Describe about the Significant Historical Egyptian Pharaohs.
Tutankhamun (originally Tutankhaten, meaning “the living image of Aten”) was arguably the most famous of the Egyptian pharaohs. Discovery of his intact tomb revealed significant historical information and at the same time left several mysteries untold. Tutankhamun (a.k.a. King Tut) son of Akhenaten (a.k.a. Amenhotep IV) was the 12th King of the 18th Egyptian dynasty whose reign was approximately between 1332 to 1323 BCE. It was not the reign that enthralled the historians but the mysteries surrounding his time and his life. This report aims to look into the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, his reign and finally the mystery surrounding his death.
Discovery of the tomb
British Archaeologist Howard Carter started excavating the Egyptian soils in the year 1891. Finally, in November 1922 along with his fellow archaeologist George Herbert he discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun (Hawass, 2013). Surprisingly a tomb that was hidden away for more than 3200 years was found almost intact. Beside the many findings inside the various chambers of the tomb, the most fascinating finding was indeed the royal mummy of King Tut enclosed in the stone sarcophagus containing three coffins, the innermost one being made of gold which held the mummy of the late Pharaoh (Carter & Mace, 2010). Over the next many years after this discovery, the tomb was examined for various other findings that could reveal an image of the contemporary times in Egypt. It seems that the early death of King Tut made it inevitable for the Egyptians for a hasty burial in a smaller tomb and sealed it off without any further documentation of his deeds during his reign. This was a major the reason why he was virtually unknown to the historians till 1920s.Controversies regarding the young Pharaohs death still exist while Historians argue upon different opinions and beliefs.
The boy king of Egypt was the son of a powerful ruler Ahkenaten but the identity of his mother is still unknown because the early Egyptians had a practice of marrying their own siblings and thus DNA verifications could not successfully predict the precise lineage. Akhenaten forbidden polytheism and promoted the worship of one god i.e. Aten (Sun disk) (Silverman, Wegner & Wegner, 2006). He used to elevate Aten above other gods. By the ruling principle of Akhenaten, it does seem that he intended to reduce the authority of priests and shift the economic scenario from temple based economy to a new regime run by military commanders. As Akhenaten believed and worshipped one god only, the population was also forced to worship Aten (sun disk) only that threw the society in utter chaos. After reigning for 17 years, Akhenaten was probably forced to abdicate the throne and he died soon after. Immediately after the demise of Akhenaten, his 9-year-old son Tutankhamun took power of the Egyptian dynasty and at the very same year he married Ankhesenamun, child of Akhenaten and Nefertiti(Burton & Allen, 2006). It is believed that the couple had two children who were stillborn.
Reign of Tutankhamun
With the demise of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV, Tutankhaten assumed the throne at a very young age of eight or nine. It is believed that early in his reign king Tut had decided to turn towards the old Egyptian religious rituals and practices, which were suppressed and abandoned by his father. It was at this time that he rechristened himself as Tutankhamun and his wife became Ankhsenamun and the court left Amarna while the king and his queen sought their residence at Thebes and Memphis (Hankey, 2007). This shift towards Polytheism from Monotheism happens to be one of the most noteworthy changes in King Tuts short-lived reign. The backdrop of this restoration can be well explained by the belief that was prevailing amongst the Egyptians at that time. It was believed that the Gods had stopped listening to the prayers of the people as the cult of the Gods had been abolished and their temples were abandoned. Tutankhamun claimed to have restored balance and to have brought in the ideal of ma’at, or Universal Harmony. Though situations relating to religious aspects of Egypt were restored, problems persisted in Egypt within the army and their efficiency was to be questioned. This was a result of Akhenaten’s negligence towards training and equipping his military forces. It was then, when Egypt lost a few of its states as the army led by Commander Horemheb failed repeatedly against the mighty Hitties who were gaining power. It is evident that Tutankhamun at his young age had to take up the daunting task of reviving an entire empire, which was devastated by his father. To our best of knowledge it is believed that he did his best in order to put Egypt back into its path of glory.
Illness and Death
Historians and Scientists postulate that Tutankhamun died of illness because of the fact that the genetic analysis of DNA obtained from his body, revealed that he suffered from genetic deficiencies and that his parents were siblings. On the contrary, professor Albert Zink (Head, Institute for Mummies and Iceman, Italy) states that he is fairly sure that the young pharaoh was not assassinated or did not die as a result of a chariot accident which is assumed by most of the scientists and historians (Harer, 2007). A virtual autopsy of his body was carried out that included 2000 scans. However, the results of the autopsy showed that the young pharaoh had partially clubbed foot and as a result, his ability to ride a chariot was impossible. Autopsy results confirm that King Tut’s death was most likely because of his weakened state due to genetic impairments inherited from his parents (Doherty, 2013). On the other hand, King Tut also suffered from malaria which may be a cause of his death. So until further research it is impossible to conclude about the exact cause of his death.
The reign of Tutankhamun does not hold much importance in the history of ancient Egypt and its revival from its miserable and chaotic state in the post Amenhotep IV era, due to the short span in which king Tut had occupied the throne. However, the discovery of his tomb in an intact state has helped answer many questions that surrounds the contemporary period of Tutankhamun’s reign. From 1922 until date, scientists and historians are constantly examining Tutankhamun’s tomb to get a clear picture of the era.
Burton, H., & Allen, J. P. (2006). Tutankhamun's tomb: the thrill of discovery. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Carter, H., & Mace, A. C. (2010). The tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amen: discovered by the late Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter (Vol. 2). Cambridge University Press.
Doherty, P. (2013). The mysterious death of Tutankhamun. Hachette UK.
Hankey, J. (2007). A Passion for Egypt: Arthur Weigall, Tutankhamun and the'Curse of the Pharaohs'. TaurisParke Paperbacks.
Harer, W. B. (2007). Chariots, horses or hippos: what killed Tutankhamun.
Hawass, Z. (2013). Discovering Tutankhamun.American University Press in Cairo.
Silverman, D. P., Wegner, J. W., & Wegner, J. H. (2006). Akhenaten and Tutankhamun: revolution and restoration. UPenn Museum of Archaeology.