'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

01 January 2011

The Golden Boy - Tut

(1336-1327 BC)  
Tutankhamun had often been described as one of the least important, but best-known kings of ancient Egypt. Unimportant because he was young and records of his family were destroyed by those who followed, but now famous because of the discovery of his tomb and it's glorious contents which Howard Carter made in 1922. However he is a King right in the centre of one of the greatest periods of Egyptian power and history, between the 18th and 19th dynasties, from Hatshepsut and Tutmosis III on to Ramsis II. His father Akhenaten caused the biggest upheaval in the life and beliefs of the country and his own demise was often thought to possibly have been as a result of that instability. His timing was pivotal and his impact on us is immeasurable. Perhaps his role is more significant than it had appeared at first glance. His name was originally destroyed and forgotten as an act of political propaganda, but out of this neglect Tutankhamun has arisen grandly. His immortality is now assured.
He was born a prince to a presumed gentle childhood in the new city of Akhetaten. He was always presumed to be and now has been genetically proven to be the son of  Akhenaten (1353-1337 BC). There had been debate that he was fathered by Amenophis III the father of Akhenaton. There is no representation of him as a child in the company of Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti , who are only seen with daughters, so he may have been born to one of Akhenaten's minor queens, perhaps the minor wife Queen Kiya. Kiya eventually disappeared, but she had been described as beloved of the king. Also some say that Tutankhamen's mother died at child-birth and he was raised by an honoured wet nurse from the royal household named Maya (flesh of the gods) who is seen with the young king in recently discovered carvings in her tomb at Saqqara. Some had even suggested the unlikely prospect  that Nefertiti was helped by her Father in Law, Amenophis III in producing a male heir. There is a reference to the Kings Bodily Son on an ancient block from Hermopolis, that appears to indicate he is the younger brother of Akhenaten and also Smenkhare. This is unlikely as it would mean that Tutankhamun was older then assumed. Genetics now show him to be the son of a royal mummy known only, at this stage, as 'The Younger Woman'.

Following the death of Akhenaten the succession is confusing, but Smenkhare ruled for a short period until Tutankhamun succeeded to the throne. Smenkhare is a mysterious figure. He was Akhenaten's co-ruler for a period, but who was he? Akhenaten's brother, lover or son? Was he Tutenkhamun's brother or half-brother or was he, as some have suggested, Nefertiti assuming male character? Although there is no text recording Tutankhamun's age at his accession, it has been deduced that he was about eight or ten when he came to the throne. 
 click to enlarge the recent reconstruction.
The newest reconstruction 2015 is less flattering

The young king was at first called Tutankhaten (The living image of the Aten) and presumably reigned from Akhetaten (modern El-Amarna), the new capital founded by Akhenaten. Probably before the end of his second year, Tutankhamun abandoned Akhetaten and moved his residence to Memphis in the north, and this probably coincided with the change of his name to Tutankhamun (The living image of the god Amun). This may have been forced on him as the priests at Thebes overthrew the new religion of the Aten (the Sun-Disk) and returned to the traditional Amun. International relations had suffered under Akhenaten and the country was in crisis so one can possibly understand the need for a return to normality.

Like other Egyptian kings, Tutankhamun had five official royal names. The two most important were the prenomen and the nomen. The nomen was the king's own personal name. At the beginning of his reign, his nomen was Tutankhaten, "Living Image of the Aten." After the second year of his reign, he changed his nomen to Tutankhamen, "Living Image of Amen." The Prenomen, or throne name, is that name used to refer to the king as Pharaoh. Tutankhamen's prenomen was Nebkheperure, "The lordly manifestation of Re." These two were written in cartouches.
Notice the spellings vary Amun, Amon, Amen - all guesses due to the lack of vowels in Egyptian writing.

Tutankhamun married a girl who may have been his slightly elder sister or half-sister, Ankhesenpaten (she later changed her name to Ankhesenamun), one of the daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. It has been suggested that the young princess had already had a child to her father Akhenaten. The new couple's two children were stillborn and were buried with the king in his tomb. 
click to enlarge 
The Canopic Jars for Tut's organs, their golden Shrine and throne with he and his wife represented in a tender pose.

During his reign, Tutankhamun tried to, or was forced to restore the old temples, especially those of Amun, which had been damaged and neglected somewhat during the reign of Akhenaten. There was extensive restoration work done and some new construction was undertaken. The monuments of Akhenaten and the Aten were erased and Amarna was eventually abandoned and destroyed more fully under Horemheb.  There was also an attempt to abandon the natural artistic style encouraged by Akhenaten and return to more traditional formal art. Because of his very young age, for a while it is likely that he was under the influence of his courtiers, especially Ay (who succeeded him on the throne) and General Horemheb (who also later became Pharaoh). However evidence is appearing that he eventually grabbed the reigns of power and probably even led his army into battle against the Hittites.

 Tutankhamun died in the tenth year of his reign, when he was about eighteen or nineteen years old. The precise cause of his death remained. The first examination, conducted in 1925 when the mummy was unwrapped, found a dark coloured lesion on the left cheek. It is slightly depressed from the rest of the skin, and looks somewhat like a scab. In 1968 armed with X-ray technology, an expedition found conclusive evidence for the cause of the king's death. Radiographs of the king's vertebra prove that the king did not die of tuberculosis, which was a popular opinion held by many at the time. Even more substantial is a fragment of bone inside the skull of the mummy. Along with the cheek lesion, the bone fragment would be consistent with damage caused by a blow to the head, either accidental or murder. This has now been deduced to be part of the precise mummification process and no blow to the head occurred. It is now known that he had developed a degenerative foot disease in the last year or two of his life and he suffered a serious break above his knee and this along with the strongest form of Malaria are what caused his untimely death. He was slightly built and about 5 feet 6 inches tall which is reasonable by ancient standards and the average height of an Egyptian male.
He was buried in a hastily prepared tomb (number KV 62 of modern numbering) in the Valley of the Kings, the traditional burial place of his predecessors. 

One of the coffins in which he was buried is actually inscribed with the name of Smenkhare and must have been originally made for him. The mummy of the King was covered in a 10 kg. solid gold mask, placed within a 110kg. gold coffin which would be worth around $2,000,000 in gold alone. This was in turn inside two more coffins and all three were inside a yellow Quartzite sarcophagus with a non matching red lid.. The sarcophagus was then encased in 4 gold covered shrines which fit very snugly into the burial chamber.  Many items discovered were clad in gold, but there were more personal things like the many pairs of sandals buried with him made from papyrus or beaded leather and the gold sandals of the mummy. Also among the thousands of items stored in the corridor and four rooms were archery equipment, boomerangs, baskets, beds, boat models, boxes, stools, board games, clothing including his underwear and a mannequin for fitting his shirts or jewelled collars, cosmetics, food, wine jars, musical instruments, shields swords, writing equipment, images of gods, fans, chariots and 130 sticks which some say were used walking sticks because of the Kings foot problems. The treasures had been robbed twice in the first years after his death and although there were around three and a half thousand separate pieces recovered it is thought that around sixty percent of the jewellery had disappeared.  Although the famous tomb produced many treasures that are now seen in the Cairo Museum, the body of Tutankhamen respectfully rests in its original place of burial.

The person responsible for his burial, and shown on one of the walls in Tutankhamun's tomb, was Ay who succeeded him on the Egyptian throne. He is shown performing the ‘opening of the mouth’ ceremony which the succeeding king makes by tapping the mouth of the mummy to allow them to speak in the underworld. There is much conjecture as to Ay as well. Did he marry Tutankhamun's young wife to legitimise his claim to the throne? If so, she tried to avoid this by requesting a son of Shuppiluliuma a Hittite king as a new husband, but on his journey the prince was murdered and soon after, the young queen disappeared.  Did Ay perhaps marry Nefertiti who may have lived on as regent? Was he Nefertiti's father.

Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings was first sighted on the 4th of November 1922 when the first step to the chamber was revealed beneath the soil, but it was not until the 26th of that month that Howard Carter with Lord Carnarvon first set eyes on the treasures as he peered through a small hole with a candle. Unknown or forgotten for thousands of years, excavations have unearthed records of Tutankhamun all over Egypt in Thebes, El Armana, Memphis, Abydos, Kom Medinet Ghurab, Bir Abbad, Nubia, Gebel Barkal and in the province of Palestine.

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