Amenhotep IV

Amenhotep IV (throne name Nefer-kheperue-re) becomes Akhenaten, the famous “heretic” pharaoh.

Akhenaten (1352-1336 BC) was son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy. During his reign both the art and religion in Egypt were marked by rapid change. When he initially succeeded the throne he was known as Amenhotep IV, but changed his name to Akhenaten in his fifth regnal year, and began to build a new capital called Akhetaten (“horizon of the sun”), in Middle Egypt. This phase, encompassing Akhenaten’s and Smenkhkara’s reign and the beginning of Tutankhamun’s, is now referred to as the Armarna Period, and the site of the city of Akhetaten is now known as el-Amarna.

Images of Akhenaten
Late-Amarna style sculpture of Akhenaten, probably from the workshop of Thutmose Akenaten and his family, shown adoring the Aten sun-disc. Bust of Akhenaten, Cairo Museum

Continue reading Amenhotep IV


TUTANKHAMUN’S LIFETutankhamun lived over 3,300 years ago during the period known as the New Kingdom. Tut's MaskFor 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.” Akhenaten

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.


The name “Tutankhamun” is derived from the hieroglyphs which translate as Tut-ankh-amun meaning the “Living Image of Amun.” Today, many people refer to him as Tut.Tutakhamun's Gold Mask

When Tut was born, he was given the name Tutankhaten meaning the “Living Image of the Aten” – the Aten was the single god worshipped during the rule Akhenaten, the heretic king who is believed to have been the father of Tutankhamun.

Not long after Tutankhaten became Pharaoh, there was a restoration of the previously-deposed state god Amun and Tut’s name was changed to Tutankhamun.

These days, Tut’s name is found with differing spellings, including Tutankhamun, Tutankhamen and Tutankhamon. In reality, we cannot be sure how the ancient Egyptians pronounced the name as they did not write vowels. (Some hieroglyphs are transliterated as vowels, since they are weak consonants). Egyptologists add vowels to assist in communicating information.


Tutankhamun (throne name Neb-kheperu-re) the famous “boy king”.

Life-size wooden head of Tutankhamun rising from a lotus flower.Tutankhamun was a ruler of the 18th Dynasty (1336-1327 BC). Ironically until Howard Carter’s discovery of his tomb in 1922, Tutankhamun was one of the most poorly known of the pharaohs, he had a short reign, and his tomb is unlike most other royal tombs – consisting of only four small rooms rather than the long corridor style that was typical that period. After several years of fruitless digging in the Valley of the Kings, Carter’s team had finally discovered a rock-cut step below the entrance to the tomb of Ramesses VI. This was the first of a flight of steps that led down to a walled up entrance to a tomb, plastered over and stamped with large oval seals, five of which were inscribed with Tutankhamun’s throne name, Neb-khepru-re. Continue reading Tutankhamun