More than almost any other ancient ruler, facts about King Tut, the boy who led an empire and was buried in a tomb stuffed with gold and artifacts, have been hard to deduce. Who was this young man given the responsibility of carrying on a line descended from the gods? How did he live? And how did he die?
Since Tut's tomb was found in 1922, these questions have slowly been answered. Thanks to advanced technology in DNA analysis, we've found some surprising things about his heritage and his physical stature. It turns out that he wasn't the sensual, dashing boy portrayed in the iconography found in his tomb and afterwards in pop culture. Instead, he was the product of incest, born with deformities, with strings pulled by powerful generals, and a death not from murder, but from injuries caused by his ailments.
The Basic Facts
Tutankhamun was born around 1341 BCE, the son of the powerful Pharaoh Ankhenaten. After that pharaoh died in 1334 BCE, two minor kings reigned until Tut took the throne in 1332. He ruled for around eight or nine years, with his chief accomplishment being restoring Egypt back to its polytheistic worship of the god Amun. Then he died in 1323 BCE at 19, and was buried in a quickly built but ornately decorated tomb that was forgotten about until its discovery in 1922 by British researcher Howard Carter.
Tut Had a Variety of Names
Before ascending to the throne of Ancient Egypt, Tutankhamun was known as Tutankhaten, or “Living Image of Aten.” Aten was the living embodiment of the image of the disk of the sun, worshiped by his father Akhenaten; while Amun (also known as Amun-Ra) was the chief deity of Egyptian mythology. The name change implies a pretty significant promotion for Tut.He was also known by a variety of other names, reflecting the divine roles foisted upon pharaohs. These include Kanakht Tutmesut, Neferhepusegerehtawy Werahamun Nebrdjer, Wetjeskhausehetepnetjeru Heqamaatsehetepnetjeru Wetjeskhauitefre Wetjeskhautjestawyim, and Nebkheperure. But he was almost certainly never called "Tut."
His Father and Mother Were Related
Like the European ruling families of the 19th century, incest was extremely common among the royalty of Egypt. They believed in keeping the purity of noble bloodlines, and it’s generally believed that Tut’s father and mother were siblings.Researchers at the Institute for Mummies and Icemen in Italy tested Tut's mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from the mother, and determined that his mom was the sister of the previous pharaoh Akhenaten, known to be Tutankhamun’s father. Yes, his mother was his father's sister.
His Mother's Identity is Unknown
Despite these findings, scientists aren’t clear who Tut’s mother actually is. There is a real possibility that she’s the famous Nefertiti, also a wife of Akhenaten, and there’s no way to know for sure. In the technical language of Egyptian studies, she’s known simply as “The Younger Lady.”