TUTANKHAMUN’S LIFETutankhamun lived over 3,300 years ago during the period known as the New Kingdom. For two centuries, Egypt had ruled as a world superpower, while its Royal family lived the opulent lifestyle. The powerful priesthood of the god Amun had controlled vast temples and estates.
All that changed during the reign of Amenhotep IV when he renounced the multitude of gods worshipped by the Egyptians and abolished the priesthood of Amun. Amenhotep established a new order to worship the sun god Aten and changed his own name to Akhenaten, meaning “servant of the Aten.”
A new capital was established well to the north of Thebes (modern Luxor) – the home of the main temples of Amun. His new city was named Akhetaten, meaning “Horizon of the Aten.”
It was here that Akhenaten (left) ruled with his chief wife, Nefertiti, who bore him six daughters, but no son to carry on as Pharaoh. It is now believed that Akhenaten and a lesser wife named Kiya were the parents of Tutankhaten, as Tutankhamun was known at first.
He would have spent most of his early years in the palaces of Akhetaten, being tutored in many skills, including reading and writing.
Much is uncertain about this period and, in time, both Nefertiti’s and Kiya’s names ceased to appear in written records. A shadowy figure emerged by the name of Smenkhkare – he may have been a brother of the king and briefly ruled alongside him.
In any case, soon after the deaths of Akhenaten and Smenkhkare, Tutankhaten became a Boy King at the age of about nine. He married a slightly older Ankhesenpaaten (below right), one of the daughters of Akhenaten and Nefertiti.
Soon their names were changed to Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun to reflect the return to favour of the Amun hierarchy and the ousting of the Aten power base. The temples of Amun were restored.
At such a young age, Tutankhamun would not have been responsible for the real decision making. This would have been handled by two high officials called Ay (possibly the father of Nefertiti) and Horemheb, commander-in-chief of the army.
Sometime around the ninth year of Tutankhamun’s reign, possibly 1325 BC, he died and Ay is depicted in tomb paintings as overseeing Tutankhamun’s burial arrangements which lasted 70 days.
Meanwhile, Ankhesenamun was left in a dilemma – there was no heir to the throne. (Two stillborn female foetuses were found in the tomb). It is possible that she was the Queen who wrote in desperation to Suppiluliumas I, king of the Hittites, asking him to send one of his sons to marry her and become Pharaoh. Being an enemy of Egypt, the Hittite king suspected a trick and sent an envoy to check. The widow’s situation was confirmed and he then sent a son who was murdered at the border – probably by agents sent by general Horemheb. (It is also possible that the correspondence to the Hittites may have been written some years earlier by Nefertiti after the death of her husband, Akhenaten.)
The ageing Ay became Pharaoh and took Ankhesenamun as his queen to legitimise his rule. What happened to her after that is not known. Ay ruled for only four years and after his death Horemheb grabbed power. He soon obliterated evidence of the reigns of Akhenaten, Tutankhamun and Ay and substituted his own name on many monuments.
X-rays taken in 1968 seemed to indicate the possibility of an injury to the skull that had time to partly heal. This was thought by some to be evidence of a blow to the skull – perhaps murder. Others thought it may have been the result of a fall from his horse-drawn chariot.
In January 2005, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities arranged for a van equipped with a portable CAT-scanner (the latter donated by Siemans Ltd and the National Geographic Society) to be driven to the Valley of the Kings as part of its Egyptian Mummy Project. Tutankhamun’s mummy was removed briefly from his tomb and caried to the van outside for the CAT scans. These detailed scans showed no evidence of a blow to the skull. They did provide a wealth of data about Tutankhamun, including that he had an impacted wisdom tooth. From the scans, it was estimated that he was about 168cm (5 foot 6 inches) tall, of slight build but well fed, and about 19 years old when he died.
The scans also showed that the Pharaoh had a fracture of the left femur with broken skin and bone. The left knee cap was also detacted. His injuries could have occurred as much as a few days before his death and, if infection had set in, it may have been fatal. Perhaps he was thrown from a chariot or injured in battle, but we will probably never know.