed away at nineteen. He was initially named as Tutankhaten by his father. After his father’s death he changed it to Tutankhamun. Tutankhaten translates to “Living image of Aten” and Tutankhamen means “Living image of Amun”.

King Tut was married to his half-sister Anhesenamun. In the course of their married life, they lost two daughters. Both King Tut and Anhesenamun changed their names to their present ones. Anhesenamun was initially named Ankhesenpaaten.

The Lesser known Royal names of the Boy King:

Tutankhamun was not the name addressed by his people. Similar to the previous rulers of Egypt, he too had five royal names:

1) Horus Name – Image of births

2) Two ladies Name – Beautiful of laws who quells the two lands

3) Golden Horus Name – Elevated of appearances for the god.

4) Prenomen – Nebkheperure

5) Nomen – Tutkhamun

Preceding Pharaoh:

Akhenaten was the preceding Egyptian king who ruled for around 17 years. He was the tenth and second last ruler from royal lineage. He was known for introducing Atenism and was a monotheistic. The religion mainly revolved around Aten, sun god. Aten was treated like the supreme god. This new religion system replaced the Ancient Egypt religion. He was also responsible for the destruction of shrines dedicated to various gods other than Aten. He placed Aten even above Amun, King of Gods. A lot Egytologists believe that he was first to bring in a monotheistic religion.

The image is a painting of Akhenaten, father of King Tut. He was preceding Pharaoh.
Akhenaten, father of King Tut (Image credit: Pixabay)

Although the accurate timing of their wedding is unclear, he was married to Nefertiti. Some sources suggest that he married her shortly after taking the throne. His secondary wife is Kiya, known from engravings, is assumed to be Tutankhamun’s mother. From the inscriptions it can be said that he has seven to eight children. Among those, six of them are daughters. Ankhesenpaaten, one of his daughters, later became the queen through her marriage with Tutankhamun. After King Tut descended the throne, he reconstructed all the destroyed temples.

Reign as a Ruler

King Tut was made the ruler at the age of nine, taking the throne name Nebkheperure. He divided the post, Vizier into lower and upper Egypt. Vizier is the highest post that was to serve the king. As soon as he became a pharaoh, Tut moved his father’s mummy from his tomb. Which was reburied at the Valley of the Kings. This act made his rule as a King stronger.

During his period as a Pharaoh, Tut brought back the worship of Amun and restoring Thebes as religious capital. With this, he also changed the end of his name to echo his royal devotion. Thus, effectively reversing Akhenaten’s reform in beginning of his reign. After taking the crown, he granted funds to revive the cults of Amun and Ptah. He ordered new statues of the deities to be made with best and refined materials. He also had priests, dancers, singer and attendants’ positions reinstated. Along with it, he ensured them with royal protection for future stability.

This is an image of Amun, King of gods.  He is wearing a headdress with double plum. Holding Ankh symbol in his right hand and a sceptre in the other.

In his second year as a pharaoh he and his wife, both, removed ‘Aten” from their names. They replaced it with Amun. He retuned the Egyptian religion to polytheistic from monotheistic. He also rebuilt the temples and buildings of Karnak. With this he began the restoration of the temples in the Egypt that were teared up by his father.

This is an image of Amun, Egyptian god (Image Credit: Pixabay)

Further actions as a King

Under Akhenaten’s rule, the country became economically weak. To add to this, their diplomatic relations also hit rock bottom. This was sorted out by Tutankhamun and brought the country back to its feet. In his tomb gifts from various kingdoms can be found. This serves as an evidence that he was successful in his mission. In spite of his efforts to improve relations, he still was at war with few countries. Battles with Nubians and Asiatics were documented in his mortuary temple at Thebes.

Since Tut had taken the role of king at a relatively young age, he had advisors. Among his advisors, Ay and his presumed son-in-law Horemheb were successors. It was also assumed that Ay played a crucial role in Tutankhamun’s noteworthy reign. King Tut was able to bring back the ancient Egyptian religion under the guidance of Ay.

Locating King Tutankhamun’s tomb

Even though he was able to re-establish the ancient Egyptian religion, he was barely known. His noteworthy efforts were overshadowed by his successors. It was when a British archaeologist discovered his tomb that he became known to the modern world. Howard Carter found the pharaoh’s tomb at 1922 which was closed for almost 3200 years. Despite of his status, his tomb found buried at an unusually small tomb.

Around the time of Tutankhamun’s death, the construction of the grand royal tomb was happening. And also, his death was unexpected, so his mummy was buried in a tomb that was intended for someone else. The tomb was found under a lot of huts that were constructed during the Ramesside period. This was why the tomb, unlike many others, was not robbed as much. Though prior to Carter’s discovery, the tomb was robbed at least twice. However, items robbed were perishable oils and perfumes. This shows that the robberies happened only within a few months after his burial. The doors on the outside were unsealed. While the doors leading to inner two shrines were locked shut.

The image shows a tomb in Egypt. It is surrounded by people walking.
Tomb in Egypt (Image Credit: Freepik)

Inside his Tomb

The king’s body was within three mummiform coffins. While the innermost part composed of pure gold and the outer part was made of glided wood. King Tut’s mummy was bedecked with a gold mask. This mask was made from gold with few precious stones, obsidian and turquoise. The total weight of this mask is 11 kgs. In his tomb, they discovered more than 5000 artifacts. This Ignited the public’s interest in ancient Egypt. These variety of treasures were meant to accompany King Tut in his afterlife. All of the artifacts and treasures clearly showed ancient royal life in Egypt.

The treasury in the side room of the burial chamber had an unblocked doorway. This made access to the treasury easier. It contained 5,398 items and took ten years for Carter to record it all. The gold coffin, face mask was found. Add to this, thrones, archery bows, furniture, food, wine, sandals and fresh linen underwear were also found. It had mummies of two fetuses and, with DNA testing, they were found to be his stillborn children. The large statue of Anubis and King Tut’s intricate canopic chest was also uncovered. These artefacts were the largest to be found in the room.

The image is of King Tut's iron dagger which is made from a meteor.

There was also a meteoric iron dagger found in his tomb. Since the dagger closely correlates to meteoric composition, it is believed to have meteorite origin. The current of location of the dagger is at Egyptian museum in Cario.

Iron dagger of King Tut (Image Credit: History)

His physical health

From the retrieved mummy, King Tutankhamun’s health, physique, the possible cause death was death were determined. It revealed him to be around 167cm which is 5’6. It has been theorised that he suffered from multiple ailments. He had illness such as Marfan syndrome, adiposogenital dystrophy to name a few.

In 2005, January, his mummy was CT scanned. It was found that he had a mild case of scoliosis. His right foot was flat and left foot was clubbed. This caused him to use a cane to walk. These canes were found in his tomb. With further testing, he was detected to be infected with malaria. He was often infected with the most severe form of malaria. This may have caused either a triggered circulatory shock or a deadly immune reaction in the body.

A 3-d image of King Tut's face. The face reconstructed on the basis of his skull.
Face reconstruction of King Tut (Image Credit: National Geographic Society)

Initial face reconstructions showed a handsome young man. But with current high tech 3-d imaging and theories, it was proven wrong. The boy king had distorted hips. He also suffered from epilepsy. His legs were crippled and had to use cane, as previously stated. It is presumed that since his parents were siblings, that this may explain his various physical health problem. It was not uncommon to practice incest in ancient Egypt.

Theories about his death

Murder conspiracy

Arthur Mace, Crater’s assistance, put forth the theory of assassination. He suggested that Ay, King Tut’s successor, could’ve killed him. The motive can be Ay’s desire to become a Pharaoh himself. Though rare, it is not unheard-of assassinations of Egyptian Kings. An X-ray of his skull showed a loose bone fragment there. It believed to be proof that showed that the cause of his death is a due to a blow on his head. Through further analysis this was proved to be wrong. This led to theory being dismissed.

Accident

In Tutankhamun’s tomb, six chariots were found. These were used for battles and hunting in ancient Egypt. Some believe that he died from a chariot accident. In 2006, Dr. Zahi Hawass, an Egyptian archaeologist found an evidence that supported this theory. He found that King Tut’s left thigh bone broke around the time of death. In addition to this, he had broken ribs and his chest was caved in. However, he was already suffering from various afflictions. These may have caused his death. Nonetheless, this theory held some possibility.

The royal chariot of King Tut found in his tomb. This may have caused an accident leading to his death.
King Tut’s Chariot (Image Credit: Pixabay)

Illness

Initially it was presumed that he died from tuberculosis. But a chest X-ray ruled out this possibility. Dr. Zahi proposed that Tut’s parents were either siblings or cousins. This increased the chances of him inheriting genetic disorders. At 2014 Dr. Hutan implied that he may have died from familial temporal lobe epilepsy. He hypothesized, that a lot of pharaoh had feminine physique. Along with this, they found artefacts that showed that same. This condition can affect hormone levels and leaving it untreated is a high risk. But it seemed like he did that and increased the risk of getting a fit which can lead to fatal injury. This theory too has some viability.

Curse of Pharaohs

The “Curse of Pharaohs” or the mummy’s curse is a curse that is cast upon anyone who disturbs the mummies of ancient Egypt, mainly pharaohs. It is believed that this curse can bring bad luck, illness or even death and that it doesn’t discrete thieves and archaeologists. After Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb this curse was popularized. Although, a lot of deaths has been linked to this curse it was proved wrong. Studies showed that those who went in lived just as long as their peers.

Lord Carnarvon, who funded the excavations died four months after the discovery of Tut’s tomb. It must be noted that he was also the first to enter the tomb. This led a lot journalists to theorize “Curse of the Pharaohs”. They theorized that the hieroglyphs on the walls can cause death of the ones disturbing King Tutankhamun’s tomb. In spite of the misconceptions, no curse was inscribed in his tomb. Of 58 people, only eight have died. Others have lived a long and healthy life.

Current Location of his tomb and Artifacts

The tomb is in the Valley of Kings and is open to the public. Along with admission fee, an additional amount will be charged. In order to preserve and manage the tomb, a project was undertaken by the Getty Conservation Institute.

Most of the artifacts are in an Egyptian museum in Cario. It was during the 1960s, it was exhibited out of Egypt. The artifacts from his tomb are one of the most travelled artifacts in the world. Exhibitions of relics found at Tutankhamun’s tomb were held at museums in Canada, Japan, France and so on. It must be noted that Tut rose to fame due to his nearly intact tomb and the artifacts. The first exhibition was held in 1962 in Algeria.

This image shows the various treasures and artifacts found in his tomb.
Artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb (Image Credit: Pixabay)

Successor of Tut, Pharaoh Ay

Since Tutankhamun didn’t have any heirs, he ended up being the last of the royal lineage to rule Egypt. After his death, Ay took over the throne. Moreover, there is also proof that he conducted the last rites for Tut. Ay ruled over Egypt for only four years. He was overthrown by Horemheb, his believed to-be son-in-law. Due to his short reign, records and monuments credited to him is rare. Added to his, he was overthrown due to campaign instigated by Horemheb.

 

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