King Tut at 100

John Tuttle

In November 1922, Egyptologists working in the Valley of the Kings scraped away sediment and dust to unearth a series of steps that ended at a sealed door.

Beyond lay a trove of riches – considered such by researcher and thief alike. This is the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh, one who has since become world-famous and had remained undisturbed for 3,000 years. His lavish golden mask became iconic; his name, legendary. The team didn't get into the burial chamber properly until February 1923. Therein laid to rest were the mummified remains of Tutankhamun, the boy-king who died at just nineteen. The newspapers sensationalised the discovery, with hundreds of journalists paying a visit to the dig site near Luxor. Author H.G. Wells in his Outline of History spoke of the Tut coverage as 'so much fuss' that was 'quite out of proportion to its historical importance.' Yet, even Wells admits that Tutankhamun's tomb was a pleasant oddity, representing one of the few pharaohs' tombs left mostly unplundered. (The palaeontologist's equivalent would be finding an almost intact skeleton of a rare dinosaur species.) The whole aura of Tut remains engrossing to this day and not without merit. Certainly, the rumour of the tomb's curse carries with it a touch of the theatrical. But all the more interesting are the extensive artefacts the tomb has provided and the unique characteristics of this short-lived ruler. Like any Egyptian king he had his queen – Ankhesnamen – who was a match for his youth (and his half-sister). Buried with him, the corpses of their two stillborn daughters tell the story of a family that wasn't to be. He was nine when he ascended the throne, assuming the role after the passing of his father's co-regent. Apart from his age, another distinguishing aspect of Tutankhamun's rule was his decision to reverse his predecessor's counter cultural beliefs. Those would be the beliefs of his father, Akhenaten. Under King Akhenaten (previously Amenhotep IV), organised religion was centred on a supreme god called Aten; whereas, traditional Egyptian religious orientation entertained the worship of a myriad of deities. Tutankhamun's original name, Tutankhaten (meaning “living image of Aten”), paid tribute to this idolization of a chief god. Most drastically, Akhenaten built a city called Akhetaten (“the spirit of the sun-disc”), which honoured Aten and became the new capital. Tut, however, was not his father. He reneged on many of his predecessor's changes and had the capital restored to Thebes. Tut changed his name to the famous one we all know him by today and reinstated the worship of the whole smorgasbord of deities. Even though he steered the country back to its traditional customs, under his rule, paying homage to Aten was not made illegal, and several royal entities kept titles that honoured the late Akhenaten's primary god.
King Tut at 100
The Mask of Tutankhamun

The Historians Magazine

One of the fastest growing Independent history magazines in the UK, championing emerging historians.

In examining Tut's mummy, modern analytical methods have revealed a lot about who the young king was.

DNA samples suggest to some researchers that Tut is the son of an incestual union, which would not be uncommon for the Egyptian royal family. Tut's remains show signs of hereditary deformities. Such inbred defects (recall that he married his half-sister) might have been fatal to his two children who didn't survive. DNA studies also detected malaria, which could have caused complications leading to his death. In the past, many theories have been given for Tut's early demise including a murderous plot from a rival. Though he died long ago, the questions and controversies that his discovery have caused are as lively as ever. In November 2022, Professor Marc Gabolde made headlines when he accused the British archaeologist who spearheaded the discovery of Tut's tomb – Howard Carter – of stealing jewellery from the Egyptian grave. Gabolde further suggests the stolen items can be traced to various museums and recent auctions. Tut's riches aren't the only thing left unsettled. His ancient reputation is being reconsidered as well. Given Tutankhamun's minor deformities, some have pictured him as a weak, limited individual. But other researchers like Egyptologist Bob Brier argue the opposite. War chariots and armour were found in Tut's grave. There are inscribed blocks revealing Tut guiding charioteers into undated battles. If blocks with dated battles emerge, Brier says it would provide an even stronger case for Tut's involvement in war since pharaohs often took down the dates of genuine battles that were later remembered in stone. Such findings would point to Tut as a warrior, not a weakling. King Tutankhamun – after a century of studying and storytelling – leaves a lasting impression on anyone who will look beneath the mask of gold and those dusty, centuries-old wrappings...
Ancestry UK
King Tut at 100

John Tuttle

John Tuttle is a teacher by day and a writer by night. He has been published by Inside History Magazine, Tablet Magazine, Prehistoric Times Magazine, The Archive, Catholic World Report, University Bookman, Real Clear Science, An Unexpected Journal, Movieguide, Starting Points Journal, and others.
Dr. Jonas Salk’s Female Colleagues
“Remarkable Actions and Adventures”: The Birth of the Popular Pirate
Charlemagne: The First Holy Roman Emperor