Ancient Egypt: The New Kingdom Dynasty XVIII--Tutankhamun


Figure 1.--This was the back panel of Tutankhamun's throne. It shows him with Ankhes-en-Amun, his half sister and wife. This was made early in his reign before the resurgrence of the old religion because the sun disk Aten is present. Also note the relaxked, realistic posture--another characteristic of art under Akhenaten. It is thus likely that the clothing is realistically depicted.

The old priesthood exerted their influence and were able to restore the old religion after the brief reign of Amenhotep's successor, the boy king Tutankhamun. (It was his unspoiled tomb that was discovered by Harold Carter in the Valley of the Kings during 1922, perhaps the most famous discovery in all of archeology.) Tutankhamun became pharaoh when he was a boy of about 9 years of age. He is believed to be Akhenaten's younger half brother. [Aldred, p. ?] He married his older half sister Ankhes-en-Amun. Normally little is known about minor pharaohs like Tutankhamun, but the fact that his tomb was never disturbed makes him one of the best known pharaohs. Tutankhamun's tomb is very small. It was probably built for some one of lower rank. Tutankhamun's early death may have caused it to have been pressed in to service for the young pharaoh as no more suitable tomb was ready for him. The tomb did not have elaborate paintings like many pharaonic tombs. The only part of his tomb complex that had wall paintings was the actual Burial Chamber. One of the scenes shows the "Opening of the Mouth Ceremony" where the senses of the deceased are restored. The person performing this duty is Ay, who succeeded Tutankhamun as pharaoh. Many of Egypt's imperial possessions were lost as a result of the disorders associated with the reign of Amenhotep IV and Tutankhamun.

Religion

The old priesthood exerted their influence and were able to restore the old religion after the brief reign of Amenhotep IV's successor, the boy king Tutankhamun. He was forced to change his name from Tutankhaten which like Akhenaten, honored the sun god Aten. The resurgence of the Amun hierarchy swept away the new Aten religion. The temples of Amun were restored. Tutankhamun as a boy of 9 would have been powerless to oppossed this or even fully understand what was happening.

Tomb

It was Tutankhamun's unlooted tomb that was discovered by Harold Carter in the Valley of the Kings during 1922, perhaps the most famous discovery in all of archeology. While his tomb was not looted, it apparently was not unspoiled. The cluttered arrangement of the items suggest that looters were discovered and the items carlesly replaced in antiquity. Normally little is known about minor pharaohs like Tutankhamun, but the fact that his tomb was never disturbed makes him one of the best known pharaohs. Tutankhamun's tomb is very small. It was probably built for some one of lower rank. Tutankhamun's early death may have caused it to have been pressed in to service for the young pharaoh as no more suitable tomb was ready for him. The tomb did not have elaborate paintings like many pharaonic tombs. The only part of his tomb complex that had wall paintings was the actual Burial Chamber. One of the scenes shows the "Opening of the Mouth Ceremony" where the senses of the deceased are restored. The person performing this duty is Ay, who succeeded Tutankhamun as pharaoh.

Akhenaten

Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten and his chief wife, Nefertiti, had six daughters. As the crown was past on to the eldest son, this appears tohave been rather a collosal stroke of bad dynastix luck. Akhenaten and Nefertiti produced no son to suceed him as pharaoh. Although Egyptian pharaohs had many wives, it is clear that his relationship with Nefertiti was fundamental. Family scenes always show Akhenaten with Nefertiti and their daughters. He is never pictured with Tutankhamun or Tutankhaten as he was first known. Tutankhamun became pharaoh when he was a boy of about 9 years of age on the death of Akhenaten. There is some debate as to just whon his parents were. Most Egyptologist believe that he was Akhenaten's son, but there are also some who believe that he may have been his younger half brother and that Amenhotep III was his father. [Aldred, pp. 68, 97-99.]

Mother

Tutankhamun's mother is not known with any certainty. Many Egyptologists now believe that Akhenaten fathered Tutankhamun by a lesser wife, Kiya. Researchers now believe they have constructed the most definitive family tree produced for Tut. They confirm tht his father is probably Akhenaten. His mother appears to have been one of Akhenaten's sisters. [AMA article]

Nefertiti

While Nefertiti, Ankhenaten's Chief Wife or Queen, was clarly not his mother, she appears to have taken an interest in the young prince, taking him into her palace. [Aldred, p. 68.] This interest was no doubt because all of her six children were girls. The fact that the prince married to Nefertiti's third (second surviving) daughter Ankgesenpaaten was another reason for Nefertiti to care for the boy. Both were still children at the time of their martriage. We have no idea what happened to Tutankhamun's natural mother. When on Ankhenaten's death, Tutankhamen became pharaoh, Neferfiti became one of the young prince's primary advisors. With her death after a year or slightly more, the resurgence of the old religion appears to have begun in ernest.

Boyhood

Virtually nothing is known of Tutankhamun's early life as the focus of royal art under his father was on the family with Nefertiti and their six daughters. As a young prince, he would havelived in Akhetaten's palace. Little attention may have been paid to him, but as Queen Nefertiti had more and more daughters, increasing attention may have been given to him. He was no doubt tutored, perhaps with other young princes by the women of Akhetaten's palace. Lessons may have included a range of skills and subjects including religion, riding, hunting, and reading and writing.

Marriage

Tutankhamun married his older half sister Ankhesenpaaten , one of the six daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. While only a male heir could become pharaoh, a daughter of pharaoh seems to have conveyed possession of the imperal throne. This is one of the reasons that pharaohs so often married within the family and why daughters of pharaohs were not married to foreign princes. [Aldred, p. ?.] Ankhesenpaaten's name was changed to Ankhes-en-Amun to reflect the return of the old religion. Tutankhamun and Ankhes-en-Amun produced two stillborn female babies. Two mumified foetuses were found in Tutankhamun's tomb.

Reign

The archeological record of Tutankhamun's reign is limited, in part because of the removal of his name from official records that Horemheb later ordered when he became pharaoh. Had his tomb not have been discovered intact, we would known little or nothing about him. A shadowy figure exists in the early days of Tutankhamun's reign--Smenkhkare. He appears to have been a co-ruler. He almost certainly was Tutankhamun's brother, probably by the same father and mother. Tutankhamun is generalyy seen as a minor unimportant king as is sugested by his most common description--"the Boy King". It is true that in terms of length and lack of military conquest, his reign does seem of only minor importance. It should be noted, however, that during his reign the old cults were restored. This is hardly a minor development. The precise year of succession is unknown. The years of his reign are dated from his coregency. Archeoloists believce, however, based on his mummy that hw would have been no more than 9 years old when Ankhenaten died. Egypt at Akhenaten's death would have thus been goverened by a regeant. The Aten cult appears to hve continued in the first year of Tutankhamun's reign. Artifacts in his tomb still depict the young pharaoh with the Aten. After Neferfiti'd death, however, a return to religious orthodoxy was possible began during Tutankhamun's reign. [Aldrid, p. 88.]

Disease

Historians speculate that the depictions of Akhenaten suggest a genetic disease that gave feminine attributes (royal men with prominent breasts, elongated heads and flared hips) and misshapen bones. Some researchers rejuct the theory thsat the family suffered from this rare disorder and that the depections were a contemporary artistic style. [AMA article]

Death

Tutankhamun died about the 9th year of his reign. Probabably around 1325 B.C. Arcaeologists from the time Howard Carver discovered him have debated the cause of death. He may have been involved in an accident, some suggesed murder. There is some forensic evidence of an injury to the skull which had had time to partialy heal. Archelogists now aargue that the so-called scull injury was a hole mase as part of the munification process. This suggests an accident rather than murder. Perhaps he fell from a horse or chariot. Recent studies have recealed a great deal of informsation avout Tut. Dr Zahi Hawass removed King Tut from his stone sarcophagus to study his DNA (2007). Tests revealed the king was a sickly youth. Researchers concluded that Tut suffered a range of debilitating conditions, including a cleft palate and a club foot. It is now believed that he died from malaria, after complications resulting from a broken leg. [AMA article] We know that Ay oversaw his burial arrangements and they lasted 70 days.

Ankhesenamun

Some fascinating political and diplomatic steps are known to history following Tutankhamun's death. His wife Ankhesenamun desired to remain on the throne. She and Tutankhamun had produced no heirs. She apparently took the unpresedented step of writing to the Hittite King Suppiluliumas I, the chief rival to Egypt at the time. She asked that he send one of his sons to marry her and thus become Pharaoh. Records of this correspondance was uncovered at the Hittite capital lovated near the modern city of Boghaz Keui in Turkey. One wonders if she may have also been influenced by her father's faith in Aten and commitment to a kind of one world pafifism. Suppiluliumas was apparently suspicious as Egypt had never accepted foreign pribces before or allowed Egyptian princess to marry foreigners. Finally he sent Prince Zennanza who was promptly murdered in transit. [Aldred, p. 85.] The most likely culprit here would be Horemheb, commander of the Egyptian army who probably would have had the most to lose is a Hittite prince became pharaoh. King Suppiluliumas in retaliation attacked and defeated Eguptian forces in Lebanon, bringer Hittite forces closer to Egypt itself.

Ay

The identity of Ay is a subject of great debate among Egyptoligists. He was an important military official and priest in Ankhenaten's court. Many Egyptologists are convinced that his impotance was founded on blood ties to the royal family. [Aldred, pp. 88-89.] This is, however, amatter of some conjecture. Some believe that he was also Nefertiti's father. These ties may explain his increasing importance on the death of Ankhenaten's death. He was apparently one of the great survivors in history, rather like an ancient Tallyrand. Even after the death of Nefertiti, he again survived as he had become Tutenkhamen's principal advisor. As the pharoh was so young, Ay became the virtual ruler of Europe, a Vizier. It was during the reign of Tutankhamun, despite Ay's connections with Ankhenaten, Ay appears to have organized the return to the old Atum cult. This was undoubtedly a factor in his survival. As part of the return to orthodoxy, Ay returned the pharaoh's court to Thebes. Ay was an aging man by the time of Tutenkhamun's death. Even so he married Ankhesenamun and became pharaoh. This marriage further confirms the suposition that Ay was related to the royal family. This is the last we here of Ankhesenamun. [Aldrid, p. 68.] Ay probably because of his family ties and support from the army was able to suceed Tutankhamun. He reigned for 4 years before his death.

Horemheb

Horemheb as military commander was a key official in the court of Tutankhamun. He was appointed Deputy Pharaowh. With control of the army seized power on the death of Ay. He began a massive camoaign to destroy any evidence of the reigns of Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and Ay--referred to as the Cure of Horemeb. His name was substituted for their names when possible on monuments throughout Egypt. In that regard he would have had the support of the Amun cult priesthood which despised Akhenaten. [Aldred, p.86.]

Sources

Aldred, Cyril. Akhenaten: Pharaoh of Egypt--A New Study (McGraw-Hill: New York, 1968), 272p.

Journal of the American Medical Association (February 2010). This article was based on 2 years of DNA testing and CT scans on 16 mummies.

Williams, Maynard Owen. "At the tomb of Tutankhame," National Geopgraphic Magazine (Februray 1923).







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Created: May 7, 2003
Last updated: 8:38 PM 2/17/2010