about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Steve Cole gives us his thoughts on King Tut:

The best-known Egyptian pharaoh is one of the more minor ones, King Tut-ankh-amum. His fame stems from the accident that his tomb was the only one in the Valley of the Kings that wasn't emptied out (mostly by later Egyptian governments) in antiquity. There are a lot of interesting questions about King Tut, and a lot of things that don't make sense. It seems that every year brings us another TV documentary with yet another theory on this or that aspect of his life. And of course every new documentary must say that it has found new evidence that changes everything (even if they found nothing new) just to get a place on the television schedule.
Here is my theory, with some notes on proof and other theories. Let's start with what's known: He was born sometime around 1345BC. (Egyptian dates are anything but precise and our entire timeline may be very wrong, but we'll go with that.) He took the throne at age 9 and died about age 20. He was one of the last kings of the 18th Dynasty. He died without living children (two daughters were stillborn) and the throne passed to non-royals. He was preceded in death by Smenkare, who was presumably his older half-brother. (One theory with tenuous evidence is that Smenkare was Queen Nefertiti.) Tut was (DNA tests prove) the son of Akhenaten and one of his sisters (her mummy is known as "the younger lady"). We know Tut married a sister or half sister named Ankhesenatun. (Akhenaten was the heretic king who changed Egypt to a new monotheist religion as part of a power play against the priesthood of Amun-Ra, who had too much land, money, and power. Akhenaten ignored foreign policy and wasted time and money on insane building projects to glorify his new god, the Aten, or sun disk.) After about three years on the throne, Tut changed his name from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamun (and Ankhesenaten changed hers to Ankhesenamun) reflecting a return to the old religion. We know that General Horemheb (commander of the army) was the official heir, but that when Tut died the prime minister Ay grabbed power before Horemheb got home from the then-current war in Syria.
The first mystery is how Tut died. We know he had birth defects (the result of at least four generations of kings marrying their sisters) including a club foot (all of his canes were in his tomb) and that he had malaria and other diseases. He had a seriously broken leg that went septic just before his death and probably killed him. There was once thought to be evidence that he had been hit on the head by an assassin but later X-rays proved this to be untrue. There is one theory that the extensive damage to his skeleton (and many missing bones) means he was run over by a chariot, but the missing bones (and missing heart) are more likely to have been carried away by tomb robbers during World War II who wanted the necklace around his neck, the scarab inside the heart, and the gold and jewels in the mummy wrappings. Personally, I am going with the theory that he was a sick kid waiting for an injury serious enough to kill him, and that it didn't take much. That and the World War II robbery.
The second mystery is why he is in such a tiny tomb in such a non-prestigious location (on the valley floor). Here, I believe (as some historians do) that Ay was buried in Tut's tomb and that Tut was put into the tiny tomb awarded to Ay for a lifetime of work (as a senior official for several pharaohs).
The third mystery is why Tut's burial was rushed and sloppy compared to other kings. Here I have a theory I have never specifically heard on television or seen in a book. We know that the new king could not take office until the old king was buried, and that Egyptian burial rites took at least 70 days. With a dispatch rider on the way to Horemheb's headquarters in Syria (and Horemheb on his way back to become pharaoh) Ay (in charge of the funeral) rushed things as fast as he could. Tut's mummy is the only one that is charred, and that can happen if the steps of the mummification process are rushed and the wet resins aren't allowed to dry before the linseed oil is applied. When Tut was buried (three weeks early) Ay could say "Oh, well, since Horemheb isn't here I will just have to take the throne myself." (It's not like somebody could check Horemheb's page on Facebook to see if he was on the way home, or dead in combat, or just didn't want to be king.)
Once Horemheb arrived a few days too late (thinking he still had a few spare days) he knew that it would take a civil war to oust Ay, but that at age 70 Ay couldn't last long and had no living children. We do know that Ay named Horemheb as his successor (or at least we know that Horemheb said Ay did that.) We do know that Horemheb later tried to wipe out the records of Ay and Tutankhamun and claim he had been pharaoh since Smenkare died, or since Akhenaten died, or maybe since Amenhotep-III died. There is no wine label dated longer than Horemheb's 14th year, but there are some records in which Horemheb claimed to have been pharoah a lot longer.
The final mystery (why the tomb survived without being robbed) is the easiest. When found, it was under several feet of rock and silt from numerous flash floods of the Valley of the Kings. (That's why no king wanted to be buried on the valley floor, leaving that unwanted spot for the loyal bureaucrat Ay so he could be close to the pharaohs he served. That would have been a rare honor. Perhaps Ay talked an 11-year-old king into thinking this was a good idea?)