Tutankhamen


ESSAY


This essay will cover the enigmatic 18th dynasty pharaoh Tutankhamen - his life and death, his role as pharaoh, and his religious beliefs, both the Aten and Amen religions. It will also cover the beliefs of the people in New Kingdom Egypt. It will attempt to explain what we can learn about these topics.


In the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Egypt was a unified and wealthy state ruled by a god-king. It had a semitropical climate, creating a large agricultural surplus. Papyrus grew wild and was used for building materials, food and paper. Even the desert provided useful goods such as salt, natron, other minerals, semiprecious stones and gold. Egypt had a highly organized government that was run by the scribal class, who were organized and carried out the details of the business of the state. They knew how to read and write and also had knowledge of the specific position they were to inherit, such as knowledge in agriculture. The majority of the people were farmers. During the period of inundation, the three months when the fields were flooded, they participated in corvee. The farmers became a national labor force, which built and maintained large-scale public buildings. There was also a smaller group of nomadic cattle herders. Families were the basic social unit in Ancient Egypt, with groups of families forming villages. The people of Ancient Egypt followed a hereditary calling, and the whole family shared in the work.


Tutankhamen was born during the Amarna Period, when he was first known as Tutankhaten (living image of the Aten) but later changed his name, presumably to try and distance himself from the "Atenist" reigns of Akhenaten, and possibly Smenkhare. His wife Ankhesenpaaten, who was one of Akhenaten\'s daughters, similarly changed her name to Ankhesenamen. Interestingly however, some of the most famous images of Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamen include the distinctive Aten sun disc with arms outstretched down towards them. Aged about nine when he was crowned at Memphis, Tutankhaten and his wife Ankhesenpaaten changed the "aten" ending of their names to "amen" in year 2 of his rule. Tutankhamen probably had little to do with this, or indeed many other decisions, as his "advisors" were the ones who held the reins and manipulated the boy king. Apart from the pivotal return to Thebes and the cult of Amun, few events from Tutankhamen’s reign have been I documented. Like Akhenaten and Ay, his name had been omitted from the king lists of Abydos and Karnak, which simply jump from Amenhotep III to Horemheb. Indeed, Tutankhamen’s exact identity and his parentage still remain a bit of a mystery. It is clear, however that he was bought up at Amarna, as a number of items found in his tomb are relics of his life at the Atenist court - notably the portrayal of the Aten disc protecting him and his young wife on the back panel of his golden throne. Tutankhamen died young, probably during his ninth regal year. Forensic analysis of his mummy has put his age at death at around 17-19 years. Clay seals on wine jars found in his tomb record the king\'s regal year when each wine was laid down. The highest recorded date is year 9 which suggests that the king may have died in that year. There is no positive evidence on Tutankhamen’s mummy as to how he died. Post mortems and X-rays have located a small sliver of bone within the upper cranial cavity. It may have arrived there as the result of a blow, but whether he was deliberately struck indicating murder or whether it was the result of an accident, is pure speculation.


The tomb of Tutankhamen was one of the most valuable discoveries in the history of Egyptian archaeology. But there were several discrepancies about the tomb which confused its discoverers. Tutankhamen, the people\'s link to the gods on Earth, occupied a small, undecorated tomb in an unobtrusive part of the Valley of the Kings. This is very unusual in that pharaohs were usually buried in enormous, richly decorated tombs. In comparison, Tutankhamen’s tomb is bare. It is less than half the size of other tombs of the same period, and only one wall in the burial chamber is painted. It contains only the most necessary ritual paintings, giving