King Tutankhamun of the
Who exactly was King Tut, known during his early life as Tutankhuaten (or Tutankhaten), reflecting his Amarna roots, and later as Tutankhamun, reflecting the return to Egypt’s traditional religion? Despite the richness of his burial, King Tutankhamun remains somewhat of an enigmatic figure, even though he has been the subject of much investigation. Presumably, he was born in Akhetaten (modern el-Amarna), during the latter half of the reign of Akhenaten, the Heretic king who attempted to establish a radical departure from traditional. We believe that he died in his late teens, judging from various analyses of his mummy.
Although his royal lineage has sometimes been questioned, an inscription unearthed at el-Ahsmunein across the river from el-Amarna confirms that Tutankhuaten (as he was known at that time) was indeed the son of a king. Not surprisingly, official policy during the boy’s reign seems to have been to stress his association with Amenhotep III, who we actually presume to be his grandfather. Given the absence of a long co-regency between Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (later Akhenaten), it probably must be that Tutankhamun was the son of the latter.
(King Tut) was not a major player in Egypt Pharaonic history, or at least, in comparison with other pharaohs. In fact, prior to Howard Carter’s discovery of his tomb, almost nothing was known of him and interestingly, the one disappointment in Carter’s discover was that there was little in the way of documentation found within his tomb. Therefore, we still know relatively little about Tutankhamun. For example, even who is father was remains a topic of some debate. That has not prevented writers from producing volumes of material on the Pharaoh.
Tutankhamun ruled Egypt perhaps between 1334 and. He was probably the 12th ruler of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty.
Tutankamun was not given this name at birth, but rather Tutankhaten (meaning “Living Image of the Aten), squarely placing him in the line of pharaohs following Akhenaten, the heretic pharaoh, who was most likely his father. His mother was probably, though this too is in question. He changed his name in year two of his rule to Tutankhamun (or heqa-iunu-shema, which means “ , Ruler of Upper Egyptian Heliopolis”, which is actually a reference to Karnak) as re reverted to the old religion prior to Akhenaten’s upheaval. Even so, this did not prevent his name from being omitted from the classic kings lists of Abydos and Karnak. We may also find his named spelled Tutankhamen or Tutankhamon, among other variations. His throne name was Neb-Kheperu-re, which means “Lord of Manifestations is Re.
Though it seems that Akhenaten must have been King Tut’s father, much less evidence exists as to his mother. However, a degree of informed speculation is possible. For example, we can probably eliminate Nefertiti, since she appears to have provided her husband, Akhenaten, with no sons. Of course, she was not his only wife. Among the king’s secondary wives and concubines, one in particular stands out. She is lady Kiya, identified by some with the Mitannian princess Tadukhepa, daughter of Tushratta, sent to Egypt to cement treaty relations between the two countries at the start of the reign.
Kiya is peculiarly prominent in the sculptural record at el-Amarna and her special position in the king’s favor is reflected in her unique title, “Greatly Beloved Wife”. In a number of Amarna reliefs, Kiya is shown in the company of a daughter. Many believe that she might have also borne a son. Chronological considerations by no means rule out the possibility. There are indications that Kiya was a favorite of the Amarna court prior to years nine and ten of Akhenaten’s reign, but after year eleven, about the time of Tutankhamun’s birth, she disappears from the the record and her monuments at el-Amarna were appropriated by Nefertiti’s daughter, Meritaten. One possible explanation is that Kiya died in childbirth, as a fragmentary mourning scene in Akhenaten’s tomb perhaps suggests.
However, it is equally possible that Kiya fell from grace, the victim of court intrigue engineered by the jealous Nefertiti. Indeed, it may be no coincidence that the meteoric rise in the status of Nefertiti seems to have begun in earnest only after Kiya’s disappearance.
Irregardless of his mother’s identity, Tutankhamun came to the throne in about 1333 BC, then a young child still burdened with the name, Tutankhaten. He married Ankhesenpaaten, the somewhat older third daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, a match perhaps made to unite opposing royal factions. He would rule Egypt for only nine or so years, though there can be little doubt that for most of this time, the reigns of the government were firmly in the hands of others, such as Ay, his successor and perhaps a relative of the king, and General Horemheb, who would succeed Ay to the throne.
Hard facts related to Tutankhamun’s reign are few, but it is clear that the principal event of his reign related to the reestablishment of the traditional Egyptian religion, as well as the relocation of the Capital back to Memphis and the reestablishment of the country’s religious center at Thebes. When the royal couple abandoned the “aten” forms of their name during year two of the king’s reign, it signaled the formal resurgence of Amun, away from the worship of Aten, and the traditional pantheon. Promulgated by a decree at Memphis and recorded in the retrospectively dated “Restoration Stela”, this one event marks the reign as pivotal to the subsequent course of Egyptian History.
Hence, while it is frequently said that Tutankhamun was a relatively insignificant king (we too have been guilty of this), despite the wealth of his tomb, his reign was not. Whether the changes that were brought about were his, Ay’s or Horemheb’s, his was a very important time in the history of Egypt.
Arguably, to those who are not very involved in the study of ancient Egypt, Queen Nefertiti is perhaps better known than her husband, the heretic king Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV). It is said that even in the ancient world, her beauty was famous, and her famous statue, found in a sculptor’s workshop, is not only one of the most recognizable icons of ancient Egypt, but also the topic of some modern controversy. She was more than a pretty face however, for she seems to have taken a hitherto unprecedented level of importance in the Amarna period of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. In artwork, her status is evident and indicates that she had almost as much influence as her husband. For example, she is depicted nearly twice as often in reliefs as her husband, at least during the first five years of his reign. Indeed, she is once even shown in the conventional pose of a pharaoh smiting his (or in this case, her) enemy.
Nefertiti may or may not have been of royal blood. She was probably a daughter of the army officer, and later pharaoh, Ay, who may in turn have been a brother of Queen Tiye. Ay sometimes referred to himself as “the God’s father”, suggesting that he may have been Akhenaten’s father-in-law, though there is no specific references for this claim. However, Nefertiti’s sister, Mutnojme, is featured prominently in the decorations of Ay’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank at Thebes (modern Luxor). However, while we know that Mutnojme was certainly the sister of Nefertiti, her prominence in Ay’s tomb clearly does not guarantee her relationship to him. Others have suggested that Nefertiti may have been a daughter of Tiye, or that she was Akhenaten’s cousin. Nevertheless, as “heiress”, she may have also been a descendant of Ahmose-Nefertari, though she was never described as God’s wife of Amun. However, she never lays claim to King’s Daughter, so we certainly know that she cannot have been an heiress in the direct line of descent.
If she was indeed the daughter of Ay, it was probably not by his chief wife, Tey, who was not referred to as a “Royal mother of the chief wife of the king”, but rather ‘nurse’ and ‘governess’ of the king’s chief wife. It could be that Nefertiti’s actual mother died early on, and it was left to Tey to raise the young girl. However, many other explanations have also been suggested.
Personal Life and the Relationship of King and Queen
Together, we know that Akhenaten and Nefertiti has six daughters, though it was probably with another royal wife called Kiya that the king sired his successors, Smenkhkare and Tutankhamun. Nefertiti also shared her husband with two other royal wives named Mekytaten and Ankhesenpaaten, as well as later with her probable daughter, Merytaten.
Undoubtedly, Akenaten seems to have had a great love for his Chief Royal wife. They were inseparable in early reliefs, many of which showed their family in loving, almost utopian compositions. At times, the king is shown riding with her in a chariot, kissing her in public and with her sitting on his knee. One eulogy proclaims her:
“And the Heiress, Great in the Palace, Fair of Face, Adorned with the Double Plumes, Mistress of Happiness, Endowed with Favors, at hearing whose voice the King rejoices, the Chief Wife of the King, his beloved, the Lady of the Two Lands, Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti, May she live for Ever and Always”
Crucially important to Akhenaten was Femininity which was not only basic to his personal life, but also to his thinking and his faith. In fact, it is indeed difficult to find another founder of a religion for whom women played a comparable role. Akhenaten had a number of different women about him, and they are depicted in virtually every representation of a cult-ritual or state ceremony conducted by the king at his new capital honoring the sun god. Nefertiti was not the only queen to be treated well.
Each of the royal women had her own sanctuary, which was frequently called a sunshade temple. They were usually situated in a parkland environment of vegetation and water pools, emphasizing the importance of female royalty in the daily renewal of creation affected by the god Aten.
However, it was the figure of Nefertiti that Akhenaten had carved onto the four corners of his granite sarcophagus and it was she who provided the protection to his mummy, a role traditionally played by the female deities Isis, Nephthys, Selket and Neith.
One influence within the personal lives of Nefertiti and Akhenaten must have been the presence of Akhenaten’s mother, Tiye. Tiye would have held a special position as a wise woman in his court, and we can only surmise that this must have had some affect on the younger couple’s relationship.
Queen Tiye as the “wise woman” of El Amarna was often depicted with facial features that not only signaled old age, but life experience and wisdom calling for respect and even veneration.
When Nefertiti’s face is represented with the first signs of old age, this may well signify that she has assumed the position of “wise woman” following the death of Tiye, at which point her court status would have been even further elevated.
Nefertiti and her King lived during a highly unusual period in Egyptian history.
It was a time of religious controversy when the traditional gods of Egypt were more or less abandoned at least by the royal family in favor of a single god, the sun disk named Aten. However, it should be noted that the Egyptian religion did not actually become monotheistic, for cults related to the other gods did persist and they were never really erased from the Egyptian theology.
It is believed that Nefertiti was active in the religious and cultural changes initiated by her husband (some even maintain that it was she who initiated the new religion). She also had the position as a priest, and she was a devoted worshipper of the god Aten. In the royal religion, the King and Queen were viewed as “a primeval first pair”. It was they who worshipped the sun disk named Aten and it was only through them that this god was accessed. Indeed, the remainder of the population was expected to worship the royal family, as the rays of the sun fell and gave life to, it would seem, only the royal pair.
However, many scholars presume that the Mutnodjme who later married King Haremhab is none other than the younger sister of Nefertiti. In Akhenaten: King of Egypt by Cyril Aldred, the author explains that a fragmentary statue of Mutnodjme discovered at Dendera describes her not only as “Chief Queen”, but also “God’s Wife [of Amun]”, which he explains puts her in the line of
those other great consorts who traced their descent from Ahmose-Nefertari. This links both sisters to the cult of Amun, which he tells us could obviously not have been openly proclaimed at Amarna.
Yet we must be very careful with this link between Nefertiti and Amun by way of her sister’s later attachment to the cult. Haremhab considered himself to be an adamant restorer of the old religion after the Amarna period, and so just because his Chief Queen took the title of God’s Wife does not necessarily mean that Nefertiti held any real interest in that cult.
Doubtless though, Nefertiti may very well, and probably did participate in a similar manner as God’s Wife in the cult of Re-Atum. Unlike other chief queens, she is shown taking part in the daily worship, repeating the same gestures and making similar offerings as the king. Where traditionally a relationship existed between God and King, now that relationship is expanded to include the royal pair.
She in fact exhibits the same fashion as God’s Wife. From her first appearance at Karnak, she wears the same clinging robe tied with a red sash with the ends hanging in front. She also wears the short rounded hairstyle. In her case, this was exemplified by a Nubian wig, the coiffure of her earlier years, alternating with a queens tripartite wig, both secured by a diadem bearing a double uraei. Sometimes this was replaced by a a crown with double plumes and a disk, like Tiye and her later Kushite counterparts.
Towards the end of Akhenaten’s reign, Nefertiti disappeared from historical Egyptian records. For a number of years, scholars though that she had fallen from grace with the king, but this was actually a case of mistaken identity. It was Kiya’s name and images that were removed from monuments, and replaced by those of Meryetaten, one of Akhenaten’s daughters. It has been suggested, though there is no hard supporting evidence, that by year twelve of Akhenaten’s reign, and after bearing him a son and possibly a further daughter, Kiya became too much of a rival to Nefertiti and that it was she who caused Kiya’s disgrace.
It is possible that Nefertiti disappearance a number of years after that of Kiya’s simply meant that she died around the age of thirty, though there are controversies on this matter as well. It may not be simple coincidence that, shortly after Nefertiti’s disappearance from the archaeological record, Akhenaten took on a co-regent with whom he shared the throne of Egypt. This co-regent has been a matter of considerable speculation and controversy, with a whole range of theories. One such theory puts forward the idea that the co-regent was none other than Nefertiti herself in a new guise as a female king following the lead of women such as Sobkneferu and Hatshepsut. Another theory is that there were actually two co-regents, consisting of a male son named Smenkhkare, and Nefertiti under the name Neferneferuaten, both of whom adopted the prenomen, Ankhkheperure. Undoubtedly, like her husband who was originally named Amenhotep, she too took the new name, Neferneferuaten to honor the Aten (Neferneferuaten can be translated as “The Aten is radiant of radiance [because] the beautiful one is come” or “Perfect One of the Aten’s Perfection”). Indeed, she may have even changed her name prior to her husband doing so, but rather this means she also served as co-regent is questionable.
Some scholars are considerably adamant about Nefertiti assuming the role of co-regent, and even serving as king for a short time after the death of Akhenaten. One such individual is Jacobus Van Dijk, responsible for the Amarna section of the Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. He believes that Nefertiti indeed became co-regent with her husband, and that her role as queen consort was taken over by her eldest daughter, Meryetaten (Meritaten). If this is true, then Nefertiti may have even taken up residence in Thebes, as evidenced by a graffito dated to year three in the reign of Neferneferuaten mentioning a “Mansion of Ankhkheperure”. If so, there could have been an attempt made at reconciliation with the old cults. He also suggests that Smenkhkare might have also been Nefertiti, ruling after the death of her husband, with her own daughter acting in a ceremonial role of “Great Royal Wife”.
However, other scholars are equally adamant against Nefertiti ever having been a co-regent or ruling after her husband’s death. In his book, Akhenaten: King of Egypt, Cyril Aldred references a funerary objected called a shawabti. On it was inscribed:
“The Heiress, high and mighty in the palace, one trusted [of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt (Neferkheperure, Wa’enre), the son of Re (Akhenaten), Great in] his Lifetime, the Chief Wife of the King (Neferneferuaten-Nefertiti), Living for Ever and Ever.”
We do know that he spent his early years in Amarna, and probably in the North Palace. He evidently even started a tomb at Amarna. At age nine he was married to Ankhesenpaaten, his half sister, and later Ankhesenamun. We believe Ankhesenpaaten was older then Tutankhamun because she was probably of child bearing age, seemingly already having had a child by her father, Akhenaten. It is possible also that Ankhesenamun had been married to Tutankhamun’s predecessor. It seems he did not succeed Akhenaten directly as ruler of Egypt, but either an older brother or his uncle, Smenkhkare (keeping in mind that there is much controversy surrounding this king). We believe Tutankhamun probably had two daughters later, but no sons.
At the end of Akhenaten’s reign, Ay and Horemheb, both senior members of that kings court, probably came to the realization that the heresy of their king could not continue. Upon the death of Akhenaten and Smenkhkare, they had the young king who was nine years old crowned in the old secular capital of Memphis. And since the young pharaoh had no living female relatives old enough, he was probably under the care of Ay or Horemheb or both, who would have actually been the factual ruler of Egypt.
Tutankhamun may have married within the family to keep the bloodline pure
“The royals thought they were keeping the bloodline true,” says Mark. “But now we know some of these diseases, possibly Tut’s unusually shaped skull, possibly some of the ailments Tut suffered from… are from marrying within the family.”
Dr Susanne Binder, a lecturer in Egyptology at Macquarie University in Sydney, believes the DNA evidence is inconclusive. “The result of the DNA testing has shown that among those 11 tested royal mummies, there is a male and a female that are related to King Tutankhamun,” she told Australian Geographic. “It’s not at all definitive, but it is a major step forward.”
Much is still unknown about the mummified king and the 18th dynasty of which he was part. Tutankhamun’s death at the age of 19 is still shrouded in mystery. Ailments including malaria and scoliosis are believed to have plagued the king during his life, and a CT scan in 2005 showed evidence of a badly broken leg in the lead up to his death.
Tutankhamun’s flawless representations mirror today’s photoshopped versions of celebrities and leaders
Tutankhamun’s imperfections, such as the diseased left foot that gave him a lifelong limp, are not always portrayed in records of the king. According to Dr Andrew Jamieson, antiquities curator at Melbourne University, this is a sign of the times. “In Egypt, there was a youthful, athletic, idealised version of rulers that was portrayed, and that is indicative of the tradition,” he says. “So it is only through scientific applications that we get these insights.”
KING Tutankhamun is credited with a curse that touched all those involved in the discovery of his tomb. New research suggests, though, that he was under a curse himself: one embedded in his genes.
The boy king was the product of an incestuous relationship that may have led to a weakened constitution and his early death, the first DNA study of the pharaoh’s remains has concluded.
Rather than being murdered, hurled from his chariot or struck down by an animal, as has been suggested, researchers have shown that the pharaoh was a sickly teenager with a club foot who probably died of complications related to malaria.
The team of scientists from Egypt, Italy and Germany used the latest DNA testing techniques to draw “the most plausible” family tree yet for Tutankhamun, who died aged 19 in 1324BC, nine years into his reign.
Over a two-year period, until October last year, they analysed samples from 16 mummies from the royal tombs of Luxor, and used computerised tomography (CT) scans to determine whether they were related, or had genetic disorders or infectious diseases. Using genetic fingerprinting and blood group tests, the study confirms that Tutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten, the “heretical” pharaoh who tried to reform Egyptian religion and culture during his rule from 1351 to 1344BC. It also identifies some of his grandparents and great-grandparents for the first time and suggests that his mother was Akhenaten’s sister.
On the basis of other, less complete DNA evidence, Tutankhamun himself was the father of two children, both stillborn girls, whose remains were found in his tomb.
Brother-sister marriages were common in the 18th dynasty of Egypt (circa 1550 to 1295BC) but scans and genetic fingerprinting show that he suffered from several disorders as a result of his family history.
These included a painful, degenerative bone condition known as Koehler’s disease and a club foot which meant that the pharaoh was “a young but frail king who needed canes to walk”, the authors of the study say.
The finding helps to explain the discovery of more than 130 walking sticks in Tutankhamun’s tomb when it was excavated by Howard Carter in 1922. The sudden death of Lord Canarvon, Carter’s benefactor, fuelled fears of a curse around the excavation.
The exact cause of Tutankhamun’s death has baffled archeologists ever since, with some authors claiming that he was murdered by rivals or priests. “Many scholars have hypothesised that Tutankhamun’s death was attributable to an accident; septicaemia or a fat embolism secondary to a femur fracture; murder by a blow to the back of the head or poisoning,” the researchers write in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The genetic tests provide evidence that Tutankhamun and at least four other mummies from his family were infected with Plasmodium falciparum, a parasite that causes an often deadly form of malaria. The team, led by Zahi Hawass, of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo, concluded that the king’s many disorders probably weakened his immune system, so that he could have died after suffering a “sudden leg fracture, possibly introduced by a fall,” which became life-threatening when he got malaria.
But Sanjeev Krishna, Professor of Molecular Parasitology and Medicine at St George’s, University of London, yesterday disputed the theory.
“If you have the parasite and you get to the age of 19, the chances are you’ve developed some kind of immunity,” he said.
- Most Information Collated From: Tour Egypt
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