Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Mummies capture our imaginations and our hearts. Full of secrets and magic, they were once people who lived and loved, just as we do today. No other mummy has captured the imagination and been the subject of much controversy than the royal mummy of the 19 year old boy king, Tutankhamun. 

in 1922 in Egypt's the Valley of the Kings by archaeologist, Howard Carter, Tut's tomb and the fabulous riches it held became an overnight worldwide sensation and influenced art, fashion and design for years to come. 

Unique furniture designs and a coffin CD cabinet are just a few items inspired by the discovery of King Tut's tomb.

The drama begins in about 1390 B.C., several decades before Tutankhamun's birth, when the great pharaoh Amenhotep III assumes the throne of Egypt.  This king of the 18th dynasty is rich beyond imagining. Along with his powerful Queen Tiye, Amenhotep III rules for 37 years, worshiping the gods of his ancestors, above all Amun, while his people prosper and vast wealth flows into the royal coffers from Egypt's foreign holdings.


Amenhotep III


Queen Tiye

When Amenhotep III dies, he is succeeded by his second son, Amenhotep IV—a bizarre visionary who turns away from Amun and the other gods of the state pantheon and worships instead a single deity known as the Aten, the disk of the sun. In the fifth year of his reign, he changes his name to Akhenaten—"he who is beneficial to the Aten." He elevates himself to the status of a living god and abandons the traditional religious capital at Thebes, building a great ceremonial city 180 miles to the north, at a place now called Amarna. Here he lives with his great wife, the beautiful Nefertiti, and together they serve as the high priests of the Aten, assisted in their duties by their six cherished daughters. 

All power and wealth is stripped from the Amun priesthood, and the Aten reigns supreme. The art of this period is also infused with a revolutionary new naturalism; the pharaoh has himself depicted not with an idealized face and youthful, muscular body as were pharaohs before him, but as strangely effeminate, with a potbelly and a thick-lipped, elongated face.


     Akhenaten and Nefertiti

The end of Akhenaten's 17 year reign is cloaked in confusion—and one still  open for debate and research. What we know for sure is that the throne is now occupied by a young boy: the nine-year-old Tut­ankhaten ("the living image of the Aten"). Within the first two years of his tenure on the throne, he and his wife, Ankhesenpaaten (a daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti), abandon Amarna and return to Thebes, reopening the temples and restoring their wealth and glory. They change their names to Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun, proclaiming their rejection of Akhenaten's heresy and their renewed dedication to the cult of Amun. Ten years after ascending the throne, Tutankhamun is dead, leaving no heirs to succeed him.

When his royal golden sarcophagus was opened and the boy king discovered inside it told a sad tale of a hurried up and sloppy mummification process and a very badly preserved body. Not something you would expect of a royal burial.Upon examination at the time there was no definitive answer for cause of death. There were sensational claims through the years that he must have been murdered due to the hurried burial (there are signs now that show that the tomb paintings were still wet when he was sealed in his tomb that allowed mold to grow) and placed in a usually small and unremarkable tomb designed originally for a private person rather than a king.  

The turmoil surrounding his reign and predecessor, the heretic King  Akhenaten, caused a backlash against Akhenaten's heresy, and his successors manage to delete from history nearly all traces of the Amarna kings, including Tutankhamun. Indeed an x-ray taken 2 decades ago showed a small bone lodged in the back of Tut's skull that fostered  the theory that he had died from a blow to the back of his head. This proved to be a false assumption.  CT scans of King Tutankhamun's mummy, in 2005 to showed that he did not die from a blow to the head, as many people believed. Analysis revealed that a hole in the back of his skull had been made during the mummification process. Now with even more accurate science methods and the leaps of knowledge gained by DNA studies, scientists, doctors and archaeologist are now able to tell a more complete and accurate story of the boy king's short life on Earth. 

So how did he die?

In the new study, discovered something previously unnoticed in the CT images of the mummy: Tutankhamun's left foot was clubbed, one toe was missing a bone, and the bones in part of the foot were destroyed by necrosis—literally, "tissue death." Both the clubbed foot and the bone disease would have impeded his ability to walk. Scholars had already noted that 130 partial or whole walking sticks had been found in Tutankhamun's tomb, some of which show clear signs of use.
Some have argued that such staffs were common symbols of power and that the damage to Tutankhamun's foot may have occurred during the mummification process. But analysis showed that new bone growth had occurred in response to the necrosis, proving the condition was present during his lifetime. And of all the pharaohs, only Tutankhamun is shown seated while performing activities such as shooting an arrow from a bow or using a throw stick. This was not a king who held a staff just as a symbol of power. This was a young man who needed a cane to walk.

What the real King Tut may have looked like. With a distinct overbite and possible cleft palette he looks very different than the idealized portrait on his gold death mask.

Tutankhamun's bone disease was crippling, but on its own would not have been fatal.  Based on the presence of DNA from several strains of a parasite called Plasmodium falciparum, it was evident that Tutankhamun was infected with malaria—indeed, he had contracted the most severe form of the disease multiple times.
Did malaria kill the king? Perhaps. The disease can trigger a fatal immune response in the body, cause circulatory shock, and lead to hemorrhaging, convulsions, coma, and death. As other scientists have pointed out, however, malaria was probably common in the region at the time, and Tutankhamun may have acquired partial immunity to the disease. On the other hand, it may well have weakened his immune system, leaving him more vulnerable to complications that might have followed the unhealed fracture of his leg evaluated in 2005.

So who were his parents?

After an exhausting analysis of 10 royal mummies in the time period of the 18th Dynasty, the Egyptian scientific team in Cairo was able to establish with a probability of better than 99.99 percent that Amenhotep III was the father of the individual in a tomb called KV55, who was in turn the father of Tutankhamun. The person in KV55 tomb has been identified as Akhenaten.  

And what of Tutankhamun's mother? To the team's surprise, the DNA of the so-called Younger Lady (KV35YL), found lying beside Queen Tiye in the alcove of KV35, (another tomb) matched that of the boy king. 

King Tut's mother whose name has not been identified.

More amazing still, her DNA proved that, like Akhenaten, she was the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye. Akhenaten had conceived a son with his own sister.Their child would be known as Tutankhamun and his health was compromised from the moment he was conceived as mother and father were full brother and sister.
In Egyptian mythology the gods Isis and Osiris were brother and sister, married and had a son Horus. All  Egyptian pharaohs claimed to be direct descendants from this line and in essence were gods themselves.

Pharaonic Egypt was not the only society in history to institutionalize royal incest, which can have political advantages. But there can be a dangerous consequence. Married siblings are more likely to pass on twin copies of harmful genes, leaving their children vulnerable to a variety of genetic defects. Tut­ankhamun's malformed foot may have been one such flaw. We suspect he also had a partially cleft palate, another congenital defect. Perhaps he struggled against others until a severe bout of malaria or a leg broken in an accident added one strain too many to a body that could no longer carry the load.

There may be one other poignant testimony to the legacy of royal incest buried with Tutankhamun in his tomb. While the data are still incomplete, studies suggest that one of the mummified fetuses found there is the daughter of Tutankhamun himself, and the other fetus is probably his child as well with his wife Ankhesenamun. We know from history that she was the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, and thus likely her husband's half sister. Another consequence of inbreeding can be children whose genetic defects do not allow them to be brought to term.

One of 2 baby mummies(daughters)  found inside King Tut's Tomb

So perhaps this is where the drama ends, at least for now: with a young king and his queen trying, but failing, to conceive a living heir for the throne of Egypt. Among the many splendid artifacts buried with Tutankhamun is a small ivory-paneled box, carved with a scene of the royal couple. Tutankhamun is leaning on his cane while his wife holds out to him a bunch of flowers. In this and other depictions, they appear serenely in love. 

The failure of that love to bear fruit ended not just a family but also a dynasty.  Horemheb, the commander in chief of Tutankhamun's armies, eventually takes the throne for himself. But Horemheb too dies childless, leaving the throne to a fellow army commander.
The new pharaoh's name was Ramses I. With him begins another dynasty, one which, under the rule of his grandson Ramses the Great, would see Egypt rise to new heights of imperial power. More than anyone else, this great king would work to erase from history all traces of Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, and the other "heretics" of the Amarna period. Ironically, a little known boy king whose memory was meant to be wiped out forever is instead, by the discovery of his fantastic tomb and treasures, the most famous and iconic Egyptian King of all time!