Tutankhamun was a pharaoh of ancient Egypt who reigned over its kingdom for a period of around 10 years in fourteenth century BC. He most prominently restored Amun as the supreme God of Egypt after his father Akhenaten had made Aten the King of Gods during his reign. The discovery of the nearly intact tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 made him the most famous pharaoh and brought about a renewed interest in ancient Egypt. He became popularly known as King Tut and the world was griped in a craze known as Tutmania. Know about the family, life, achievements and death of King Tut as well as about the discovery of his tomb and the curse associated with it, through these 10 interesting facts.

 

#1 His parents were brother and sister

Tutankhamun was the son of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who is famous as the first monotheist and for founding the city of Amarna. The mother of Tutankhamun has now been identified as The Younger Lady, a name given to the person whose mummy was discovered in tomb KV35 in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings. DNA testing has revealed that The Younger Lady was a sister of Akhenaten. Inbreeding was common in Egyptian royals as they believed they were descendants of the Gods and wanted to preserve their bloodline.

Statue of Akhenaten
Statue of Akhenaten

 

#2 He became pharaoh at a young age and ruled for around a decade

As a prince, Tutankhamun was known as Tutankhaten. The death of Akhenaten around 1336 BC was followed by a period of which little is known. It probably saw brief reigns of two pharaohs known as Neferneferuaten and Smenkhkare. Tutankhaten ascended the throne around 1332 BC at the age of nine or ten. He took the throne name Nebkheperure. He ruled over Egypt for a period of nine to ten years till his death in 1323 BC at the age of nineteen.

Wooden bust of Tutankhamun
Wooden bust of Tutankhamun as the young king

 

#3 Tutankhamun restored Amun as the supreme God of Egypt

Before Akhenaten, many gods were worshiped in Egypt with Amun being the King of Gods. Akhenaten took steps to establish sun god Aten as the supreme and only god of Egypt. In the third year of his reign, Tutankhaten reversed the changes brought about by his father. He ended the worship of the god Aten and restored the god Amun to supremacy. Traditional festivals related to other Gods, like Apis, Horus and Mut, were celebrated again. Tutankhaten (“Living Image of Aten”) also changed his name to Tutankhamun which meant “Living Image of Amun”.

 

#4 He had two daughters but both were stillborn

On becoming king, Tutankhamun married his half-sister Ankhesenpaaten, who was the daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten and the famous queen Nefertiti. Ankhesenpaaten also changed her name to Ankhesenamun (“Her Life Is of Amun”). Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun had two daughters but both were stillborn. After the death of Tutankhamun, his adviser Ay married his widow Ankhesenamun and became Pharaoh. Ay might have been her maternal grandfather.

Tutankhamun and his wife Ankhesenamun
Tutankhamun receives flowers from his wife Ankhesenamun

 

#5 Tutankhamun probably suffered from malaria

Tutankhamun was thin and around 5 feet 11 inches tall. Examination of his body has revealed deformations in his left foot which probably forced him to walk with the use of a cane. During DNA testing of Tutankhamun’s mummy, scientists found the presence of the DNA of the mosquito-borne parasites that cause malaria. More than one strain of the malaria parasite was found, indicating that Tutankhamun contracted multiple malarial infections. This is currently the oldest known genetic proof of the disease.

Statue of Tutankhamun
Granite Statue of Tutankhamun at an exhibition at Melbourne Museum in 2011

 

#6 There is speculation regarding the cause of his death

The cause of Tutankhamun’s death remains a subject of speculation. Initially it was believed he was assassinated with the cause being a blow to his head. A 2005 research found this was not the case. CT scans have showed genetic defects that are more common in children produced as a result of incest relationships. Many diseases have been suggested to be the cause of his death but none has been established with certainty. It is known he suffered a left leg fracture and an infection in the wound shortly before he died. This had led to a theory that he may have fell from a chariot but it is considered unlikely. A combination of complications from his leg wound, and malaria, has also been suggested as a probable cause.

Mummy of King Tutankhamun
Photo of the mummy of King Tutankhamun

 

#7 King Tut is the most famous pharaoh of ancient Egypt

The Valley of the Kings is a valley in Egypt where tombs were constructed for the Pharaohs and powerful nobles of ancient Egypt. The tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered by English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter in November 1922 in the Valley of the Kings. The expedition to search and excavate the tomb was financed by George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon. The discovery of Tutankhamun’s nearly intact tomb was major news in the 1920s and sparked renewed public interest in ancient Egypt. Tutankhamen was soon the most famous Pharaoh of ancient Egypt and became popularly known as “King Tut”.

Howard Carter with Tutankhamun's mummy
Egyptologist Howard Carter examining Tutankhamun’s mummy in February 1923

 

#8 Tutankhamun’s mask is one of the most renowned objects from ancient Egypt

Relics from Tutankhamun’s tomb KV62 have traveled across the world to numerous countries. An exhibition in British Museum in 1972 was attended by 1.6 million visitors making it the most popular exhibition in the Museum’s history. The 1777–79 Exhibition in U.S. was attended by over 8 million people. The most popular object from the tomb is the funerary mask of Tutankhamun. It represents the pharaoh’s standard image in which he wears the striped nemes head-cloth, topped by the royal insignia of a cobra and vulture. Tutankhamun’s death mask has been called “not only the quintessential image from Tutankhamun’s tomb” but “perhaps the best-known object from ancient Egypt itself”.

Death Mask of Tutankhamun
Death Mask of Tutankhamun in the Egyptian Museum

 

#9 The discovery of his tomb sparked a craze known as Tutmania

The discovery of King Tut’s tomb sparked a craze across the world known as Tutmania. Egyptian motifs began to appear in clothes, jewelry, hairstyles, fabrics, furniture and even in architecture. Mummies became common in films, and women wore items inspired by the iconic funerary mask of Tutankhamun. America, in particular, became obsessed by King Tut. Even U.S. President Herbert Hoover used the name for his pet dog. When the collection of objects from the pharaoh’s tomb toured the country from 1977 to 1979, United States was once again gripped by Tutmania. Such was the craze that comedian Steve Martin mocked it in his 1978 song titled King Tut. Even today Tutankhamun remains a renowned icon.

Tutmania Advertisement
1920s Advertisement for the Johnston Fruit Company, California, for King Tut Brand Lemons

 

#10 There is a legend of the curse of Tutankhamun’s tomb

Five months after the tomb of King Tut was opened, George Herbert, who financed the excavation, died due to blood poisoning after accidentally shaving an infected mosquito bite. This started the legend of the curse of Tutankhamun’s tomb according to which a curse is cast upon any person who disturbs the mummy of a pharaoh. The death of Herbert was widely covered by media and related to the curse. Media interest was further fueled when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, suggested that the death had been caused due to protective elements created by Tutankhamun’s priests to guard the tomb. Of the 58 people present when the tomb was opened, eight died within 12 years helping the legend grow. The legend of the mummy’s curse lessened with time and now it is not believed by most people with media considering evidence in its favor as trifle.

News article - The curse of Tutankhamun's tomb
A 1930 news article related to the curse of Tutankhamun’s tomb

 

The Most Famous Pharaoh

Though King Tut is the most famous pharaoh of ancient Egypt, there is not much he accomplished as ruler of Egypt. He didn’t build the most renowned structure, the Great Pyramid was built during the reign of King Khufu; he was not the best ruler, a title usually accorded to Ramses the Great; and he was also not the greatest conqueror, Thutmose III is considered the greatest expansionist pharaoh. Neither was his tomb the first ever to be discovered, though it was among the best preserved. Yet it was Tutankhamun who revived interest in ancient Egypt and its culture. Welsh American author Jon Manchip White wrote this about King Tut, “The pharaoh who in life was one of the least esteemed of Egypt’s Pharoahs has become in death the most renowned.”

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