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.

Photo Gallery: Who Was King Tut's Father? National Geographic - July 10, 2007
Egyptologists have uncovered new evidence that bolsters the controversial theory that a mysterious mummy is the corpse of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten, husband of Nefertiti and, some experts believe, the father of King Tut.


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.

King Tut Was Disabled, Malarial, and Inbred, DNA Shows   National Geographic - February 16, 2010
A new DNA study says, King Tut was a frail pharaoh, beset by malaria and a bone disorder - his health possibly compromised by his newly discovered incestuous origins."He was not a very strong pharaoh. He was not riding the chariots," said study team member Carsten Pusch, a geneticist at Germany's University of Tubingen. "Picture instead a frail, weak boy who had a bit of a club foot and who needed a cane to walk."

King Tut Pictures: DNA Study Reveals Health Secrets   National Geographic - February 16, 2010

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.

Face of Tutankhamun reconstructed BBC May 10, 2005

Tut's life and death unmasked BBC - October 2002

A high-tech facial reconstruction has shed new light on the looks of King Tutankhamun, the teenage king of ancient Egypt immortalized for nearly a century by his golden death mask. Scientists and special effects artists used digital techniques applied in crime investigations to fashion a fiberglass model they say provides the closest possible likeliness of the pharaoh's looks. The model shows a wide-faced young man with high cheekbones, smaller eyes and a heavy brow.

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 ...

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.

Tuts leftover linen burial bandages yield new clues bearing an inscription including the date the linen was woven.   MSNBC - May 20, 2010

King Tutankhamun's mummy was wrapped in custom-made bandages similar to modern first-aid gauzes, an exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has revealed. Running from 4.70 meters to 39 centimeters (15.4 feet to 15.3 inches), the narrow bandages consist of 50 linen pieces especially woven for the boy king. For a century, the narrow linen bandages were contained in a rather overlooked cache of large ceramic jars at the museum's Department of Egyptian Art. The collection was recovered from the Valley of the Kings between 1907 and 1908, more than a decade before Howard Carter discovered King Tut's treasure-packed tomb. Now on permanent display in the museum's Egyptian galleries and highlighted in the exhibition "Tutankhamun's Funeral," the objects provide important insights into King Tut's mummification.

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?

Research: Meteorite Crash Helped Form King Tut Necklace - Discovery News - June 30, 2006

Yellow-green glass carved into a beetle-shaped ornament and found on a necklace worn by the ancient King Tutankhamen was created by a meteorite fireball, according to new research. The carving is known as a scarab, which are ancient Egyptian fertility symbols shaped like dung beetles. In 1999, Italian geologists performed a chemical composition test on Tut's scarab, which is the centerpiece of a colorful necklace that archaeologist Howard Carter found in King Tut's Valley of the Kings' tomb in Luxor.

The geologists determined the scarab was made out of natural desert glass for the king, who reigned from 1333 to 1323 B.C. Such glass is only found in the Great Sand Sea of the eastern Sahara desert. With a silica content of 98 percent, it is the purest known glass in the world. The desert region, located 500 miles southwest of Cairo, yields this glass in a remote 49.7 by 15.5 rectangular area. "I think an Egyptian craftsman obtained the glass and worked it into a point or scraper tool," said Mark Boslough, who led a recent study on how the glass formed.

Boslough, an impact physics expert at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, added, "Glass fractures in ways that create sharp, useful shapes, so pieces commonly were used for tools. The glass is also often quite beautiful with interesting colors, so a jewelry maker might have taken an old tool and reworked it into the scarab. "Since most scientists believe heat from a meteorite strike produced Great Sand Sea glass, otherwise known as Libyan Desert glass, Boslough created computer simulations of how that could have happened.

He determined a 390-foot-wide asteroid traveling at 12.4 miles per second likely broke up in Earth's atmosphere around 30 million years ago, when the glass formed. "The velocity of the impacting object would have produced more energy than a nuclear explosion," he told Discovery News. "It not only would have had nuclear explosive scale, but its energy would all have been concentrated downwards. After the meteorite broke up in Earth's atmosphere, the temperature of the resulting fireball would have been as hot as the sun's surface. Like a blowtorch melting wax, the heat would have melted sand and sandstone into thin layers, which, when cooled, resulted in glass that later was blown into piles across the desert."

Boslough said additional evidence supports the fireball theory. "Shock minerals," for example, have been found in the same desert. These are minerals, such as quartz, which reveal sheer plane structures under magnification. Scientists believe such structures resulted from the sudden deformation caused by asteroid and fireball impacts.

Farouk El-Baz, a research professor and director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, at first was critical of Boslough's theory. He said, "If this glass is of meteoric origin, there should be a crater of that age." In March, however, El-Baz himself found remnants of the largest crater in the Saharan desert. It is a double-ringed crater the size of Cairo's urban region. El-Baz now suggests an extraterrestrial impact that resulted in the crater may have been responsible for the desert glass. This theory differs from Boslough's in that it means the asteroid collided with Earth in a sudden hit and did not break into a fireball beforehand. Boslough countered, "The newly discovered crater is 100 kilometers (around 62 miles) away from where the desert glass is located. Also, why don't we see this glass elsewhere?" Boslough and his team studying desert glass to determine what trace gases it might contain. The information could help to further explain what happened millions of years ago when the glass formed.