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 facts 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.
Even so, mythology swirls around Tut, his death, the "curse" on his tomb, and the mythical figures in his life. Here are some of the stranger, but completely true, facts about this legendary boy king.
He Had Numerous DisfigurementsBecause of the incest that protected the bloodline of the Egyptian royal family, Tut had a number of prominent physical disfigurements. Far from being the virile boy shown in his golden death mask, Tut probably had a severe overbite, curved spine, a massively disfigured foot, extremely slim hips, a skewed face, and epilepsy. He also may have had pronounced breasts. It's likely that Tut lived in extreme pain most of his short life.
He Couldn't Walk Without HelpBecause of Tut’s severe club foot, he needed help walking. Over 100 walking sticks and canes were discovered in Tutankhamun's tomb, along with stools used for shooting a bow and arrow. It wasn’t until the “virtual autopsy” that anyone knew why Tut would have been buried with all of these implements.
He Wasn't the Only Child Ruler in HistoryWhile Tut became famous as a “boy king” in the pop culture frenzy that followed his discovery, he’s far from the only one in history. A later Egyptian phahroh, Ptolemy XIII, took the throne at around 11 or 12 years old and went to war with Julius Caesar’s Rome over the cult of personality that surrounded his sister Cleopatra. Child monarchs also ruled China, England, and Jerusalem.
His Reign Was More Important Than Initially ThoughtTut’s reign as Pharaoh was fairly short, around 8 or 9 years. It was historically uneventful, marked by a few minor military campaigns against Egyptian nemesis the Hittites - battles that Tut almost certainly had no role in. But Tut did play at least some role in reviving the worship of Amun, who had been cast aside by his father in favor of the monotheistic cult of Aten. Tut also moved the capitol of Egypt from Amarna (also called “Ahkenaten’s City”) back to Thebes, and restored many palaces and temples destroyed during previous conflicts.