Tutankhamun or “King Tut” is probably the most well-known Egyptian pharaoh. One of the reasons is that his burial tomb is one of the few that was discovered with everything still in it. It was common for tomb raiders to steel all of the treasures that were buried with the pharaohs and so very little has ever been found. The tomb raiders didn’t locate King Tut’s tomb and we can use the contents of the tomb to learn about the culture and people of ancient Egypt.
King Tut lived around 1343 to 1323 BC, and because he was only ten years old when he became a pharaoh, he was called the ‘boy king’. King Tut’s father was the pharaoh Akhenaten. This pharaoh made complete changes to the religion of Egypt, getting rid of their idea of many gods and changing their worship to one god: Aten, the sun god. He became unpopular with the people of Egypt and the priests of the many temples, especially when he destroyed the images of all of the other gods. When he died, many people removed his image and name, hoping everyone would forget about him.
King Tut’s original name was Tutankhaten which means ‘the living image of Aten”. After the death of his unpopular father, he changed his name to Tutankhamun which means ‘the living image of Amun”. His father had paid so much attention to making changes that he had moved the center of government to another city and ignored all of the foreign policies. King Tut relocated the city back to Thebes and rebuilt some of the temples for the gods. His hope was to restore popularity of the pharaoh and try to fix the damage that his father had done.
King Tut did get married but he and his wife did not have any children that survived. Many people have tried to study King Tut’s mummy to see the reason that he died, but no one has come up with anything definite. King Tut died at the age of 19 and after he was buried there was very little information in the usual records for pharaohs. His tomb was never touched and so the people that study history didn’t even know that it existed.
In 1922, British archeologist Howard Carter discovered the burial tomb of King Tut. This was the first tomb that had everything in it and was untouched. Ancient Egyptians believed that when a person died they would enter an ‘afterlife’ where they would live in the same way that they did when they were alive. In order to do that, they would need to take everything they needed with them. The burial tombs of pharaohs were piled with all of their possessions: beds, chariots, games, art work, walking sticks, weapons and even food. Pharaohs had the most highly crafted items, many were made of gold, imported wood, inlaid gems and ivory.
When Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s tomb, he found a huge chamber with four rooms filled with everything King Tut would need in the afterlife. The most prized item was a ‘sarcophagus’ which is usually the burial box for the mummy. For King Tut, they had placed the mummy in one sarcophagus and then that was in two additional ones. The third or last one was made of gold and that is the famous ‘gold’ image that has become the symbol of King Tut that we know today.
It took seventeen years to go through all of the things in the tomb and catalog (write down) each item. One of the things that Carter noticed when he first looked into the tomb is that many of the things appeared to have been tossed into the tomb, rather than organized. Another thing that was later noticed is that one of the sarcophagus may have belonged to someone else and they changed it for King Tut. It has been thought that the reason for this is that King Tut died so suddenly and unexpectedly that they didn’t have time to make a sarcophagus for him.
The treasures from King Tut’s tomb became so popular that the Egyptians allowed them to go on a world tour and be shown at museums in many cities.