King Tutankhamen

Tutankhamun (approx. 1341 BC - 1323 BC) was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty (ruled ca. 1333 BC - 1323 BC in the conventional chronology), during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom. His original name, Tutankhaten, means "Living Image of Aten", while Tutankhamun means "Living Image of Amun". In hieroglyphs, the name Tutankhamun was typically written Amen-tut-ankh, because of a scribal custom that placed a divine name at the beginning of a phrase to show appropriate reverence. He is possibly also the Nibhurrereya of the Amarna letters, and likely the 18th dynasty king Rathotis who, according to Manetho, an ancient historian, had reigned for nine years - a figure which conforms with Flavius Josephus's version of Manetho's Epitome.

The 1922 discovery by Howard Carter and George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon of Tutankhamun's nearly intact tomb received worldwide press coverage. It sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun's burial mask remains the popular symbol. Exhibits of artifacts from his tomb have toured the world. In February 2010, the results of DNA tests confirmed that he was the son of Akhenaten (mummy KV55) and his sister/wife (mummy KV35YL), whose name is unknown but whose remains are positively identified as "The Younger Lady" mummy found in KV35.

Enter King Tutankhamun's Tomb


Tutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV) and one of Akhenaten's sisters. As a prince he was known as Tutankhaten. He ascended to the throne in 1333 BC, at the age of nine or ten, taking the reign name of Tutankhamun. His wet-nurse was a woman called Maia, known from her tomb at Saqqara.

When he became king, he married his half-sister, Ankhesenepatan, who later changed her name to Ankhesenamun. They had two daughters, both stillborn. CT studies released in 2011 revealed that one daughter died at 5-6 months of pregnancy while the other at 9 months of pregnancy. No evidence was found of congenital anomalies or the apparent cause of death in either mummy.

Tutankhamun from the back of his gold throne.

Ankhesenpaaten, Tutankhamun's wife

Image from the back of his gold throne.

Study Examines Family Lineage of King Tut, His Possible Cause of Death   Science Daily - February 16, 2010
Using several scientific methods, including analyzing DNA from royal mummies, research findings suggest that malaria and bone abnormalities appear to have contributed to the death of Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun, with other results appearing to identify members of the royal family, including King Tut's father and mother, according to a new study.

King Tut's Mom and Dad ID'ed   Live Science - February 16, 2010
Candidates for King Tut's mother and father have been identified using DNA analyses from royal Egyptian mummies. King Tutankhamun ruled from 1333 to 1324 B.C., during the period of ancient Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom. Though he is possibly the most well-known of the Egyptian pharaohs, many mysteries still exist about the life, death and parentage of King Tut. But new DNA tests may have helped answer the question of what killed Tut, as well as exactly who his parents were.


Given his age, the king probably had very powerful advisers, presumably including General Horemheb, the Vizier Ay, and Maya, the "Overseer of the Treasury". Horemheb records that the king appointed him 'lord of the land' as hereditary prince to maintain law. He also noted his ability to calm the young king when his temper flared.

In his third regnal year, Tutankhamun reversed several changes made during his father's reign. He ended the worship of the god Aten and restored the god Amun to supremacy. The ban on the cult of Amun was lifted and traditional privileges were restored to its priesthood. The capital was moved back to Thebes and the city of Akhetaten abandoned. This is also when he changed his name to Tutankhamun.

As part of his restoration, the king initiated building projects, in particular at Thebes and Karnak, where he dedicated a temple to Amun. Many monuments were erected, and an inscription on his tomb door declares the king had "spent his life in fashioning the images of the gods". The traditional festivals were now celebrated again, including those related to the Apis Bull, Horemakhet, and Opet.

The country was economically weak and in turmoil following the reign of Akhenaten. Diplomatic relations with other kingdoms had been neglected, and Tutankhamun sought to restore them, in particular with the Mitanni. Evidence of his success is suggested by the gifts from various countries found in his tomb.

Despite his efforts for improved relations, battles with Nubians and Asiatics were recorded in his mortuary temple at Thebes. His tomb contained body armor and folding stools appropriate for military campaigns.

Tutankhamun was slight of build, and was roughly 180 cm (5 ft 11 in) tall. He had large front incisors and the overbite characteristic of the Thutmosid royal line to which he belonged. He also had a pronounced dolichocephalic (elongated) skull, although it was within normal bounds and highly unlikely to have been pathological. Given the fact that many of the royal depictions of Akhenaten often featured such an elongated head, it is likely an exaggeration of a family trait, rather than a distinct abnormality. The research also showed that the Tutankhamun had "a slightly cleft palate" and possibly a mild case of scoliosis, a medical condition in which a person's spine is curved from side to side.


There are no surviving records of Tutankhamun's final days. What caused Tutankhamun's death has been the subject of considerable debate. Major studies have been conducted in an effort to establish the cause.

Although there is some speculation that Tutankhamun was assassinated, the consensus is that his death was accidental. A CT scan taken in 2005 shows that he had badly broken his leg shortly before his death, and that the leg had become infected. DNA analysis conducted in 2010 showed the presence of malaria in his system. It is believed that these two conditions (malaria and leiomyomata) combined, led to his death.

He was buried in the Valley of the Kings. Two mummified fetuses were found in coffins that had been sealed by his name. These are believed to have been his children that were born prematurely.

'Malaria and weak bones' may have killed Tutankhamun   BBC - February 16, 2010
The Egyptian "boy king" Tutankhamun may well have died of malaria after the disease ravaged a body crippled by a rare bone disorder, experts say. The findings could lay to rest conspiracy theories of murder. The scientists in Egypt spent the last two years scrutinising the mummified remains of the 19-year old pharaoh to extract his blood and DNA.

Virtual Body Reconstruction

King Tut's 'virtual autopsy' reveals surprises   CNN - October 22, 2014
King Tutankhamun's golden, mummified remains tell only a partial story of an ancient Egyptian boy king who died under mysterious circumstances. But a new "virtual autopsy" of King Tut's body, shown in an upcoming BBC One documentary, has given historians a clearer picture of the young man's life - and death. Scientists used CT scans to recreate the first life-size image of Tutankhamun, one of the last rulers of the 18th Dynasty. King Tut ruled from 1333 B.C. until about 1323 B.C. Historians put his age at death at about 19. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010 showed that King Tut may have died of malaria, possibly after suffering an infection in his broken leg. As seen in the new virtual autopsy photo, Tutankhamun's left foot was also severely deformed; the inward angle suggests that he had a clubfoot. Researchers believe the boy king had Kohler disease, a rare bone disorder.

Facial Reconstruction

In 2005, three teams of scientists (Egyptian, French and American), in partnership with the National Geographic Society, developed a new facial likeness of Tutankhamun. The Egyptian team worked from 1,700 three-dimensional CT scans of the pharaoh's skull. The French and American teams worked plastic molds created from these -- but the Americans were never told whom they were reconstructing. All three teams created silicon molds bearing what decades of archaeological and forensic research show to be the most accurate replications of Tutankhamun's features since his royal artisans prepared the splendors of his tomb.

Events after his Death

A now-famous letter to the Hittite king Suppiluliumas I from a widowed queen of Egypt, explaining her problems and asking for one of his sons as a husband, has been attributed to Ankhesenamun (among others). Suspicious of this good fortune, Suppiluliumas I first sent a messenger to make inquiries on the truth of the young queen's story. After reporting her plight back to Suppilulumas I, he sent his son, Zannanza, accepting her offer.

However, he got no further than the border before he died, perhaps murdered. If Ankhesenamun were the queen in question, and his death a murder, it was probably at the orders of Horemheb or Ay, who both had the opportunity and the motive.

In any event, after Tutankhamun's death Ankhesenamun married Ay (a signet ring, with both Ay and Ankehesenamun's name was found), possibly under coercion, and shortly afterwards disappeared from recorded history.

Tutankhamun was briefly succeeded by the elder of his two advisors, Ay, and then by the other, Horemheb, who obliterated most of the evidence of the reigns of Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and Ay.

Although all the other tombs in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes were later plundered, the tomb in which Tutankhamen was ultimately buried was hidden by rock chips dumped from cutting the tomb of a later king. Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter It was filled with extraordinary treasure, including a solid gold coffin, a gold mask, jewelry, and many artifacts.

In the News ...

Bioarchaeologist comes face-to-face with King Tut to understand how people lived thousands of years ago   PhysOrg - November 27, 2022
The best way to know about people of the past is to study mummies, skeletons, and burial artifacts. "I've worked with a lot of mummies, in Peru, Egypt and elsewhere and each one is special. Each one was a person who deserves our respect - and that's important and it's important to tell their stories - but there's only one King Tut," said a researcher.

Reimagining Tutankhamun as a Warrior. Recent research contradicts the image of the Egyptian boy-king as a frail, sickly pharaoh   Smithsonian - October 27, 2022

Popular lore suggests that Tutankhamun, the boy-king whose immaculate tomb opened a window into the riches of ancient Egypt, was a frail pharaoh. Much of the evidence for this assertion comes from CT scans of his mummy. Zahi Hawass was wrong. As archaeologists Zahi Hawass and Sahar Saleem wrote in 2016, The CT image also revealed a left club foot deformity. With such a deformity in his left foot, the king would have walked on his ankle or on the side of his foot. If Tutankhamun’s condition were as severe as the archaeologists argued, he would likely have had asymmetry in the bones of the lower legs and perhaps even the pelvis. But the pharaoh’s legs appear to be symmetrical; no signs of asymmetrical wear appear on the dozens of pairs of shoes and sandals buried alongside him.

Some supporters of the sickly pharaoh theory point to the more than 130 walking sticks found in Tut’s tomb. It’s worth noting, however, that ancient Egyptian officials were often depicted with walking sticks as a sign of their authority. If Tutankhamun was, in fact, relatively healthy, it’s possible he played another role, too: that of a warrior. For evidence of this, look to the boy-king’s lost monuments.

3,400-year-old tablets suggest King Tut's ancient dagger was not from Egypt   PhysOrg - February 22, 2022

A combined team of researchers from Japan and Egypt has found evidence that suggests a dagger found in King Tut's tomb had origins outside of Egypt. When archaeologists opened King Tut's tomb in the early 1900s, they found among other things a dagger with an iron blade. The finding was interesting because the Iron Age had not yet started. Humans had not yet learned how to heat native iron to sufficient temperatures for smelting. Thus, it was assumed the dagger blade had been made by pounding metal from a meteorite found somewhere nearby. Humans were making many implements from iron from meteorites thousands of years before the beginning of the Iron Age, thus the finding in Tut's tomb was not that unusual.

Mysterious yellow glass - reidite - in Egyptian desert used on a pendant by King Tut was created when an asteroid struck the Earth   Daily Mail - May 17, 2019

Glass found in the Egyptian desert was created by a meteorite impact around 29 million years ago, unravelling a riddle almost a century in the making. Researchers believe that the origin of the so-called Libyan Desert Glass scattered across the Saharan desert in Egypt.

Tutankhamun had a space dagger: Blade found beside ancient Egyptian boy king's mummy was made from a meteorite   Daily Mail - June 1, 2016
Scientists used x-ray scans to analyze the blade of Tutankhamun's dagger. It was found inside the boy king's sarcophagus beside his right thigh Study found the iron blade contained high levels of nickel and cobalt Chemical composition matched that of a meteorite found in Maras Matruh

King Tut's Blade Made of Meteorite   Live Science - May 31, 2016
King Tut was buried with a dagger made of an iron that literally came from space, says a new study into the composition of the iron blade from the sarcophagus of the boy king. Using non-invasive, portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, a team of Italian and Egyptian researchers confirmed that the iron of the dagger placed on the right thigh of King Tut's mummified body a has meteoric origin.

Tomb Hidden by History, Now Revealed: Wet Nurse of Tutankhamun May have been His Own Sister   Ancient Origins - December 21, 2015
The famous Egyptian boy king, Pharaoh Tutankhamun is believed to have been wet-nursed by a woman named Maia - who may have been his sister. The tomb of this mysterious woman has been opened to the public for the first time since its discovery in 1996, revealing ancient engravings and paintings. The tomb in Saqqara, a necropolis located 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Cairo, was discovered almost 20 years ago and is set to be opened to visitors for the first time. The tomb of the wet nurse was uncovered by French Archaeologist Dr. Alain Zivie, Head of the French mission in Bubastis at Saqqara since 1996, who was there for the unveiling to journalists last week in Egypt

King Tut's wet nurse may have been his sister: expert   PhysOrg - December 21, 2015
An archaeologist said Sunday that Maia, Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun's wet nurse, may have actually been his sister Meritaten, reviving speculation about the identity of the mother of the boy king. DNA tests have proved that the pharaoh Akhenaten was the father of Tutankhamun, but the identity of his mother has long been a mystery. Egyptian officials and French archaeologist Alain Zivie unveiled Maia's tomb to journalists ahead of its opening to the public next month. The tomb was discovered by Egyptologist Zivie in 1996 in Saqqara, a necropolis about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Cairo.

The Beard Is Back: Beeswax Fixes King Tut's Broken Goatee  Live Science - December 18, 2015
The imperial goatee on King Tutankhamun's golden burial mask is back in business after scientists reattached it with beeswax, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. The more than 3,300-year-old mask was damaged in August 2014 when the beard accidentally fell off during a routine cleaning. Staff workers at Cairo's Egyptian Museum mistakenly reattached it with epoxy glue, leaving scratch marks on the famous artifact after they used a spatula to wipe off the excess glue. After a nine-week restoration, the mask has returned to public display at the museum.

Tutankhamun Death Mask was Made for Nefertiti, Archaeologist says   Ancient Origins - October 2, 2015
New analysis of Tutankhamun's golden death mask has led to a radical new theory - the mask was originally made for Nefertiti, step mother of Tutankhamun, as a co-regent to her husband king Akhenaten. Ahram Online reports that archaeologist Nicholas Reeves was examining the back of Tutankhamun's death mask when he noticed that the face did not match the opposite side - the type of gold and the material used for the blue color are different between the front and the back. Reeves also noted that the ears contain holes used to hang earrings.

Has Queen Nefertiti been found behind King Tut's tomb?   Daily Mail - August 10, 2015
Scientist claims to have discovered a secret door to her burial chamber in Tutankhamun's grave, the boy king who may have been her son.

Egypt inquiry after Tutankhamun's beard glued back on   BBC - January 22, 2015
The blue and gold braided beard on the burial mask of pharaoh Tutankhamun has been hastily glued back on after it was damaged, museum officials say. But conservators at the Egypt museum in Cairo gave differing accounts of the exact circumstances. It is not clear whether the mask was damaged during cleaning or if the beard was removed because it was loose. The 3,000-year-old artifact, with other relics from the boy king's tomb, is among Cairo's biggest attractions. An inquiry is under way into what happened to one of the country's greatest treasures.

King Tut and half of European men share DNA   PhysOrg - August 3, 2011
According to a group of geneticists in Switzerland from iGENEA, the DNA genealogy center, as many as half of all European men and 70 percent of British men share the same DNA as the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, or King Tut.

Tut's gem hints at space impact BBC - July 20, 2006
In 1996 in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Italian mineralogist Vincenzo de Michele spotted an unusual yellow-green gem in the middle of one of Tutankhamun's necklaces. The jewel was tested and found to be glass, but intriguingly it is older than the earliest Egyptian civilization. Working with Egyptian geologist Aly Barakat, they traced its origins to unexplained chunks of glass found scattered in the sand in a remote region of the Sahara Desert. But the glass is itself a scientific enigma. How did it get to be there and who or what made it?