Tutankhamun (alternately spelled with Tutenkh-, -amen, -amon), Egyptian twt-ˤnḫ-ı͗mn, approx. [təwaːt ʕaːnəx ʔaˈmaːn]; 1341 BC – 1323 BC) was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty(ruled c.1333 BC – 1323 BC in the conventional chronology), during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom. His original name, Tutankhaten, means “Living Image of Aten”, while Tutankhamun means “Living Image of Amun”. In hieroglyphs the name Tutankhamun was typically written Amen-tut-ankh, because of a scribal custom that placed a divine name at the beginning of a phrase to show appropriate reverence. He is possibly also the Nibhurrereya of the Amarna letters. He was likely the 18th dynasty king ‘Rathotis’ who, according to Manetho, an ancient historian, had reigned for nine years — a figure which conforms with Flavius Josephus’s version of Manetho’s Epitome.
The 1922 discovery by Howard Carter and George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon of Tutankhamun’s nearly intact tomb received worldwide press coverage. It sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun’s burial mask remains the popular symbol. Exhibits of artifacts from his tomb have toured the world. In February 2010, the results of DNA tests confirmed that Tutankhamun’s Y-chromosome belongs to the R1b haplogroup. R1b is the most common Y-chromosome haplogroup in Europe reaching its highest concentrations in Ireland, Scotland, western England and the European Atlantic seaboard, rippling through the rest of Europe. The tests also confirmed that he was the son of Akhenaten (mummy KV55) and his sister/wife (mummy KV35YL), whose name is unknown but whose remains are positively identified as “The Younger Lady” mummy found in KV35.
Tutankhamun was born in 1341 BC, the son of Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV) and one of his sisters As a prince he was known as Tutankhaten. He ascended to the throne in 1333 BC, at the age of nine, taking the reign name of Tutankhamun. His wet-nurse was a certain woman called Maia, known from her tomb at Saqqara.
When he became king, he married his half sister, Ankhesenepatan, who later changed her name to Ankhesenamun. They had two daughters, both stillborn.
Given his age, the king must have had very powerful advisers, presumably including General Horemheb, the Vizier Ay, and Maya the “Overseer of the Treasury”. Horemheb records that the king appointed him lord of the land as hereditary prince to maintain law. He also noted his ability to calm the young king when his temper flared.
In his third regnal year, Tutankhamun reversed several changes made during his father’s reign. He ended the worship of the god Aten and restored the god Amun to supremacy. The ban on the cult of Amun was lifted and traditional privileges were restored to its priesthood. The capital was moved back to Thebes and the city of Akhetaten abandoned. This is also when he changed his name to Tutankhamun.
As part of his restoration, the king initiated building projects, in particular at Thebes and Karnak, where he dedicated a temple to Amun. Many monuments were erected, and an inscription on his tomb door declares the king had “spent his life in fashioning the images of the gods”. The traditional festivals were now celebrated again, including those related to the Apis Bull, Horemakhet, andOpet. His restoration stela says:
The temples of the gods and goddesses … were in ruins. Their shrines were deserted and overgrown. Their sanctuaries were as non-existent and their courts were used as roads … the gods turned their backs upon this land … If anyone made a prayer to a god for advice he would never respond – and the same applied to a goddess.
The country was economically weak and in turmoil following the reign of Akhenaten. Diplomatic relations with other kingdoms had been neglected, and Tutankhamun sought to restore them, in particular with the Mitanni. Evidence of his success is suggested by the gifts from various countries found in his tomb. Despite his efforts for improved relations, battles with Nubians and Asiatics were recorded in his mortuary temple at Thebes. His tomb contained body armour and folding stools appropriate for military campaigns. However, given his youth and physical disabilities, which seemed to require the use of a cane in order to walk, historians speculate that he did not take part personally in these battles.
Health and appearance
Tutankhamun was slight of build, and was roughly 170 cm (5 ft 7 in) tall. He had large front incisors and the overbite characteristic of the Thutmosid royal line to which he belonged. He also had a pronounced dolichocephalic (elongated) skull, although it was within normal bounds and highly unlikely to have been pathological. Given the fact that many of the royal depictions of Akhenaten often featured such an elongated head, it is likely an exaggeration of a family trait, rather than a distinct abnormality. The research also showed that the Tutankhamun had “a slightly cleft palate”and possibly a mild case of scoliosis.
Cause of death
There are no surviving records of Tutankhamun’s final days. What caused Tutankhamun’s death has been the subject of considerable debate. Major studies have been conducted in an effort to establish the cause of death.
Although there is some speculation that Tutankhamun was assassinated, the general consensus is that his death was accidental. A CT scan taken in 2005 shows that he had badly broken his leg shortly before his death, and that the leg had become infected. DNA analysis conducted in 2010 showed the presence of malaria in his system. It is believed that these two conditions combined led to his death.
Product of incest
According to an article in the September 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine, Tutankhamun was the result of a incestuous relationship and, because of that, may have suffered from several genetic defects that contributed to his early death. For years, scientists have tried to unravel ancient clues as to why the boy king of Egypt, who reigned for 10 years, died at the age of 19. Several theories have been put forth. As stated above, one was that he was killed by a blow to the head. Another put the blame on a broken leg. As recently as June 2010, German scientists said they believe there is evidence he died of sickle cell disease.
Research conducted by archaeologists, radiologists, and geneticists who started performing CT scans on Tutankhamun five years ago found that he was not killed by a blow to the head, as previously thought. That same team began doing DNA research on Tutankhamun’s mummy, as well as the mummified remains of other members of his family, in 2008. DNA tests finally put to rest questions about Tutankhamun’s lineage, proving that his father was Akhenaten, but that his mother was not one of Akhenaten’s known wives.
His mother was one of Akhenaten’s five sisters, although it is not known which one. New CT images discovered congenital flaws, which are more common among the children of incest. Siblings are more likely to pass on twin copies of harmful genes, which is why children of incest more commonly manifest genetic defects. It is suspected he also had a partially cleft palate, another congenital defect.
The team was able to establish with a probability of better than 99.99 percent that Amenhotep III was the father of the individual in KV55, who was in turn the father of Tutankhamun. The DNA of the so-called Younger Lady (KV35YL), found lying beside Queen Tiye in the alcove of KV35, matched that of the boy king. Her DNA proved that, like Akhenaten, she was the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye; thus, Tut’s parents were brother and sister. Queen Tiye held much political influence at court and acted as an adviser to her son after the death of her husband.
While the data are still incomplete, the study suggests that one of the mummified fetuses found in Tut’s tomb is the daughter of Tutankhamun himself, and the other fetus is probably his child as well. So far only partial data for the two female mummies from KV21 has been obtained. One of them, KV21A, may well be the infants’ mother and thus, Tutankhamun’s wife, Ankhesenamun. It is known from history that she was the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, and thus likely her husband’s half sister. Another consequence of inbreeding can be children whose genetic defects do not allow them to be brought to term.
The research team consisted of Egyptian scientists Yehia Gad and Somaia Ismail from the National Research Center in Cairo. The CT scans were conducted under the direction of Ashraf Selim and Sahar Saleem of the Faculty of Medicine atCairo University. Three international experts served as consultants: Carsten Pusch of the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Germany; Albert Zink of the EURAC-Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy; and Paul Gostner of the Central Hospital Bolzano.
As stated above, the team discovered DNA from several strains of a parasite proving he was infected with the most severe strain of malaria several times in his short life. Malaria can trigger circulatory shock or cause a fatal immune response in the body, either of which can lead to death. And while Tut did suffer from a bone disease which was crippling, it would not have been fatal. “Perhaps he struggled against others [congenital flaws] until a severe bout of malaria or a leg broken in an accident added one strain too many to a body that could no longer carry the load,” wrote Zahi Hawass, archeologist and head of Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquity involved in the research.
Tutankhamun was buried in a tomb that was small relative to his status. His death may have occurred unexpectedly, before the completion of a grander royal tomb, so that his mummy was buried in a tomb intended for someone else. This would preserve the observance of the customary seventy days between death and burial.
King Tutankhamun’s mummy still rests in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. November 4, 2007, 85 years to the day after Carter’s discovery, the 19-year-old pharaoh went on display in his underground tomb at Luxor, when the linen-wrapped mummy was removed from its golden sarcophagus to a climate-controlled glass box. The case was designed to prevent the heightened rate of decomposition caused by the humidity and warmth from tourists visiting the tomb.
Discovery of tomb
Tutankhamun seems to have faded from public consciousness in Ancient Egypt within a short time after his death, and he remained virtually unknown until the 1920s. His tomb was robbed at least twice in antiquity, but based on the items taken (including perishable oils and perfumes) and the evidence of restoration of the tomb after the intrusions, it seems clear that these robberies took place within several months at most of the initial burial. Eventually the location of the tomb was lost because it had come to be buried by stone chips from subsequent tombs, either dumped there or washed there by floods. In the years that followed, some huts for workers were built over the tomb entrance, clearly not knowing what lay beneath. When at the end of the twentieth dynasty the Valley of the Kings burials were systematically dismantled, the burial of Tutankhamun was overlooked, presumably because knowledge of it had been lost and his name may have been forgotten.
Relics from Tutankhamun’s tomb are among the most traveled artifacts in the world. They have been to many countries, but probably the best-known exhibition tour was The Treasures of Tutankhamun tour, which ran from 1972 to 1979. This exhibition was first shown in London at the British Museum from March 30 until September 30, 1972. More than 1.6 million visitors came to see the exhibition, some queuing for up to eight hours and it was the most popular exhibition in the Museum’s history. The exhibition moved on to many other countries, including the USA, USSR, Japan, France, Canada, and West Germany. The Metropolitan Museum of Art organized the U.S. exhibition, which ran from November 17, 1976 through April 15, 1979. More than eight million attended.
In 2004, the tour of Tutankhamun funerary objects entitled “Tutankhamen: The Golden Hereafter” made up of fifty artifacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb and seventy funerary goods from other 18th Dynasty tombs began in Basle, Switzerland, went to Bonn Germany, the second leg of the tour, and from there toured the United States. The exhibition returned to Europe and to London. The European tour was organised by the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), and the Egyptian Museum in cooperation with the Antikenmuseum Basel and Sammlung Ludwig. Deutsche Telekom sponsored the Bonn exhibition.
In 2005, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, in partnership with Arts and Exhibitions International and the National Geographic Society, launched the U.S. tour of the Tutenkahamun treasures and other 18th Dynasty funerary objects this time called “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs”. It was expected to draw more than three million people.
The exhibition started in Los Angeles, California, then moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Chicago and Philadelphia. The exhibition then moved to London before finally returning to Egypt in August 2008. Subsequent events have propelled an encore of the exhibition in the United States, beginning with the Dallas Museum of Art in October 2008 which hosted the exhibition until May 2009. The tour will continue to other U.S. cities. After Dallas the exhibition moved to the de Young Museum in San Francisco, to be followed the Discovery Times Square Exposition in New York City.
The exhibition includes 80 exhibits from the reigns of Tutankhamun’s immediate predecessors in the Eighteenth dynasty, such as Hatshepsut, whose trade policies greatly increased the wealth of that dynasty and enabled the lavish wealth of Tutankhamun’s burial artifacts, as well as 50 from Tutankhamun’s tomb. The exhibition does not include the gold mask that was a feature of the 1972-1979 tour, as the Egyptian government has determined that the mask is too fragile to withstand travel and will never again leave the country.
A separate exhibition called “Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs” began at the Ethnological Museum in Vienna from March 9 to September 28, 2008 showing a further 140 treasures from the tomb. This exhibition continued to Atlanta and the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.
Main article: Curse of the Pharaohs
For many years, rumors of a “Curse of the Pharaohs” (probably fueled by newspapers seeking sales at the time of the discovery[ persisted, emphasizing the early death of some of those who had first entered the tomb. However, a recent study of journals and death records indicates no statistical difference between the age of death of those who entered the tomb and those on the expedition who did not. Indeed, most lived past seventy.
Aftermath of death
Although it is unknown how he meet his death, the Amarna letters indicate that Tutankhamun’s wife, recently widowed, wrote to the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I, asking if she could marry one of his sons, saying that she was very afraid, but would not take one of her own people as husband. However, the son was killed before reaching his new wife. Shortly afterward Ay Tutankhamun’s vizier married Tutankhamun’s widow and became Pharaoh as a war between the two countries was fought, and Egypt was left defeated.
Tutankhamun was nine years old when he became pharaoh and reigned for approximately ten years. In historical terms, Tutankhamun’s significance stems from his rejection of the radical religious innovations introduced by his predecessor and father, Akhenaten. Secondly, his tomb in the Valley of the Kings was discovered by Carter almost completely intact — the most complete ancient Egyptian royal tomb ever found. As Tutankhamun began his reign at such an early age, his vizier and eventual successor Ay was probably making most of the important political decisions during Tutankhamun’s reign.
Tutankhamun was one of the few kings worshiped as a god and honored with a cult-like following in his own lifetime A stela discovered at Karnak and dedicated to Amun-Re and Tutankhamun indicates that the king could be appealed to in his deified state for forgiveness and to free the petitioner from an ailment caused by wrongdoing. Temples of his cult were built as far away as in Kawa and Faras in Nubia. The title of the sister of the Viceroy of Kush included a reference to the deified king, indicative of the universality of his cult.
In popular culture
Main article: Ancient Egypt in the Western imagination
If Tutankhamun is the world’s best known pharaoh, it is partly because his tomb is among the best preserved, and his image and associated artifacts the most-exhibited. As Jon Manchip White writes, in his foreword to the 1977 edition of Carter’s The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, “The pharaoh who in life was one of the least esteemed of Egypt’s kings has become in death the most renowned.” As a side effect, the interest in this tomb and its alleged “curse” led to horror movies featuring a vengeful mummy.
Film and television
- We Want Our Mummy, a 1939 film by the Three Stooges. In it, the slapstick comedy trio explore the tomb of the midget King Rutentuten (pronounced “rootin’-tootin'”) and his Queen, Hotsy Totsy. A decade later, they were crooked used-chariot salesmen in Mummy’s Dummies, in which they ultimately assist a different King Rootentootin (Vernon Dent) with a toothache.
- King Tut, played by Victor Buono, was a villain on the Batman TV series which aired from 1966 to 1968. Mild-mannered Egyptologist William Omaha McElroy, after suffering a concussion, came to believe he was the reincarnation of Tutankhamun. His response to this knowledge was to embark upon a crime spree that required him to fight against the “Caped Crusaders”, Batman and Robin.
- The Discovery Kids animated series Tutenstein stars a fictional mummy based on Tutankhamun, named Tutankhensetamun and nicknamed Tutenstein in his afterlife. He is depicted as a lazy and spoiled 10-year-old mummy boy who must guard a magical artifact called the Scepter of Was from the evil Egyptian god of Set.
- The first episode of the 2005 BBC series Egypt: Rediscovering a Lost World focuses on the life and death of Tutankhamun and the serendipitous discovery of his tomb.
- La Reine Soleil (2007 animated film by Philippe Leclerc), features Akhenaten, Tutankhaten (later Tutankhamun), Akhesa (Ankhesenepaten, later Ankhesenamun), Nefertiti, and Horemheb in a complex struggle pitting the priests of Amun against Akhenaten’s intolerant monotheism.