Let’s talk about Tutankhamun

Greetings, O gentlest of readers! It has come to my attention that there’s a bit of Tutankhamun fever going around the world right now, and the only cure…is more Tutankhamun!

If you will recall the recent post about the latest press release/news concerning our favorite ‘boy king’ (He was 18! That’s a legal adult! And he had been king since he was 9.) the new findings from his DNA have allowed a few more of the many knowledge gaps to be filled in…and raised a few more questions. Like WTF was he doing taking epic falls off of moving chariots?! Nah, but really…Tutankhamun and his famous dynasty remain pretty darn mysterious even with the new answers provided by awesome science. Let’s take a look at where we are in our knowledge of the most famous family of the 18th Dynasty, shall we?
What We Know
Tutankhamun, born Tutankhaten, was one of the last pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty and ruled around 1333 BC – 1324 BC. His reign wasn’t a particularly long or eventful one, but it came at a time when Egypt was re-doing its religious and political traditions to return them to the previous Amun-based beliefs after the particularly head-scratching reign of Akhenaten (or Amenhotep IV…). After the death of Akhenaten, who is generally assumed to be Tutakhamun’s father, (DNA analysis publicized in February 2010 confirmed that Tutankhamun was the biological son of Akhenaten* and the mummy known as The Younger Lady who was found in KV35) the young king was placed at the center of a bit of a religious revolution as everyone tried to put things back as they had been and return religious power to the priesthood of Amun. He was essentially used as a puppet king while the priesthood and his various advisers went about putting their kingdom back together and Tutankhamun got to enjoy the perks of being pharaoh (sweet chairs, chariots, jewelry, hunting trips…). Diplomatic ties were repaired, monuments created (or defaced…) and things generally returned to the way they had been before. I have a feeling most Egyptians just scratched their collective heads and carried on with their work while the royalty and religious heads decreed things. Tutankhamun was married to his sister, Ankhesenamen (originally Ankhesenpaaten) when they were both pretty young and they had 2 children, both daughters, who were most likely stillborn. This may have been due to various problems caused by several generations of incestuous royal marriages (Kohler disease!), which were the norm in an effort to keep the royal line “pure”…but really only make it worse. Go genetics! There is evidence supporting the identification of Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun as siblings in the form of part of a limestone block depicting Tutankhamun and his wife Ankhesenamen, along with text identifying both Tutankhamun and his wife Ankhesenpaaten as “children of the king’s body” or, the biological son and daughter of Akhenaten. This is of course open to some interpretation due to the variable nature of translations. In any case, marriage was had, children were attempted and things went south when Tutankhamun suffered a SERIOUS leg injury that turned septic and ultimately contributed to his early death when he apparently contracted malaria shortly before he died. Notice how there was nothing about a ~*mysterious*~ head injury in that last sentence. The most recent medical research done suggests that it was a combination of malaria with his already severely infected (read: gangrenous) leg injury that caused his early death. Our favorite ‘boy king’ was hastily buried (but properly mummified!) in a tomb that was originally being constructed for someone else and his chief adviser, Ay, stepped in as the new pharaoh and even married poor Ankhesenamun in an attempt to legitimize his new role as pharaoh. To say she wasn’t into this new arrangement is a bit of an understatement. A letter was found at the Hittite city of Hattusa dated to the Amarna period reading,


“My husband has died and I have no son. They say about you that you have many sons. You might give me one of your sons to become my husband. I would not wish to take one of my subjects as a husband… I am afraid.”

An envoy was actually send from Hattusa to investigate the situation in Egypt, but the envoy never arrived nor was heard from again. Mmmm…political intrigue. Shortly after Ay’s succession, Ankhesenamun disappears from history. Most speculate she simply died and may be one of two late 18th dynasty queens buried in KV 21 in the Valley of the Kings.

What We Don’t Know
-Where Akhenaten is. He may be in KV55 but…
-Where Ankhesenamun is. The latest research and testing suggests that she may be buried in KV21 with another female mummy, both of whom are dated to the late 18th dynasty and may be connected via DNA to the royal lineage. Results pending, of course.

What We’d Like to Know-*Seriously. Where is Akhenaten?! I mean, he wasn’t exactly super popular but they’ve found EVERYONE ELSE IN HIS FAMILY. So many family members, in fact, that DNA can be traced and connected even without him being there. Thanks to the new DNA test results published last week, tests have confirmed that the body found buried in tomb KV55 was the father of Tutankhamun, and is therefore “most probably” Akhenaten.
-And while we’re on the subject, where’d Nefertiti go?

In conclusion, I am roughly as tall as Tutankhamun. (5’almost6″)

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