If someone asked you to mention an ancient Egyptian king, who would you mention? Most probably you would mention King Tutankhamun, since he was the most famous king, not only of Egypt, but of the whole world. But what do you actually know of this king? He has a famous name, but there remains a lot of mystery around his life and death to this day.
Maybe you have heard or read something recently about the latest discovery of one of Tutankhamun’s personal items: his dagger. Researchers discovered that the dagger was made of meteoritic iron. And although it is safe to assume our famous King didn’t travel to outer space to have a dagger made out of meteorite, it is still unknown exactly how the ancient Egyptians were able to forge a dagger from this unusual metal and whether they knew where it came from. This shows that archaeologists and researchers still have new things to discover about King Tut and his life.
Let’s see what we do know (or at least what we think we know) about the famous King Tut. Tut’s birth name was Tutankhaten and he was the son of king Akhnaten. His mother was either Kiya or Nefertiti, as has been assumed by some. His father was responsible for a religious revolution; before his reign the sun god Amun-Ra was worshipped as the main god. Akhnaten saw Aten as the hidden divine force behind the sun, and thus decided to make Aten the main god of the ancient religion. After his death around 1334 B.C. his son Tutankhaten ascended the throne when he was only nine years old. Former priests who were set aside during his father’s reign wanted to restore the traditional ancient religion of Amun-Ra, and managed to do this due to Tutankhaten’s young age. His name was then changed to Tutankhamun, meaning “the living image of Amun.” There is not much known of his life and his reign. He reigned for about ten years until his death at 19 around 1324 B.C. It is considered that he did not play a very important role in Egyptian history and recent studies have shown that he was also a weak young man with bad health. Before recent studies, Egyptologists have formulated several theories about how Tutankhamun may have died. One theory suggested King Tut was assassinated due to the fracture in his skull, and a second theory indicated that he had fallen from his chariot during hunting.
In 2010 Tutankhamun’s remains were the subject of the first DNA study ever carried out with Egyptian royal mummies. The study was carried out to reveal the cause of death and solve some of the mysteries surrounding Tut. The study confirmed that Akhnaten was indeed Tut’s father, but the precise identity of his mother remains unsolved although DNA results suggest that his mother was a full sister of Akhnaten, which challenges the idea that either Kiya or Nefertiti was his mother. The study also showed that Tutankhamun suffered from bad health, caused by inbreeding, necrosis in his left foot (for which he needed to walk with a cane), a fracture in one of his thighbones and several infections of malaria. All these factors may have ultimately led to his death.
The mentioned study has answered some of the questions concerning Tut’s life and death. You may wonder the following though: If Tut never played such a significant role as a pharaoh in ancient history, why does he have such a famous name? The answer is not such a mystery: the discovery of his tomb. When Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor in 1922, it was the most awe-inspiring discovery in the history of modern archaeology. At that time it was believed that there was nothing left to be discovered in the Valley of the Kings. But when the tomb was discovered, they also found the most valuable and finest objects ever found in Egypt. His tomb is the only tomb ever found almost intact. The ancient Egyptians used to bury someone with all the items he used in his life. About 5000 objects were found in Tut’s tomb, such as his chariot, his golden throne, his famous golden mask and golden sarcophagus, clothing and canes and much more. Nowadays, the exquisite golden mask and sarcophagus are on display in Cairo Museum. His chariot, weaponry and the unique golden cow’s head representing goddess Hathor can be seen in Luxor Museum. And, last but not least, King Tut’s mummy is shown to the public in his royal tomb (KV62) in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, a must-see for Luxor visitors.
Now the world is still awaiting the unveiling of the hidden tomb behind Tut’s chamber. Let’s see what other mysteries still lie inside that hidden tomb…