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The History Behind King Tutankhamen's Tomb

Updated on March 21, 2022
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

Howard Carter examing King Tut
Howard Carter examing King Tut | Source

The Egyptian Boy King is one of many names King Tutankhamen is known. The title refers to the young age at which he became King of Egypt. He was only nine years old when he became king. Although, neither of these names is what you probably know him as. He is more well known as King Tut. Tutankhamen is his proper name. He lived over thirty-three hundred years ago and was the twelfth ruler during the eighteenth dynasty from 1333 BC -1323 BC, reigning for ten years. He died at around 19 years old, which was the death of a long line of rulers in a powerful family. He died as the last heir to the throne. During the New Kingdom period, he reigned when Egypt was the world's superpower. Being the king of such a kingdom was a tremendous responsibility for such a young man's shoulders.

Howard Carter Opening the Tomb

The moment King Tut's tomb was revealed.
The moment King Tut's tomb was revealed. | Source

Uncovering Tut's Tomb

In November 1922, Howard Carter uncovered his tomb and all the treasures it beheld. It is his tomb that makes him so famous, not his accomplishments. Many graves buried long ago were plundered, and all the treasures were taken and sold. Today, King Tut's tomb remains the most intact tomb ever to be found. There were many Egyptian artifacts, such as clothing and items with hieroglyphics.

His tomb was small for what was customary for the burial of someone of his status, which may be because his death was unexpected, and a grander tomb could not be made. The unexpectedness of his death is presumed since he died as a teenager. They may have used a tomb intended for someone else.

Aside from his mummy, they have uncovered almost 600 mummies as part of the Egyptian Mummy Project. This project began in late 2003. Now they are in the process of scanning each mummy through a CT scan.

King Tut's Golden Mask


The Curse Written on the Tomb

A curse is written on the tombs of many of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. This curse promises the death of any person who was to plunder from their remains. Although King Tut is one of the few whose remains remained intact with all his worldly riches, this curse did seem to scare off many of the ancient Egyptians back in the time. But were they cursed?

Many of us would laugh at the possibility of being genuinely cursed today. But is it that unreasonable? Howard Carter, who led the archaeological dig, did survive the taking of his remains. Although it might be essential to note that Howard Carter was not the one who opened it, Lord Carnarvon was the one who financed the search of Egyptian legacies was found dead by blood poisoning. They uncovered the tomb in February 1923; by April of that same year, Carnarvon was dead. Did the curse strike him? Who knows? There were six deaths of all those who were part of the uncovering of King Tut's remains. Although the molds uncovered would not kill the average person, some with weakened immune systems could be deadly in high doses.

Since then, though, it has been believed that the curse may be more biological than magical. When scientists uncovered Tut's tomb, there were a lot of notes regarding molds that were within it. Although they have not been able to recover those specimens; therefore, they do not know if the samples were deadly. They have uncovered molds from similar mummified tombs. Lord Carnarvon was already in poor health, so some believe the molds may have been the real cause of his death, accounting for the other five deaths.

Pectoral of Amenemhat III


The Death of King Tuthanthuman

For the first time in eighty years, the modern world decided to use advanced technology to discover the truth of King Tut's mysterious death. In 2005, he was one of the first mummies ever to have a full-body CT scan. Previously, they believed that he had died due to a head injury and possible murder because of bone fragments found inside his skull during a 1968 x-ray.

These CT scans studied all 1,700 x-ray images cross-sectioning his entire body from head to toe and were examined by nine different doctors. All nine doctors unanimously agreed that he did not die due to trauma to the head. The skull is intact, and the bone fragments are most likely due to the original archaeological dig, not before death.

They did find that he was closer to 19 years old when he died, as earlier believed, which is assumed because of how developed his wisdom teeth and skeleton were. He was approximately five feet six inches tall with a slight build. He was also believed to be in excellent health. The actual cause of death is unsure due to injuries found in the lower half of King Tut's body. They are uncertain of what occurred before death and what occurred from Carter's team during the original excavation.

Who was King Tut Related To?

Despite extensive information about King Tut's tomb, we do not know much about Tutankhamen himself. Although we do know that he was born sometime around 1341 BC although his parentage is unknown. Before DNA testing, they were unsure whether his true father was Amenophis III or Amenophis IV. They both are better known as Akhenaten. Once scientists did DNA testing on both King Tut and Amenophis IV, it confirmed that Amenophis IV was, in fact, his father.

Since his father is, in fact, Amenophis IV, then there are three possibilities of who his mother is. The first one is Meketaten, which would be Amenophis's IV daughter. Meketaten being his mother would not be utterly implausible as they often tried to keep bloodlines close in royal families. She died during childbirth around the same time as Tutankhamen would have been born. She would have been between 9 and 12. She most likely died due to her youthfulness. The Royal tomb at Amarna shows Meketaten's death with a newborn in the arms of a wet nurse. Some speculate that the baby was King Tut. Although, if she were the mother, another possible father would be a man named Smenkhare.

The other two possibilities would be Nefertiti or his second wife, Kiya. Nefertiti is the more common belief, as this is also the mother of Meketaten. Nefertiti is known to have given birth to seven children. The first six were female. Meketaten was the second born in 1350 BC. The last was born in 1341 BC when Tut was born. Since it is unknown whether the child was female or male or its name, some believe it was King Tut himself.

Dr. Hawass was one person who believed that his second wife, Kiya, was, in fact, King Tut's mother. Another known fact is that when he became King at nine years old, he was married to Ankhesenpaaten, who was called Ankesenamen. Ankhesenpaaten was most likely his half-sister and about five years older than him. They had no surviving children; therefore, he had no surviving heirs after his death. Scientists found two fetuses in Tutankhamun's tomb. There is speculation that these were his children, but it is not known yet. Since they were only fetuses, they did not survive childbirth. Their close relations may have been partially at fault. The older of the two fetuses had spina bifida and scoliosis.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz


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