suppiluliumas i



Tutankhamun (alternately spelled with Tutenkh-, -amen, -amon), Egyptian twt-ˁnḫ-ı͗mn; *tuwt-ʕankh-yamān (1341 BC – 1323 BC) was an Egyptian Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty (ruled 1333 BC – 1324 BC in the conventional chronology), during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom. His original name, Tutankhaten, means "Living Image of Aten", while Tutankhamun means "Living Image of Amun". Often the name Tutankhamun was written Amen-tut-ankh, meaning "living image of Amun", due to scribal custom which most often placed the divine name at the beginning of the phrase in order to honor the divine being. He is possibly also the Nibhurrereya of the Amarna letters. He was likely the eighteenth dynasty king 'Rathotis', who according to Manetho, an ancient historian, had reigned for nine years - a figure which conforms with Flavius Josephus' version of Manetho's Epitome.

The 1922 discovery by Howard Carter of Tutankhamun's intact tomb received worldwide press coverage and sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun's burial mask remains the popular face.


Tutankhamun was only eight or nine years old when he became pharaoh, and reigned for approximately ten years. In historical terms, Tutankhamun's significance stems from his rejection of the radical religious innovations introduced by his predecessor Akenhaten and that his tomb in the Valley of the Kings was discovered by Carter almost completely intact -- the most complete ancient Egyptian tomb ever found. As Tutankhamun began his reign at such an early age, his vizier and eventual successor Ay was probably making most of the important political decisions during Tutankhamun's reign.

Parentage and lineage

Tutankhamun's parentage is uncertain. An inscription calls him a king's son, but it is not clear which king was meant.

He was originally thought to be a son of Amenhotep III and his Great Royal Wife Queen Tiye. Later research claimed that he may have been a son of Amenhotep III, although not by Queen Tiye, since Tiye would have been more than fifty years old at the time of Tutankhamun's birth.

At present, the most common hypothesis holds that Tutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten, also known as Amenhotep IV, and his minor wife Queen Kiya. Queen Kiya's title was "Greatly Beloved Wife of Akhenaten" so it is possible that she could have borne him an heir. Supporting this theory, images on the tomb wall in the tomb of Akhenaten show a royal fan bearer standing next to Kiya's death bed, fanning someone who is either a princess or more likely, a wet nurse holding a baby, considered to be the wet nurse and the boy, king-to-be.

Professor James Allen argues that Tutankhamun was more likely to be a son of the short-lived king Smenkhkare rather than Akhenaten. Allen argues that Akhenaten consciously chose a female co-regent named Neferneferuaten as his successor, rather than Tutankhamun, which would have been unlikely if the latter had been his son.

Another theory is that Tutankhamun was the son of Smenkhkare and Meritaten (one of the six daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti). Smenkhkare appears when Akhenaten entered year 14 of his reign and it is thought that during this time Meritaten married Smenkhkare. Smenkhkare, as the father of Tutankhamun, needed at least a three year reign to bring Tutankhamun to the right age to have inherited the throne. However, if there had been lengthy co-regency between Amenhotep III and Akhenaten, Amenhotep definitely could be Tutankhamun's father.

Tutankhamun was married to Ankhesenpaaten (possibly his half-sister, since Ankhesenpaaten is unequivocally recorded as another of the six daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti), and after the re-establishment of the traditional Egyptian religion the couple changed the –aten ending of their names to the –amun ending, becoming Ankhesenamun and Tutankhamun. It is assumed they had two children, both girls, whose mummies were discovered in Tutankhamun's tomb - they both died as babies, and medical evidence suggests they may have been stillborn. DNA testing has recently begun on the two fetuses to determine whether they were indeed his children or not.


During Tutankhamun's reign, Akhenaten's Amarna revolution (Atenism) was being reversed. Akhenaten had attempted to supplant the traditional priesthood and deities with a god who was until then considered minor, Aten. In Year 3 of Tutankhamnen's reign (1331), while he was still a boy, probably about 11, and under the influence of two older advisors (Akhenaten's vizier Ay and perhaps Nefertiti), the ban on the old pantheon of deities and their temples was lifted, the traditional privileges were restored to their priesthoods, and the capital was moved back to Thebes. The young pharaoh adopted the name Tutankhamun, changing it from his birth name Tutankhaten. Because of his age at the time responsibility for these decisions can be attributed to his advisors. King Tutankhamun restored all of the traditional deities, and restored order to the chaos created by his uncle Akhenaten. In addition, temples devoted to Amun-Ra were built during this period. Although, Tutankhamun's wooden box depicts him going to war against Hittites and Nubians, and he is shown wearing the blue war crown, it is doubtful that he ever went to war since scrutiny of the period's extensive written evidence does not yield records of him participating in any wars or battles.

Events following Tutankhamun's death

A now-famous letter to the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I from a widowed queen of Egypt, asking for one of his sons as a husband, has been attributed to Ankhesenamun (among others). The royal lineage of Egypt was carried by its women. Marriage to a woman of the royal line was essential for a male pharaoh, even if he came from outside the lineage. Suspicious of this good fortune, Suppiluliumas I first sent a messenger to make inquiries about the truth of the young queen's story. After receiving reports that the situation was as related to Suppiluliuma I, he sent his son, Zannanza, accepting her offer. However, Zannanza got no further than the border before he was killed, according to the Hittite archives. If Ankhesenamun were the queen in question, and his death a strategic murder, it was probably at the orders of either Horemheb or Ay, who both had the opportunity and the motive to kill him.


He is depicted only once as a prince, on a block from Hermopolis, where his is called Tutankwhaten (twt-ˁnḫw-ỉtn), but when his reign started, he was known as Tutankhaten (twt-ˁnḫ-ỉtn), which in Egyptian hieroglyphs is: <-i-t:n:ra-t:w:t-anx->

At the reintroduction of traditional religious practise, his name changed. It is transliterated as twt-ˁnḫ-ỉmn ḥq3-ỉwnw-šmˁ, and often realized as Tutankhamun Hekaiunushema, meaning "Living image of Amun, ruler of Upper Heliopolis". On his ascension to the throne, Tutankhamun took a praenomen. This is translated as nb-ḫprw-rˁ, and realized as Nebkheperure, meaning "Lord of the forms of Re". The name Nibhurrereya in the Amarna letters may be a variation of this praenomen.

Cause of death

The cause of Tutankhamun's death is unclear, and is still the root of much speculation. In early 2005 the results of a set of CT scans on the mummy were released.

The body originally was inspected by Howard Carter's team in the early 1920s, although they were primarily interested in recovering the jewelry and amulets from the body. To remove these objects from the body, which often were stuck fast by the hardened embalming resins used, Carter's team cut up the mummy into various pieces: the arms and legs were detached, the torso cut in half and the head was severed. Hot knives were used to remove it from the golden mask to which it was cemented by resin.

Since 1926, the mummy has been X-rayed three times: first in 1968 by a group from the University of Liverpool led by Dr. R. G. Harrison, then in 1978 by a group from the University of Michigan, and finally in 2005 a team of Egyptian scientists led by Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass, who conducted a CT scan on the mummy.

X-rays of Tutankhamun's mummy, taken in 1968, revealed a dense spot at the lower back of the skull interpreted as a subdural hematoma. Such an injury could have been the result of an accident, but it also had been suggested that the young pharaoh was murdered. A trauma specialist from Long Island University at C. W. Post Campus insisted that this injury could not have been from a natural cause. The specialist stated that the blow was to a protected area at the back of the head which is not easily injured in an accident. . Theories as to who was responsible for the death include Tutankhamun's immediate successor Ay, his wife, and his chariot-driver. Calcification within the supposed injury indicates Tutankhamun lived for a fairly extensive period of time (on the order of several months) after the injury was inflicted.

A small, loose, sliver of bone was discovered within the upper cranial cavity, which was discovered from the same X-ray analysis. In fact, since Tutankhamun's brain was removed post mortem in the mummification process, and considerable quantities of now-hardened resin introduced into the skull on at least two separate occasions after that, had the fragment resulted from a pre-mortem injury, some scholars, including the 2005 CT scan team, say it almost certainly would not still be loose in the cranial cavity. But other scientists suggested, that the loose sliver of bone was loosened by the embalmers during mummification, but it had been broken before. A blow to the back of the head (from a fall or an actual blow), caused the brain to move forward, hitting the front of the skull, breaking small pieces of the bone right above the eyes.

2005 findings

On March 8, 2005, Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass revealed the results of a CT scan performed on the pharaoh's mummy. The scan uncovered no evidence of a blow to the back of the head and no evidence suggesting foul play. There was a hole in the head, but it appeared to have been drilled, presumably by embalmers. A fracture to Tutankhamun's left thighbone was interpreted as evidence that the pharaoh badly broke his leg shortly before he died and his leg became severely infected; however, members of the Egyptian-led research team recognized, as a less likely possibility, that the fracture was caused by the embalmers. Altogether 1,700 images were produced of Tutankhamun's mummy during the 15-minute CT scan.

Much was learned about the young king's life. His age at death was estimated at nineteen years, based on physical developments that set upper and lower limits to his age. The king had been in general good health and there were no signs of any major infectious disease or malnutrition during his childhood. He was slight of build, and was roughly 170 cm (5 ft 7 in) tall. He had large front incisor teeth and the overbite characteristic of the Thutmosid royal line to which he belonged. He also had a pronounced dolichocephalic (elongated) skull, although it was within normal bounds and highly unlikely to have been pathological. Given the fact that many of the royal depictions of Akhenaten (possibly his father, certainly a relative), often featured such an elongated head, it is likely an exaggeration of a family trait, rather than a distinct abnormality.The research also showed that the pharaoh had "a slightly cleft palate". A slight bend to his spine also was found, but the scientists agreed that there was no associated evidence to suggest that it was pathological in nature, and that it was much more likely to have been caused during the embalming process. This ended speculation based on the previous X-rays that Tutankhamun had suffered from scoliosis. (However, it was subsequently noted by Dr. Zahi Hawass that the mummy found in KV55, provisionally identified as Tutankhamun's father, exhibited several similarities to that of Tutankhamun — a cleft palate, a dolichocephalic skull and slight scoliosis (also found on one of her stillborns), the first and third elements being a common defect on people suffering from Klippel-Feil syndrome, which incapacitated him and might have had a role on his accidental death.)

The 2005 conclusion by a team of Egyptian scientists, based on the CT scan findings, is that Tutankhamun died of gangrene after breaking his leg. After consultations with Italian and Swiss experts, the Egyptian scientists found that the fracture in Tutankhamun's left leg most likely occurred only days before his death, which had then become gangrenous and led directly to his death. The fracture in their opinion was not sustained during the mummification process or as a result of some damage to the mummy as claimed by Howard Carter. The Egyptian scientists also have found no evidence that he had been struck on the head and no other indication that he was murdered, as had been speculated previously. Further investigation of the fracture led to the conclusion that it was severe, most likely caused by a fall from some height — possibly a chariot riding accident due to the absence of pelvis injuries — and may have been fatal within hours

Despite the relatively poor condition of the mummy, the Egyptian team found evidence that great care had been given to the body of Tutankhamun during the embalming process. They found five distinct embalming materials, which were applied to the body at various stages of the mummification process. This counters previous assertions that the king’s body had been prepared carelessly and in a hurry. In November 2006, at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Egyptian radiologists stated that CT images and scans of the king's mummy revealed Tutankhamun's height to be 180 centimetres or 5 feet 11 inches tall, a revision upward from the earlier estimates.

Michael R. King continues to dispute these findings, claiming that the king was murdered. He argues that the loose sliver of bone was loosened by the embalmers during mummification, but that it had been broken before. He argues that a blow to the back of the head (from a fall or an actual blow) may have caused the brain to move forward, hitting the front of the skull, breaking small pieces of the bone right above the eyes.

Discovery of KV62

Tutankhamun seems to have faded from public consciousness in Ancient Egypt within a short time after his death, and he remained virtually unknown until the early twentieth century. His tomb was robbed at least twice in antiquity, but based on the items taken (including perishable oils and perfumes) and the evidence of restoration of the tomb after the intrusions, it seems clear that these robberies took place within several months at most of the initial burial. Eventually the location of the tomb was lost because it had come to be buried by stone chips from subsequent tombs, either dumped there or washed there by floods. In the years that followed, some huts for workers were built over the tomb entrance, clearly not knowing what lay beneath. When at the end of the twentieth dynasty the Valley of the Kings burials were systematically dismantled, the burial of Tutankhamun was overlooked, presumably because knowledge of it had been lost and his name may have been forgotten.

For many years, rumors of a "Curse of the Pharaohs" (probably fueled by newspapers seeking sales at the time of the discovery) persisted, emphasizing the early death of some of those who had first entered the tomb. However, a recent study of journals and death records indicates no statistical difference between the age of death of those who entered the tomb and those on the expedition who did not. Indeed, most lived past seventy.

Ancient Egyptian senet games similar to the one displayed at the right, were found in the tomb.

Some of the treasures in Tutankhamun's tomb are noted for their apparent departure from traditional depictions of the boy king. Certain cartouches where a king's name should appear have been altered, as if to reuse the property of a previous pharaoh—as often occurred. However, this instance may simply be the product of "updating" the artifacts to reflect the shift from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamun. Other differences are less easy to explain, such as the older, more angular facial features of the middle coffin and canopic coffinettes. The most widely accepted theory for these latter variations is that the items were originally intended for Smenkhkare, who may or may not be the mysterious KV55 mummy. Said mummy, according to craniological examinations, bears a striking first-order (father-to-son, brother-to-brother) relationship to Tutankhamun.

2007 discoveries in Tutankhamun's tomb

On September 24, 2007, it was announced that a team of Egyptian archaeologists led by Zahi Hawass, discovered eight baskets of 3,000 year old doum fruit in the treasury of Tutankhamun's tomb. Doum comes from a type of palm tree native to the Nile Valley. The doum fruit are traditionally offered at funerals.

Fifty clay pots bearing Tutankhamun's official seal were also discovered. According to Dr Hawas, the containers probably contained money that were destined to travel with the pharaoh to the afterlife. He said the containers will soon be opened. The objects were originally discovered, but not opened or removed from the tomb, by Howard Carter.

King Tutankhamun still rests in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings, in a temperature-controlled glass case. On November 4, 2007, 85 years to the day since Howard Carter's discovery, the actual face of the 19-year-old pharaoh was put on view in his underground tomb at Luxor, when the linen-wrapped mummy was removed from its golden sarcophagus for display in a climate-controlled glass box. This was done to prevent the heightened rate of decomposition caused by the humidity and warmth from tourists visiting the tomb.

Tutankhamun's appearance and controversy

In 2005, three teams of scientists (Egyptian, French, and American), in partnership with the National Geographic Society, developed a new facial likeness of Tutankhamun. The Egyptian team worked from 1,700 three-dimensional CT scans of the pharaoh's skull. The French and American teams worked plastic moulds created from these—but the Americans were never told who the subject of the reconstruction was. All three teams created silicone busts of their interpretation of what the young monarch looked like.

Skin tone

Although modern technology can reconstruct Tutankhamun's facial structure with a high degree of accuracy based on CT data from his mummy, correctly determining his skin tone is impossible. The problem is not a lack of skill on the part of Ancient Egyptians. Egyptian artisans distinguished quite accurately among different ethnicities, as can be seen clearly in the image, above at "Reign", where the enemies being vanquished are displayed under the rampant lioness with Tutankhamun's head. Sometimes they depicted their subjects in totally unreal colors, the purpose of which is not completely understood. The colours may have had ritual significance. There is no consensus on Tutankhamun's skin tone.

Terry Garcia, National Geographic's executive vice president for mission programs, said, in response to some protesters of the Tutankhamun reconstruction:

The big variable is skin tone. North Africans, we know today, had a range of skin tones, from light to dark. In this case, we selected a medium skin tone, and we say, quite up front, 'This is midrange.' We will never know for sure what his exact skin tone was or the colour of his eyes with 100% certainty.  ... Maybe in the future, people will come to a different conclusion.


The splendors of Tutankhamun's tomb are among the most traveled artifacts in the world. They have been to many countries, but probably the best-known exhibition tour was the Treasures of Tutankhamun tour, which ran from 1972-1979. This exhibition was first shown in London at the British Museum from 30 March until 30 September 1972. More than 1.6 million visitors came to see the exhibition, some queueing for up to eight hours and it was the most popular exhibition ever in the Museum. The exhibition moved on to many other countries, including the USA, USSR, Japan, France, Canada, and West Germany. The exhibition in the United States was organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and ran from 17 November 1976 through 15 April 1979. It was attended by more than eight million people in the United States.

An excerpt from the site of the American National Gallery of Art:

"...55 objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun included the boy-king's solid gold funeral mask, a gilded wood figure of the goddess Selket, lamps, jars, jewelry, furniture, and other objects for the afterlife. This exhibition established the term 'blockbuster.' A combination of the age-old fascination with ancient Egypt, the legendary allure of gold and precious stones, and the funeral trappings of the boy-king created an immense popular response. Visitors waited up to 8 hours before the building opened to view the exhibition. At times the line completely encircled the West Building.

In 2004, the tour of Tutenkhamen funerary objects entitled "Tutenkhamen: The Golden Hereafter" made up of fifty artifacts from Tutenkhamun’s tomb and seventy funerary goods from other XV111 Dynasty tombs began in Basle, Switzerland, went to Bonn Germany, the second leg of the tour, and from there toured the United States . The exhibition returned to Europe and to London. The European tour was organised by the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), and the Egyptian Museum in cooperation with the Antikenmuseum Basel and Sammlung Ludwig. Deutsche Telekom sponsored the Bonn exhibition.

In 2005, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, in partnership with Arts and Exhibitions International and the National Geographic Society, launched the U.S. tour of the Tutenkahamun treasures and other XVIII th 18th Century funerary objects this time called "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs." It was expected to draw more than three million people.

The exhibition started in Los Angeles, California, then moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Chicago and Philadelphia. The exhibition is currently in London before finally returning to Egypt in August 2008. Subsequent events have propelled an encore of the exhibition in the United States, beginning with the Dallas Museum of Art in October 2008. The tour will continue on to two other U.S. cities which have yet to be named.

The exhibition includes 80 exhibits from the reigns of Tutankhamun's immediate predecessors in the eighteenth dynasty, such as Hatshepsut, whose trade policies greatly increased the wealth of that dynasty and enabled the lavish wealth of Tutankhamun's burial artifacts, as well as 50 from Tutankhamun's tomb. The exhibition does not include the gold mask that was a feature of the 1972-1979 tour.

A separate exhibition called "Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs" is at the Ethnological Museum in Vienna from March 9 to September 28, 2008 showing a further 140 treasures from the tomb.

Tutankhamun in popular culture

If Tutankhamun is the world's best known pharaoh, it is partly because his tomb is among the best preserved, and his image and associated artifacts the most-exhibited. He also has entered popular culture—he has, for example, been commemorated in the whimsical 1978 song "King Tut" by the American comedian Steve Martin with a backup group he called "The Toot Uncommons". He was also the namesake of one of Batman's arch enemies played by Victor Buono in the 1960s American television series "Batman" with Adam West.

In 1939, slapstick comedy trio the Three Stooges filmed We Want Our Mummy, in which they explored the tomb of the midget King Rutentuten (pronounced "rootin'-tootin'") and his Queen, Hotsy Totsy. A decade later, they were crooked used chariot salesmen in Mummy's Dummies, in which they ultimately assist a different King Rootentootin (Vernon Dent) with a toothache.

As a side effect, the interest in this tomb and its alleged "curse" led to horror movies featuring a vengeful mummy. As Jon Manchip White writes, in his forward to the 1977 edition of Carter's The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, "The pharaoh who in life was one of the least esteemed of Egypt's kings has become in death the most renowned."

In fiction

King Tut, as played by Victor Buono, was a villain on the Batman TV series aired in 1966-1968. Mild-mannered Egyptologist William Omaha McElroy, after suffering a concussion, came to believe he was the reincarnation of Tutankhamun. His response to this knowledge was to embark upon a crime spree that required him to fight against the "Caped Crusaders", Batman and Robin.

The Discovery Kids animated series Tutenstein stars a fictional mummy based on Tutankhamun, named Tutankhensetamun and nicknamed Tutenstein in his afterlife. He is depicted as a lazy and spoiled 10-year-old mummy boy who must guard a magical artifact called the Scepter of Was from the evil Egyptian god of Set.

The video game Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy stars the cursed mummy, who is a fictional representation of Prince Tutankhamen. Tutankhamen is the victim of an unnamed magical ritual which results in the almost instantaneous mummification and extraction of what appears to be his 'life force'. The Mummy is described as young, inexperienced and naive within the self-proclaimed 'Instruction Manual.'

Gallery depicting kin of Tutankhamun


Further reading

  • Howard Carter, Arthur C. Mace, The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Courier Dover Publications, June 1, 1977, ISBN 0-486-23500-9 The semi-popular account of the discover and opening of the tomb written by the archaeologist responsible
  • C. Nicholas Reeves, The Complete Tutankhamun: The King, the Tomb, the Royal Treasure. London: Thames & Hudson, November 1, 1990, ISBN 0-500-05058-9 (hardcover)/ISBN 0-500-27810-5 (paperback) Fully covers the complete contents of his tomb
  • T. G. H. James, Tutankhamun. New York: Friedman/Fairfax, September 1, 2000, ISBN 1-58663-032-6 (hardcover) A large-format volume by the former Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum, filled with colour illustrations of the funerary furnishings of Tutankhamun, and related objects
  • Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, Sarwat Okasha (Preface), Tutankhamun: Life and Death of a Pharaoh. New York: New York Graphic Society, 1963, ISBN 0-8212-0151-4 (1976 reprint, hardcover) /ISBN 0-14-011665-6 (1990 reprint, paperback)
  • Thomas Hoving, The search for Tutankhamun: The untold story of adventure and intrigue surrounding the greatest modern archeological find. New York: Simon & Schuster, October 15, 1978, ISBN 0-671-24305-5 (hardcover)/ISBN 0-8154-1186-3 (paperback) This book details a number of interesting anecdotes about the discovery and excavation of the tomb
  • Bob Brier, The Murder of Tutankhamun: A True Story. Putnam Adult, April 13, 1998, ISBN 0-425-16689-9 (paperback)/ISBN 0-399-14383-1 (hardcover)/ISBN 0-613-28967-6 (School & Library Binding)
  • Iorwerth Eiddon Stephen Edwards, Treasures of Tutankhamun. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976, ISBN 0-345-27349-4 (paperback)/ISBN 0-670-72723-7 (hardcover)
  • Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, The Mummy of Tutankhamun: the CT Scan Report, as printed in Ancient Egypt, June/July 2005.
  • Michael Haag, "The Rough Guide to Tutankhamun: The King: The Treasure: The Dynasty". London 2005. ISBN 1-84353-554-8.
  • John Andritsos, Social Studies of ancient Egypt: Tutankhamun. Australia 2006
  • Renzo Rossi, Tutankhamun. Cincinnati (Ohio) 2007 ISBN 978-0-7153-2763-0, a work all illustrated and coloured.

External links

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