Tutankhamun, or better known as King Tut, was a pharaoh who accomplished little in his life. He did not expand Egypt’s borders nor enjoy triumphant victories like the many pharaohs before him; however, he is the most recognized and probably the most famous pharaoh today. But why is he so famous? This answer can be attributed to the discovery of his tomb and his elaborate treasure.
King Tut’s tomb was a major discovery of the 19th century. It was discovered November 4, 1922 in the Valley of the Kings by Howard Carter. It was a phenomenal discovery that made headlines across the world. Up until the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, it was believed that all royal tombs had been robbed and drained of their treasure.
For the first time, a tomb, which was almost intact, had been discovered and remained hidden from robbers for thousands of years. The tomb revealed an elaborate lifestyle that many people could only dream about as well as providing clues and insight into King Tut’s life and how he lived.
Even though little is known about Tutankhamen’s life, we do know that he was given the throne at a young age. It has been estimated that he was about eight or nine years old when this throne exchange took place. During the time that this occurred, Egypt was in turmoil due to his father’s religious movement. His father, which is believed to be Akhenaten, had changed the religious system and the old beliefs that had been practiced for hundreds of years before him. This religious change angered many angry citizens and priests. Tutankamen was left with an angry and chaotic Egypt to rule.
The birth name of Tutankhamen was Tutankhaton, which meant “Living Image of the Aten.” His father, which remains a mystery, is believed to be Akhenaten, although some evidence points to Amenhotp III. His mother remains a mystery as well but she is believed to be Kiya.
It is thought that Tutankhaton must have had a good childhood. He probably spent his younger years hunting, swimming, and studying. His tomb revealed he enjoyed board games. Like most children, he probably found politics unexciting and went about his environment enjoying leisurely activities. Because he was a child, he probably had an ignorant view about his father’s teachings and politics. He was also believed to be an ill child due to the many walking canes that were found inside his tomb.
After his father’s death, Tutankaton was given the throne. He was wed to his half-sister Ankhensenpaaton, the daughter of Nefertiti and Akhenaten. After acquiring the throne he began to uphold his father’s beliefs, which was the worship of one god -- the Aton. A few years later Tutankaton started to bring back gods that were forbidden by Akhenaten. He soon changed his name to Tutankhamen along with changing his wife’s name to Ankhesenamun. Their names were changed to reflect their beliefs towards Amun (eighth Heh god of the Ogdoad) and probably to ease the angry priests who missed their old Egypt. They soon decided to leave their father’s capital Amarna and relocated to a new capital in Memphis and Thebes. This movement was probably suggested by Ay (a high ranking official and advisor) to show the Egyptians and priests that things wereslowly returning to the original ways.
With the ancient beliefs restored and the movement of the new capital, King Tutankhamen threw lavish parties to show his support for Amun. Tuankhamen was only a child while the old gods were being reinstated, but could a child make decisions of this magnitude at such a young age?
It doesn’t appear so, and it appears that his adviser Ay most likely made major decisions for him. Ay and Hermhab were probably the sole drive behind the throne. Could this be why old gods were reinstated and King Tut changed his name? It could have been a great possibility due to the records left behind, which showed Egypt was in a poor state after Akhenaten.
Sometime during his tenth year of reigning, Egypt was at war with the Hittites. During this confrontation Tutankhamen suddenly died. How he died remains a mystery; however, it’s believed he was murdered. King Tut had not left a male heir to the throne and the children that he had were stillborn. King Tut died at around eighteen or nineteen years old. Ay, who was a high official in Akhenaten’s court, staked his claim as pharaoh. Ay went on to rule for only 4 years and died shortly after acquiring the throne.
King Tut’s tomb is located in the Valley of the Kings and is by far the best preserved royal tomb ever discovered. The tomb, which was thought to be left intact, was believed to be robbed twice. Even though this tomb revealed treasure beyond our imagination, it was modestly furnished compared to the pharaohs before and after his time. This “humble” tomb had remained hidden for 3000 years and had eluded tomb robbers and flash floods throughout the centuries. With the odds stacked against finding this tomb, the discovery of this tomb was brought to light through Theodore M. Davis who was an American business man.
Davis found items that led to King Tut’s discovery. The first clue was a famous cache (a group of royal funerary objects from Tell el Amarna that were brought to Thebes to escape destruction). These items were hidden in a safe tomb and according to the clay sealing of the cache it was done by King Tut himself. Some Egyptologists believe this royal cache was probably stored by tomb robbers who hoped to find the treasure later. Among these treasures, furniture that belonged to Tutankhamen was found. In addition, there were other clues that gave way to the existence of this pharaoh’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Another clue was found inside a pit in 1907. This pit provided seal impressions of Tutankhamen along with embalming materials such as: linen bags, natron, and broken pottery. These findings were overlooked and sent to New York where they underwent examination. Another clue that led to the existence of King Tut’s tomb was a faience cup with King Tut’s name upon it. Close to this cup and under a large piece of stone, Mr. Davis found fragments of gold foil with Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamun inlaid upon it. These clues were disregarded by Davis although an Egyptologist (Howard Carter) who worked with Davis during his excavations found the items to be very interesting.
After studying and examining these items, Carter was convinced that King Tut’s tomb lay inside the Valley of the Kings. Howard Carter quickly went to Lord Carnarvon, his long time friend, to finance his search for King Tut’s tomb. Carnarvon reviewed the evidence and agreed that the tomb might still be there. They were given the concession to dig in 1914 but had to abandon the dig due to World War I. After the war had died down, they resumed the dig. Like Davis they turned up without King Tut’s tomb and Carnarvon started to run low on funds. Carnarvon was ready to give up and abandon the project. Carter knew King Tut’s tomb had to be hidden in that location, so he pleaded for one more season of digging. He promised Carnarvon if nothing turned up, he would pay for the dig himself. Carnarvon agreed and digging began again on November 1, 1921.
They began this project by digging close to Ramesses VI’s tomb. While there, the workers were told to remove an Ancient workman’s hut. As they took down this hut a step was found.
Carter quickly ordered the steps to be cleared of sand and debris and by noon the next day the doorway was revealed. This door was stamped with the seal of the royal necropolis. The Necropolis seal depicted Anubis standing above five defeated enemies. Carter quickly sent a telegram to Carnarvon which said, “At last have made wonderful discovery in valley; a magnificent tomb with seals intact; re-covered same for your arrival; congratulations.”
Carnarvon and his daughter, Lady Evelyn Herbert, quickly left for Egypt to arrive in Alexandria on November 23rd. Once they reached the Archeological spot, they were met by Howard Carter and his assistant, A. R. Callender. They quickly removed the ruble from the 16 steps to show Carnarvon and his daughter the discovery. Both Lady Evelyn and Lord Carnarvon saw the royal stamp of Tutankhamen and the necropolis.
The next day Cater started to drill a hole into the plaster door. In the foreground, Carter, Carnarvon, Lady Evelyn, and Callender waited anxiously. Carter made the hole in the upper left-hand corner and started to chip away at the opening. As the hole became larger, it allowed him to peer inside. Carter held the candle into the darkness and permitted his eyes to adjust to the warm ancient air that exited the tomb. This air made the candle flicker.
The gold furniture became illuminated by the small candle. Carter stood frozen and looked with amazement. Lord Carnarvon who waited anxiously for any news quickly exclaimed, “Can you see anything?” Carter replied with, “Yes, wonderful things.”
They made the hole large enough to just squeeze by and entered the tomb. They stepped carefully down into the room. The air was warm and a faint smell of perfume and oil filled the air. To them, the tomb looked as if it had remained intact as the day it had been sealed. Carter held up the candle that flickered frantically as they moved about the tomb viewing all the objects. As the candle lit the room to a small glow, three animal couches were visible. As they searched about, Lady Evelyn turned her light to the left and a pile of broken chariots littered the room. Carter explained that tomb robbers had most probably thrashed the chariots in search of gold. At the end of the room and to their right two statuesque guards could be seen. They were life-sized statues of the king that holding maces and staffs. With so much excitement they all agreed to explore more of the remaining tomb the next day.
The next day, Callender came prepared with electric lights and those were set up inside the tomb. This allowed the four of them to explore the tomb more freely. The tomb was eventually excavated and heavily photographed and this excavation consumed many years of Carter’s life. He eventually died in 1939. Now its contents lay inside the Cairo Museum. The treasure toured the world during the 1970’s and the second tour began in 2005.
Was King Tut Murdered?
Was King Tut murdered or did he die from an illness? King Tut’s death has puzzled both historians and Egyptologists for many years. If King Tut was indeed murdered, some research and evidence point to a few limited servants or contacts that could have been responsible for King Tut’s death. But who were these potential people that could have been responsible for such a scandalous act? What motives might the murderers have had if the pharaoh was killed? Why is it believed that King Tut was murdered? What about the prospect of King Tut dying due to an illness? Could this be possible? With all these questions and with the latest research we hope to shed some light into his death.
In 1968, Ronald Harrison (British scientist) took X-rays of King Tut’s skull. While doing an examination he discovered fragments of bone inside the skull possibly indicating trauma to the head. The damages to the head could have been caused after death; however, it is highly unlikely. A trauma specialist from Long Island University insisted that this injury could not have been from a natural cause. The specialist stated, “The blow was to a protected area at the back of the head which you don't injure in an accident, someone had to sneak up from behind.” So who would have carried out this “sneak-attack” if this truly occurred? Why would someone want to kill King Tut?
Moving forward to a more recent time, in 1994, Bob Brier, an Egyptologist from Long Island University insisted that Tutankhamen was murdered by Ay (a high ranking official). Mr. Brier revealed his findings January 17, 1997 in a conference held in California.
Why would Brier suggest it was Ay who killed the pharaoh? This answer is found after King Tut’s death—Ay succeeded the throne. So now that we have a possible motive that’s obvious, how did Ay become king if he was the vizier and not a royal family member? This answer was found through a ring. A ring discovered in Cairo in 1931 shed light into Ay’s tactic used to attain the throne. Ankhesenamun (King Tut’s wife) was forced to marry Ay after King Tut’s death. This gave Ay the right to step into kingship. This marriage was not a happy event as evidence found some points of distress and despair on Ankhesenamum’s part.
Some Egyptologists believe that Ankhesenamun could have made a desperate plea for help. But why would they believe this? Some tablets, which are dated towards the end of the Amarna period, were discovered. These tables appeared to be from Ankhesenamum to the Hittites asking for help. The Hittites were enemies of Egypt at the time.
These tablets, dating back to the end of the 18th dynasty, revealed a possible last plea for intervention to the Hittites revealing a potential scandal in the making. Some Egyptologist’s strongly associate this letter with Ankhesenamun as a last resort in the hopes of saving her throne and her status. She informed the Hittite king, Suppiluliumas, to send a son to wed her. She clearly stated her humiliation and her feelings of being worried. The queen pointed out the loss of her husband and stated, “Never shall I pick out a servant of mine and make him my husband. I am afraid!” Was this servant Ay she was talking about?
The Hittite son who was sent to be married never made it to Egypt. He was assassinated. Could Ay have been responsible for this? Ankhesenamun was eventually forced to marry Ay but what transpired for this to occur still remains a mystery. But is Ay the only suspect in the murder of King Tut?
The king's deputy, also known as Horemheb, may have been responsible for the death of King Tut as well. The possibility that King Tut was getting older and probably ready to take powers into his own hands also may have contributed to his early demise. This might have worried Horemheb and could have been a possible motive. After Ay passed away, Horemheb became the pharaoh and restored Ancient Egypt to its traditional times. He moved his capital to Memphis and returned all the temples to the rightful priests. During his reign as pharaoh he removed any sign of the Amarna Period. It could be that if he contributed to King Tut’s death, that this was done to restore Egypt to its traditional ways and not so much due to the greed factor. Although, in hindsight, it appears that King Tut was also leaning in the direction of restoring Egypt to the more habitual ways before his father’s reign. Nonetheless, Horemheb can not be ruled out as a suspect.
Mohamed El-Saghir, head of Upper Egyptian Antiquities, believes that Horemheb could not have committed the murder of the pharaoh. Mohamed El-Saghir believes that because King Tut was restoring Egypt to its traditional ways, Horemheb would not have had a reason to kill him. He does find it interesting that Horemheb removed King Tut’s name from several items and replaced it with his. Even so, it’s still not enough evidence.
Ay is also ruled out by Mohamed El-Saghir. According to Mohamed El-Saghir, Ay would not have killed the king as Ay assisted the pharaoh with personal and important rituals. He goes on to say, "There isinsufficientevidence that he is guilty. He was the high priest and was, moreover, the one who wrote Tutankhamen's negative confession and performed his ‘opening of the mouth’ ceremony.” If Ay and Horemheb are ruled out, then how else might have King Tut died?
Other theories as well have come to light though scientific examination. Forensic experts from Egypt did an examination on King Tut. It was found that he may have been poisoned. They believed the blow to the head could have happened during mummification. "His body might have been dropped on the floor and his head hit the flagstones; there is no trace of bleeding around the blow," said the experts.
Just recently, new CT scans of King Tut have been performed and the results shed new light into King Tut’s death. The scans revealed a broken leg that may have been responsible for the death of King Tut. Doctor Zahi Hawass says, "We found that he had a fracture on the left leg. And that fracture proved to have happened a few days before he died. It was before mummification, and therefore it could happen, we are not sure, it could (have) happened that he died because of this accident." So King Tut might have not been murdered after all.
If King Tut was murdered, which the evidence points in that direction, it could never be solved due to many years of tarnish. King Tut was the son of the “Heretic” Pharaoh—Akhenaten. This could have bred many angry individuals who wanted nothing or anything to do with Akhenaten. If it had not been his advisors or confidants, it surly must have been the priests who were forced to shutdown temples because of Akhenaten. One thing is for sure, the quest for answers to King Tut’s death, continue to remain a mystery and they may always remain an unknown.
King Tut's DNA reveals real killer
Researchers say Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun may have died from malaria and was not murdered as previously suspected.
A team of international scientists studying DNA blood samples from the mummified remains of the 19-year-old king have found traces of the malaria parasite and evidence that he may have suffered from a crippling bone disorder.
The findings are being published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Medical historian Dr Howard Markel from the University of Michigan says it is the first time that evidence of malaria has been found in ancient Egypt.
"The malaria was quite intriguing. It was found in King Tut and several other members of his family," he said.
"It is probably the earliest scientifically recorded evidence of malaria.
"Ancient Egypt had marshy areas and mosquitoes and it is not unlikely that malaria was quite prevalent.
"Interestingly, in ancient Egyptian texts we don't find any real treatments, let alone cures, for malaria."
Researchers also say King Tutankhamun may have broken his thigh bone a day before he died, disputing the theory that his bones were damaged by archaeologist Howard Carter, who first discovered the pharaoh's mummy in the 1920s.
The project's lead researcher, Dr Zahi Hawass of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, has featured in a documentary on the subject.
"This fracture is an accident that happened to Tutankhamun one day before he died," he told documentary makers.
"Tutankhamun used the desert of Memphis for hunting and for jumping. And then he could, number one, die while he was hunting in the desert or, the second thing, maybe in a war.
Dr Markel says while it was malaria that killed King Tutankhamun, there is also new evidence that he suffered from a rare bone disorder.
"So he probably had fractures of the bones, of the feet, and we know he walked on canes. In fact there are canes in his tomb that are well worn," he said.
"You know, whenever you injure your foot - I am sure you know this - you walk in a different way and you are very prone to falling or tripping, so he may have fallen and broken his left leg [and] we know that he has evidence of a left thighbone fracture.
"Now the thighbone is the largest bone in the body and then, as well as now, if you break the thighbone and it is not taken care of immediately, that is a very major emergency. You could literally bleed to death in a matter of hours with a broken thighbone.
"So if you add those existing conditions, plus he had evidence of the worst type of malaria - something called malaria tropica, that could all set up for a perfect storm of an early demise."