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King Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun 1333 – 1323 BC.

King Tut Life and Times

In 1323 B.C., a young Egyptian king died. His name was Tut.ankh.Amum – “the living image of Amun”. Tutankhamun is the best-known pharaoh of ancient Egypt. He was probably the son of Akhenaten, the heretic king of the eighteenth dynasty. His mother was probably Queen Kiya, one of the king’s secondary wives. Ankhesenpaaten (or Ankhesenamum), his older half-sister, became his queen. He ascended the throne in 1333 B.C., at the age of nine, and reigned until his early death at the age of about eighteen. Some speculate that he was murdered and others think he may have been deliberately sent into battle to be killed. However, the exact cause of his death is unknown. Those who believe he was murdered point to the hole in his skull as evidence, but some experts believe the hole was made after his death. His mummified body was so badly preserved that we may never know the true fate of this minor pharaoh.

Not all scholars agree on the identity of Tutankhamun”s parents. One theory suggests that he was the son of Amenophis III and his principal wife Tiy or his secondary wife Meritre. When the results of DNA testing on the pharaohs become available, we may get a clearer picture of the royal lineage.

Tutankhamun Tomb

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.


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.

Tutankhamun Domestic policy

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.

Tutankhamun Health and appearance

Tutankhamun was slight of build, and was roughly 180 cm (5 ft 11 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, a medical condition in which a person’s spine is curved from side to side.

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 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 (malaria and leiomyomata) combined, led to his death.

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Aftermath of death

Although it is unknown how he met 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 a husband. However, the son was killed before reaching his new wife. Shortly afterward Ay married Tutankhamun”s widow and became Pharaoh as a war between the two countries was fought, and Egypt was left defeated.

Tutankhamun’s Treasures

Over 3,000 treasures were placed in the tomb to help Tutankhamun in his afterlife, and the walls of the burial chamber were painted with scenes of his voyage to the afterworld. The chamber contained four gilded shrines, inside which was a red quartzite sarcophagus containing three nesting coffins. Tutankhamun”s mummy rested in the innermost coffin, which is made of solid gold and weighs approximately 110.4 kilos (242.9 lbs.). His body was wrapped in linen and over his face was placed an exquisite gold mask.

Three models of luxury ships (left) were found in Tutankhamun”s tomb. The baldachins at the bow and stern are decorated with symbols of the Sphinx and the bull. Thirty-two model boats were placed in the tomb for Tutankhamun”s use in the afterworld. At right is one of seven similar model barges found in the Treasury room. Barges transported people and goods across the Nile. Since they were equipped with steering oars rather than sails, they would have been towed across the river in a flotilla.


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.