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21 Weird Facts About King Tut

Updated December 18, 2020 3.1m views22 items
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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 Two Powerful Advisors

    As Tut was only nine when taking the throne from his father, he needed strong advisors to help him make decisions. He had two powerful deputies. One was Horemheb, commander-in-chief of the Egyptian army, and the other was Grand Vizier Ay, an aging cavalry soldier turned counsel who is thought to have been the real power behind the throne.

    Ay directly succeeded Tut after his death, but reigned only four years as pharaoh before he died and was, in turn, succeeded by Horemheb - who subsequently erased Akhenaten, Tut, and Ay from the historical record.
  • Photo: Scan by Pataki Márta / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    He Married at Nine Years Old

    Just after ascending the throne, Tut was married to his half-sister, Ankhesenamun (“One who lives through Amun.”) Little is known about her, though she was probably a few years older than Tut, and she was, like Tut, a child of the previous pharaoh Akhenaten - and quite possibly was married to him. Her mother was likely the famous queen Nefertiti, who also might have been Tut’s mother. Essentially, Tut’s wife was certainly his half-sister, possibly his blood sister, and maybe even his step-mother. And you think your family is complicated.
  • Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

    They Had Two Children, Who Both Died at Birth

    The tomb of Tut revealed two small coffins containing the mummified remains of two babies, daughters who probably were twins. DNA analysis confirmed that they were daughters of Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun. One of the children was found to have had a severe spinal defect, and neither appeared to have been born alive.
  • Photo: Ute Frevert/Margaret Shear / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.5

    Tut Probably Died of a Broken Leg

    Theories abound as to why Tutankhamun died young. Everything from murder (usually thought to be a blow to the head) to genetic abnormalities to sickle-cell disease are named as the culprit. But a 2010 study revealed that Tut probably died of a malarial infection acquired after he broke his leg. Genetically passed ailments probably had something to do with weakening the young king’s immune system, leaving him vulnerable to malaria.