Pharaoh Tutankhamun, colloquially known as King Tut, is arguably the most famous pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. Although his reign was relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of Egyptian history, the discovery of his nearly intact tomb in the 20th century catapulted him to worldwide fame, offering unparalleled insights into the wealth and rituals of ancient Egyptian royalty.
Early Life and Ascension to Power
Tutankhamun was born around 1342 BCE, during a period of significant religious upheaval instigated by his probable father, Akhenaten. Upon Akhenaten’s death and a brief interregnum by the mysterious Smenkhkare, Tutankhamun ascended to the throne around the age of nine.
Reign and Religious Restoration
Tutankhamun’s reign, which lasted from 1332-1323 BCE, was primarily marked by a return to traditional religious practices. He moved the capital from Akhenaten’s city of Amarna back to Thebes, reopened the temples, and restored the worship of the old gods. His reign, while short, marked the end of the religious turmoil of the Amarna Period.
The Death of Tutankhamun
Tutankhamun’s sudden death at around 19 years old remains a subject of speculation. Over the years, theories have ranged from murder to various diseases. Recent studies suggest that he may have died from complications related to malaria and a broken leg. His premature death led to a hastily prepared burial in a tomb smaller than usual for a pharaoh, which might have contributed to its remaining hidden and largely intact over millennia.
Discovery of the Tomb
Tutankhamun’s claim to fame is less about his reign and more about the discovery of his tomb by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. The tomb, located in the Valley of the Kings, was filled with over 5,000 artifacts, including the pharaoh’s iconic golden burial mask. This discovery sparked a global interest in ancient Egypt, known as “Tut-mania.”
The Curse of the Pharaoh
Following the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb, several people associated with the discovery died under arguably mysterious circumstances, leading to speculation about the “curse of the pharaohs.” While most Egyptologists regard the curse as a myth, it has nonetheless contributed to the enduring fascination with Tutankhamun.
While Tutankhamun was a minor pharaoh in life, he has become a symbol of ancient Egypt in death. The discovery of his tomb and its splendid treasures offer a vivid glimpse into the wealth, burial practices, and craftsmanship of the period. Exhibitions of his tomb’s artifacts continue to attract millions of visitors worldwide, ensuring that the boy king of Egypt will not be forgotten.
Wikipedia: Ancient Egypt
History Channel: Ancient Egypt
Live Science: Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt for Kids
British Museum: Ancient Egypt