Genetic testing has proved that King Tutankhamen was the grandson of the great pharaoh Amenhotep II, and quite certainly the son of Akhenaten, a disputable figure in the history of the 18th dynasty of Egypt’s New Kingdom (c. 1550-1295 B.C). Following Akhenaten’s death, two interceding pharaohs reigned for a brief period before the 9 year old prince, then known as Tutankhaten, ascended the throne.
Early during his reign Tutankhamen undid Akhenaten’s reforms, resuscitating worship of the god Amon, reinstating Thebes as a religious center and altering the end of his name to display royal allegiance to Amon – the creator god. Additionally, he worked in concert with his powerful advisers Ay and Horemheb – both future pharaohs – to reinstate Egypt’s stature in the religion.
King Tutankhamen: Sicknesses and Death
Although tall, King Tutankhamen was physically frail, with a crippling bone disease in his clubbed left foot. King Tut is the only pharaoh known to have been portrayed seated while engaged in physical activities such as archery. Traditional inbreeding in the royal family of Egypt also probably contributed to the king’s ill health and early death. Published in 2010, DNA tests revealed that Tutankhamen’s were brother and sister and that his wife, named Ankhesenamun, was his half-sister.
Due to the fact that the remains of Tutankhamen exposed a hole in the back of his skull, some historians came to the conclusion that the young king was assassinated, however, recent tests suggest that the hole was made during mummification. In 1995, CT scans uncovered that Tutankhamen had an infected broken left leg, and DNA from his mummy revealed proof of several malaria infections, all of which may have played a part in his early death.
King Tutankhamen: Mummy and Tomb
Following his death, King Tutankhamen was mummified according to the religious tradition of Egypt, which said that royal bodies should be provisioned and preserved for the afterlife. Organs were removed by embalmers, and he was wrapped in resin-soaked bandages, a 24-pound portrait mask of solid gold was placed over his shoulders and head and he was laid in a succession of nested containers – four gilded wooden shrines, a granite sarcophagus and three golden coffins.
Due to the small size of King Tut’s tomb, historians suggest that the death of King Tutankhamen must have been unexpected and his burial hurried by Ay – who succeeded him as pharaoh. The antechambers of the tomb were packed to the ceiling with over 5,000 artifacts including weapons, 130 of the lame king’s walking sticks, clothes, chariots and furniture. Apparently, the entrance corridor was looted soon after the burial, but the inner rooms were kept sealed. The pharaohs who followed Tutankhamen decided to ignore his reign, because despite his work reinstating Amon, he was tainted by the link to his father’s religious upheavals. The tomb’s entrance had been clogged by stone debris within a few generations, built over by workmen’s huts and forgotten.
King Tutankhamen: Rediscovery and Renown
When Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922, the British archaeologist had been excavating Egyptian antiquities for three decades. When the tomb was discovered, archaeologists believed that all the royal tombs in the Valley of Kings had already been cleared. Being the most intact tomb ever found, excitement rapidly spread worldwide. It took Carter and his team ten years to catalogue and empty the tomb.
Today the most fragile artifacts, such as the burial mask, never leave Egypt. King Tut’s mummy is still on display within the tomb, his layered coffins replaced by a climate-controlled glass box.