TUT King, Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty (ruled c. 1332–1323 BC in the conventional chronology), during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom or sometimes the New Empire Period. He has, since the discovery of his intact tomb, been referred to colloquially as King Tut. His original name, Tutankhaten, means “Living Image of Aten”, while Tutankhamun means “Living Image of Amun”. In hieroglyphs, the name Tutankhamun was typically written Amen-tut-ankh, because of a scribal custom that placed a divine name at the beginning of a phrase to show appropriate reverence. He is possibly also the Nibhurrereya of the Amarna letters, and likely the 18th dynasty king Rathotis who, according to Manetho, an ancient historian, had reigned for nine years—a figure that conforms with Flavius Josephus’s version of Manetho’s Epitome.
The 1922 discovery by Howard Carter of Tutankhamun’s nearly intact tomb, funded by Lord Carnarvon, received worldwide press coverage. It sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun’s mask, now in the Egyptian Museum, remains the popular symbol. Exhibits of artifacts from his tomb have toured the world. In February 2010, the results of DNA tests confirmed that he was the son of the mummy found in the tomb KV55, believed by some to be Akhenaten. His mother was his father’s sister and wife, whose name is unknown but whose remains are positively identified as “The Younger Lady” mummy found in KV35. The “mysterious” deaths of a few of those who excavated Tutankhamun’s tomb has been popularly attributed to the curse of the pharaohs.
Tutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV) and one of Akhenaten’s sisters, or possibly one of his cousins. As a prince, he was known as Tutankhaten. He ascended to the throne in 1333 BC, at the age of nine or ten, taking the throne name Nebkheperure. His wet nurse was a woman called Maia, known from her tomb at Saqqara. His teacher was most likely Sennedjem.
When he became king, he married his half-sister, Ankhesenpaaten, who later changed her name to Ankhesenamun. They had two daughters, both stillborn. Computed tomography studies released in 2011 revealed that one daughter was born prematurely at 5–6 months of pregnancy and the other at full-term, 9 months. No evidence was found in either mummy of congenital anomalies or an apparent cause of death.
Given his age, the king probably had very powerful advisers, presumably including General Horemheb (Grand Vizier Ay’s possible son in law and successor) and Grand Vizier Ay (who succeeded Tutankhamun). Horemheb records that the king appointed him “lord of the land” as hereditary prince to maintain law. He also noted his ability to calm the young king when his temper flared.
In his third regnal year, under the influence of his advisors, Tutankhamun reversed several changes made during his father’s reign. He ended the worship of the god Aten and restored the god Amun to supremacy. The ban on the cult of Amun was lifted and traditional privileges were restored to its priesthood. The capital was moved back to Thebes and the city of Akhetatenabandoned. This is when he changed his name to Tutankhamun, “Living image of Amun”, reinforcing the restoration of Amun.
As part of his restoration, the king initiated building projects, in particular at Karnak in Thebes, where he dedicated a temple to Amun. Many monuments were erected, and an inscription on his tomb door declares the king had “spent his life in fashioning the images of the gods”. The traditional festivals were now celebrated again, including those related to the Apis Bull, Horemakhet, and Opet. His restoration stela says:
The country was economically weak and in turmoil following the reign of Akhenaten. Diplomatic relations with other kingdoms had been neglected, and Tutankhamun sought to restore them, in particular with the Mitanni. Evidence of his success is suggested by the gifts from various countries found in his tomb. Despite his efforts for improved relations, battles with Nubians and Asiatics were recorded in his mortuary temple at Thebes. His tomb contained body armor and folding stools appropriate for military campaigns. However, given his youth and physical disabilities, which seemed to require the use of a cane in order to walk (he died c. age 18), historians speculate that he did not personally take part in these battles.
Health and appearance
Tutankhamun was slight of build, and was roughly 180 cm (5 ft 11 in) tall. He had large front incisors and an overbite characteristic of the Thutmosid royal line to which he belonged. Between September 2007 and October 2009, various mummies were subjected to detailed anthropological, radiological, and genetic studies as part of the King Tutankhamun Family Project. The research showed that Tutankhamun also had “a slightly cleft palate” and possibly a mild case of scoliosis, a medical condition in which the spine deviates to the side from the normal position. X-rays clearly show that the king suffered from Klippel–Feil syndrome, the congenital fusion of any two of the cervical vertebrae. All seven vertebrae in his neck were completely fused together, so he was unable to move his head. Examination of Tutankhamun’s body has also revealed deformations in his left foot, caused by necrosis of bone tissue. The affliction may have forced Tutankhamun to walk with the use of a cane, many of which were found in his tomb. In DNA tests of Tutankhamun’s mummy, scientists found DNA from the mosquito-borne parasites that cause malaria. This is currently the oldest known genetic proof of the disease. More than one strain of the malaria parasite was found, indicating that Tutankhamun contracted multiple malarial infections. According to National Geographic, “The malaria would have weakened Tutankhamun’s immune system and interfered with the healing of his foot. These factors, combined with the fracture in his left thighbone, which scientists had discovered in 2005, may have ultimately been what killed the young king.”
In 2008, a team began DNA research on Tutankhamun and the mummified remains of other members of his family. The results indicated that his father was Akhenaten, and that his mother was not one of Akhenaten’s known wives but one of his father’s five sisters. The techniques used in the study, however, have been questioned. The team reported it was over 99.99 percent certain that Amenhotep III was the father of the individual in KV55, who was in turn the father of Tutankhamun. The young king’s mother was found through the DNA testing of a mummy designated as ‘The Younger Lady’ (KV35YL), which was found lying beside Queen Tiye in the alcove of KV35. Her DNA proved that, like his father, she was a child of Amenhotep III and Tiye; thus, Tutankhamun’s parents were brother and sister. Queen Tiye held much political influence at court and acted as an adviser to her son after the death of her husband. Some geneticists dispute these findings, however, and “complain that the team used inappropriate analysis techniques.”
While the data are still incomplete, the study suggests that one of the mummified fetuses found in Tutankhamun’s tomb is the daughter of Tutankhamun himself, and the other fetus is probably his child as well. So far, only partial data for the two female mummies from KV21 has been obtained. One of them, KV21A, may well be the infants’ mother, and, thus, Tutankhamun’s wife, Ankhesenamun. It is known from history that she was the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, and thus likely to be her husband’s half-sister. One consequence of inbreeding can be children whose genetic defects do not allow them to be brought to term.
There are no surviving records of Tutankhamun’s final days. What caused Tutankhamun’s death has been the subject of considerable debate. Major studies have been conducted in an effort to establish the cause of death. There is some evidence, advanced by Harvard microbiologist Ralph Mitchell, that his burial may have been hurried. Mitchell reported that dark brown splotches on the decorated walls of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber suggested that he had been entombed even before the paint had a chance to dry.
Although there is some speculation that Tutankhamun was assassinated, the consensus is that his death was accidental. A CT scan taken in 2005 showed that he had suffered a compound left leg fracture shortly before his death, and that the leg had become infected. DNA analysis conducted in 2010 showed the presence of malaria in his system, leading to the belief that malaria and Köhler disease II combined led to his death.
In June 2010, German scientists said they believed there was evidence that he had died of sickle cell disease. Other experts, however, rejected the hypothesis of homozygous sickle cell disease based on survival beyond the age of 5 and the location of the osteonecrosis, which is characteristic of Freiberg-Kohler syndrome rather than sickle-cell disease. Research conducted in 2005 by archaeologists, radiologists, and geneticists, who performed CT scans on the mummy, found that he was not killed by a blow to the head, as previously thought. New CT images discovered congenital flaws, which are more common among the children of incest. Siblings are more likely to pass on twin copies of deleterious alleles, which is why children of incest more commonly manifest genetic defects. It is suspected he also had a partially cleft palate, another congenital defect.
Various other diseases, invoked as possible explanations to his early demise, included Marfan syndrome, Wilson-Turner X-linked mental retardation syndrome, Fröhlich syndrome (adiposogenital dystrophy), Klinefelter syndrome, androgen insensitivity syndrome, aromatase excess syndrome in conjunction with sagittal craniosynostosis syndrome, Antley–Bixler syndrome or one of its variants, and temporal lobe epilepsy.
A research team, consisting of Egyptian scientists Yehia Gad and Somaia Ismail from the National Research Centre in Cairo, conducted further CT scans under the direction of Ashraf Selim and Sahar Saleem of the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University. Three international experts served as consultants: Carsten Pusch of the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Germany; Albert Zink of the EURAC-Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy; and Paul Gostner of the Central Hospital Bolzano. STR analysis based DNA fingerprinting analysis combined with the other techniques have rejected the hypothesis of gynecomastia and craniosynostoses (e.g., Antley-Bixler syndrome) or Marfan syndrome, but an accumulation of malformations in Tutankhamun’s family was evident. Several pathologies including Köhler disease II were diagnosed in Tutankhamun; none alone would have caused death. Genetic testing for STEVOR, AMA1, or MSP1 genes specific for Plasmodium falciparum revealed indications of malaria tropica in 4 mummies, including Tutankhamun’s. However, their exact contribution to the causality of his death still is highly debated.
As stated above, the team discovered DNA from several strains of a parasite proving he was infected with the most severe strain of malaria several times in his short life. Malaria can trigger circulatory shock or cause a fatal immune response in the body, either of which can lead to death. If Tutankhamun did suffer from a bone disease which was crippling, it may not have been fatal. “Perhaps he struggled against other [congenital flaws] until a severe bout of malaria or a leg broken in an accident added one strain too many to a body that could no longer carry the load”, wrote Zahi Hawass, archeologist and head of Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquity involved in the research.
A review of the medical findings to date found that he suffered from mild kyphoscoliosis, pes planus (flat feet), hypophalangism of the right foot, bone necrosis of second and third metatarsal bones of the left foot, malaria, and a complex fracture of the right knee shortly before death.
In late 2013, Egyptologist Dr. Chris Naunton and scientists from the Cranfield Institute performed a “virtual autopsy” of Tutankhamun, revealing a pattern of injuries down one side of his body. Car-crash investigators then created computer simulations of chariot accidents. Naunton concluded that Tutankhamun was killed in a chariot crash: a chariot smashed into him while he was on his knees, shattering his ribs and pelvis. Naunton also referenced Howard Carter’s records of the body having been burnt. Working with anthropologist Dr. Robert Connolly and forensic archaeologist Dr. Matthew Ponting, Naunton produced evidence that Tutankhamun’s body was burnt while sealed inside his coffin. Embalming oils combined with oxygen and linen had caused a chemical reaction, creating temperatures of more than 200 °C. Naunton said, “The charring and possibility that a botched mummification led to the body spontaneously combusting shortly after burial was entirely unexpected.
A further investigation, in 2014, revealed that it was unlikely he had been killed in a chariot accident. Scans found that all but one of his bone fractures, including those to his skull, had been inflicted after his death. The scans also showed that he had a partially clubbed foot and would have been unable to stand unaided, thus making it unlikely he ever rode in a chariot; this was supported by the presence of many walking sticks among the contents of his tomb. Instead, it is believed that genetic defects arising from his parents being siblings, complications from a broken leg and his suffering from malaria, together caused his death.
As of March 2018, there has been a newly considered theory that some of the tomb images of Tutankhamun leading an army to war, depict truth, and that he died in battle in Syria.