In ancient Egypt, the pharaoh was the religious and political leader of the people, holding the titles “High Priest of Every Temple” and “Lord of the Two Lands.” Before c.1570 – c.1069 BCE, known as the New Kingdom, rulers were simply titled “king.” The dynasties that ruled during the New Kingdom and beyond became adopted the title “pharaoh.” The pharaoh was associated with Horus, the god that had destroyed the forces of chaos and restored order; pharaohs were seen as a god on earth, the liaison between the gods and the people.
King Tutankhamun, famously known as “King Tut,” is said to be the world’s best-known pharaoh, likely because his tomb is one of the best preserved. Born Tutankhaten (“living image of Aten”), he was the grandson of the great Pharaoh Amenhotep II and son of Pharaoh Akhenaten, and he became pharaoh at the age of nine and ruled Egypt for ten years until his death around 1324 B.C.
Before the discovery of his tomb, King Tut’s legacy was predominately overshadowed by his successors. Early in his reign, however, Tutankhamun reversed the unpopular decision his father had made of moving Egypt’s religious capital from Thebes to Amarna and overturning a century-old religious system in which the god Amun was the deity of worship, rather than the god Aten. King Tut reversed this decision and changed the end of his name to reflect the royal allegiance to the god Amun, thus becoming King Tutankhamun (“living image of Amun”).
It wasn’t until 1922, when British archeologist Howard Carter, after many years of excavation, discovered the doorway to Tutankhamun’s tomb. Having been sealed for over 3,200 years, the tomb contained a vast collection of treasures and artifacts that unveiled astounding insight into ancient Egypt’s royal life.
The discovery of King Tut’s tomb also revealed some interesting facts about his family life and death. Inbreeding was a traditional practice in ancient Egyptian royal families, as they believed they were born from gods and wanted to keep their bloodlines pure. DNA tests in 2010 confirmed that Tutankhamun’s parents were brother and sister. This likely contributed to his poor health.
When his remains had been exhumed, a hole in the back of Tutankhamun’s skull was revealed, and it was at first thought that the king had been assassinated. Upon further examination, however, it is believed that the hole occurred during the mummification process. CT scans conducted in 1995 found that the king had suffered from an infected broken leg. That mixed with the evidence of multiple malaria infections are now believed to have contributed to the king’s early death.
Jorge J. Perez is an attorney in South Florida. He is a self-professed history buff. Visit JorgeJPerez.net often to learn more.