Tutankhamun[a] or Tutankhamen[b] (c. 1341 BC – c. 1323 BC), was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who ruled c. 1332 – 1323 BC during the late Eighteenth Dynasty of ancient Egypt. Born Tutankhaten, he was likely a son of Akhenaten, thought to be the KV55 mummy. His mother was identified through DNA testing as The Younger Lady buried in KV35; she was a full sister of her husband.

Tutankhamun acceded to the throne around the age of nine following the short reigns of his predecessors Smenkhkare and Neferneferuaten. He married his half-sister Ankhesenpaaten, who was probably the mother of his two infant daughters. During his reign he restored the traditional polytheistic form of ancient Egyptian religion, undoing the religious shift known as Atenism. His endowments and restorations of cults were recorded on the Restoration Stela. The cult of the god Amun at Thebes was restored to prominence and the royal couple changed their names to "Tutankhamun" and "Ankhesenamun", removing the -aten suffix. Additionally, he moved the royal court away from Akhenaten's capital, Amarna, and back to Memphis. He reestablished diplomatic relations with the Mitanni and carried out military campaigns in Nubia and the Near East. Tutankhamun was one of few kings worshipped as a deity during his lifetime. The young king likely began construction of a royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings and an accompanying mortuary temple but both were unfinished at the time of his death.

Tutankhamun died unexpectedly aged about 18; his health and the cause of his death have been the subject of much debate. In 2012 it was suggested he died from a combination of malaria and a leg fracture. With his royal tomb incomplete, he was instead buried in a small non-royal tomb adapted for his use. He was succeeded by his vizier Ay. Likely an old man when he became king, Ay's reign was short, being succeeded by Horemheb, Tutankhamun's commander-in-chief. Under Horemheb, the restoration of the traditional ancient Egyptian religion was completed; Ay and Tutankhamun's constructions were usurped and earlier Amarna Period rulers were erased.

In modern times, Tutankhamun is known for the 1922 discovery of his tomb (KV62) by a team led by British Egyptologist Howard Carter sponsored by British aristocrat George Herbert. Although robbed anciently, it retained much of its original contents, including the king's undisturbed mummy. The discovery received worldwide press coverage; with over 5,000 artifacts, it gave rise to renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun's mask, now preserved at the Egyptian Museum, remains a popular symbol. Some of his treasure has traveled worldwide with unprecedented response; the Egyptian government allowed tours beginning in 1961. The deaths of some individuals who were involved in the excavation have been popularly attributed to the "curse of the pharaohs" due to the similarity of their circumstances. Since the discovery of his tomb, he has been referred to colloquially as "King Tut".[8]


See also: Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt family tree

Tutankhamun and his queen, Ankhesenamun

Tutankhamun was born in the reign of Akhenaten, during the Amarna Period of the late Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. His original name was Tutankhaten or Tutankhuaten, meaning "living image of Aten",[c] reflecting the shift in ancient Egyptian religion known as Atenism which characterized Akhenaten's reign.[10][11]

His parentage is debated as they are not attested in surviving inscriptions. He was certainly a prince, as a fragmentary inscription from Hermopolis refers to "Tutankhuaten" as a "king's son".[12] He is generally thought to have been the son of Akhenaten[12] or his successor Smenkhkare.[13] Inscriptions from Tutankhamun's reign treat him as a son of Akhenaten's father, Amenhotep III, but that is only possible if Akhenaten's 17-year reign included a long co-regency with his father,[14] a possibility that many Egyptologists once supported but is now being abandoned.[15] His mother has been variously suggested to be Akhenaten's chief wife Nefertiti,[d] or Akhenaten's daughters Meritaten[e] or Meketaten.[f] Tutankhamun was wet nursed by a woman named Maia, known from her tomb at Saqqara.[21][22]

DNA testing identified his father as the mummy from tomb KV55, thought to be Akhenaten, and his mother as "The Younger Lady", an anonymous mummy cached in tomb KV35. His parents were full siblings, both being children of Amenhotep III and his chief wife Tiye.[23][g] The identity of The Younger Lady is unknown but she cannot be Nefertiti, as she was not known to be a sister of Akhenaten.[26] However, researchers such as Marc Gabolde and Aidan Dodson claim that Nefertiti was indeed Tutankhamun's mother. In this interpretation of the DNA results, the genetic closeness is not due to a brother-sister pairing but the result of three generations of first-cousin marriage, making Nefertiti a first cousin of Akhenaten.[27] The validity and reliability of the genetic data from mummified remains has been questioned due to possible degradation due to decay.[28]

When Tutankhaten became king, he married Ankhesenpaaten, one of Akhenaten's daughters, who later changed her name to Ankhesenamun.[29] He fathered two daughters who died at or soon after birth and were buried with him in his tomb.[23] Computed tomography studies published in 2011 revealed that one daughter was born prematurely at 5–6 months of pregnancy and the other at full-term, 9 months.[30] DNA testing has suggested the anonymous mummy KV21A is their mother but the data is not statistically significant enough to allow her to be securely identified as his only known wife, Ankhesenamun.[23] Tutankhamun's death marked the end of the royal bloodline of the Eighteenth Dynasty.[31]

Genealogy and population affinities

A genetic study, published in 2020, revealed Tutankhamun had the haplogroups YDNA R1b, which originated in western Asia and which today makes up 50–60% of the genetic pool of modern Europeans, and mtDNA K, which originated in the Near East. He shares this Y-haplogroup with his father, the KV55 mummy (Akhenaten), and grandfather, Amenhotep III, and his mtDNA haplogroup with his mother, The Younger Lady, his grandmother, Tiye, and his great-grandmother, Thuya. The profiles for Tutankhamun and Amenhotep III were incomplete and the analysis produced differing probability figures despite having concordant allele results. Because the relationships of these two mummies with the KV55 mummy had previously been confirmed in an earlier study, the haplogroup prediction of both mummies could be derived from the full profile of the KV55 data[32][33]

In 2022, S.O.Y. Keita analysed 8 Short Tandem loci (STR) data originally published by Hawass et al. in studies from 2010 and 2012. The first of these studies had investigated familial relationships among 11 royal mummies of the New Kingdom, which included Tutankhamun and Amenhotep III, as well as potential inherited disorders and infectious diseases.[34] The second of these studies (described above) had investigated the Y-haplogroups and genetic kinship of Ramesses III and an unknown man buried along with him in the royal cache at Deir el Bahari.[35] Keita analysed the STR data from these studies using an algorithm that only has three choices: Eurasians, sub-Saharan Africans, and East Asians. Using these three options, Keita concluded that the majority of the samples had a population "affinity with 'sub-Saharan' Africans in one affinity analysis". However, Keita cautioned that this does not mean that the royal mummies "lacked other affiliations", which he argued had been obscured in typological thinking. Keita further added that different "data and algorithms might give different results", reflecting the complexity of biological heritage and the associated interpretation.[36]


The throne of Tutankhamun, the Aten depicted above

Tutankhamun became pharaoh between eight and nine years of age[37] following the short reigns of Akhenaten's successors Smenkhkare and Neferneferuaten. It is uncertain whether Smenkhkare's reign outlasted Akhenaten's; the female ruler Neferneferuaten is now thought to have become co-regent shortly before Akhenaten's death and to have reigned for some time after it.[38][39] On acceding the throne, Tutankhamun took the throne name Nebkheperure.[40] He reigned for about nine years.[41]

During Tutankhamun's reign the position of Vizier was split between Upper and Lower Egypt. The principal vizier for Upper Egypt was Usermontu. Another figure named Pentju was also vizier but it is unclear of which lands. It is not entirely known if Ay, Tutankhamun's successor, actually held this position. A gold foil fragment from KV58 seems to indicate, but not certainly, that Ay was referred to as a Priest of Maat along with an epithet of "vizier, doer of maat." The epithet does not fit the usual description used by the regular vizier but might indicate an informal title. It might be that Ay used the title of vizier in an unprecedented manner.[42]

An Egyptian priest named Manetho wrote a comprehensive history of ancient Egypt where he refers to a king named Orus, who ruled for 36 years and had a daughter named Acencheres who reigned twelve years and her brother Rathotis who ruled for only nine years.[43][44] The Amarna rulers are central in the list but which name corresponds with which historic figure is not agreed upon by researchers. Orus and Acencheres have been identified with Horemheb and Akhenaten and Rathotis with Tutankhamun. The names are also associated with Smenkhkare, Amenhotep III, Ay and the others in differing order.[45]

In order for the pharaoh, who held divine office, to be linked to the people and the gods, special epithets were created for them at their accession to the throne. The ancient Egyptian titulary also served to demonstrate one's qualities and link them to the terrestrial realm. The five names were developed over the centuries beginning with the Horus name.[h][46][47] Tutankhamun's[i] original nomen, Tutankhaten,[48] did not have a Nebty name[j] or a Gold Falcon name[k] associated with it[9] as nothing has been found with the full five-name protocol.[l]

End of Amarna period

Egyptian art of the Amarna period

At the beginning of Tutankhaten's reign, the royal court was still located at Amarna, and evidence from his tomb shows that the Aten was still acknowledged.[49] But several pieces of evidence suggest that his court was trying to reconcile Atenism with the traditional religion,[50][51][52] and activity at Amarna decreased during the first four years of his reign.[53]

These years saw dramatic reversals of Akhenaten's policies, which, given the king's young age, must have been instigated by his advisors.[54] In the third year of Tutankhaten's reign, his name was changed to "Tutankhamun", and that of his queen to "Akhesenamun".[55][56] The Restoration Stela, which probably dates to Year 4 of Tutankhamun's reign, characterizes the Amarna Period as a time of disaster, saying "temples and the estates of the gods and goddesses from Elephantine to the marshes of the Delta had fallen into ruin… If you asked a god for advice, he would not attend; and if one spoke to a goddess likewise she would not attend."[57] The stela proclaims the rebuilding of the traditional cults;[58] priests and other members of temple staffs were restored to their former positions.[59]

Around this time, the royal court abandoned Amarna.[60] Memphis became the main seat of royal administration,[60] continuing a trend that dated back to Akhenaten's predecessors, toward administering the country from that central location rather than the more outlying site of Thebes.[61] With Amun restored as Egypt's preeminent deity, Thebes once again became its greatest center of religious activity.[60]

Military campaigns

Tutankhamun charging enemies, 18th dynasty

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, both victories for Egypt.[62] Also, as far as is known, Tutankhamun's military reign was undefeated, and is one of several other undefeated reigns in ancient Egypt's history.

Battle participation

The extent to which Tutankhamun participated in battles is an open question and has yet to reach consensus among researchers. On one hand, his tomb contained extensive military armament, such as bows, khopesh swords, daggers, wristguards, maces, shields and a club, suggesting he had extensive weaponry training. Some imagery, while likely figurative, does depict Tutankhamun as directly participatory in warfare, such as the graphic battle depictions on the painted treasure chest in his tomb. Other artifacts, such as the Nine Bows footstool, walking sticks and sandals depicting enemies, and a gold leaf picture of him during chariot archery against enemies, also suggest that he was actively engaged in Egypt's international conflict.[63] Egyptologist Bob Brier has argued leaning towards Tutankhamun being an actively participating warrior in his later years.[64]

On the other hand, given Tutankhamun's youth and hypothesized physical disabilities, like a speculated cane handicap, some historians are skeptical that he participated in these battles.[65] Yet some experts, such as Sofia Aziz, Campbell Price and Raksha Dave have taken the position that the speculations of Tutankhamun's physical frailty are overestimated, arguing that mummy damage has led to misdiagnosis. Instead, they argue that the more rigorous, scientific view is that he was physically active, and perhaps militarily participatory.[66] Egyptologist Charlotte Booth states that Tutankhamun participated in at least two battles (one Nubian battle, and one Asiatic battle), nevertheless noting that other researchers suggest that he may have only accompanied the army to the battlefield for moral support, as opposed to actively participating.[67]

Monuments and construction

Tutankhamun enriched and endowed the priestly orders of two important cults, initiated a restoration process for old monuments that were damaged during the Amarna Period, and reburied his father's remains in the Valley of the Kings. Given his age, the king probably had advisers which presumably included Ay (who succeeded Tutankhamun) and General Horemheb, Ay's possible son in law and successor. 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.[67]

Quartzite statue thought to be of Tutankhamun from temple complex at Medinet Habu

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 was abandoned.[68] As part of the restoration of the traditional cults, the king initiated building projects, in particular at Karnak in Thebes, where he laid out the sphinx avenue leading to the temple of Mut. The sphinxes were originally made for Akhenaten and Nefertiti; they were given new ram heads and small statues of the king.[69] At Luxor temple he completed the decoration of the entrance colonnade of Amenhotep III.[70] Tutankhamun made several endowments that enriched and added to the priestly numbers of the cults of Amun and Ptah. He commissioned new statues of the deities from the best metals and stone and had new processional barques made of the finest cedar from Lebanon and had them embellished with gold and silver.[71]

A building called the Temple-of-Nebkheperure-Beloved-of-Amun-Who-Puts-Thebes-in-Order, which may be identical to a building called Temple-of-Nebkheperre-in-Thebes, a possible mortuary temple, used recycled talatat from Akhenaten's east Karnak Aten temples indicating that the dismantling of these temples was already underway.[72] Many of Tutankhamun's construction projects were uncompleted at the time of his death and were completed by or usurped by his successors, especially Horemheb. The sphinx avenue was completed by his successor Ay and the whole was usurped by Horemheb. The Restoration Stele was usurped by Horemheb; pieces of the Temple-of-Nebkheperure-in-Thebes were recycled into Horemheb's own building projects.[73]

Lifetime deification

In ancient Egypt, pharaohs were venerated after their deaths through mortuary cults and associated temples as deities. This form of apotheosis was relegated to deceased pharaohs, but Tutankhamun was one of the few pharaohs who was worshiped in this manner during his lifetime.[74] A stela discovered at Karnak and dedicated to Amun-Ra and Tutankhamun indicates that the king could be appealed to in his deified state for forgiveness and to free the petitioner from an ailment caused by sin. Temples of his cult were built as far away as in Kawa and Faras in Nubia. The title of the sister of the Viceroy of Kush included a reference to the deified king, indicative of the universality of his cult.[75]

Cartouche left: Nomen "Tutankhamun, ruler of Upper Heliopolis".[76][77] Right: Prenomen "Nebkheperura".[77]

Personal life

Health issues

Scenes from the north wall of the burial chamber of Tutankhamun. On the left side, Tutankhamun, followed by his ka (an aspect of his soul), embraces the god of the dead Osiris. In the center, Tutankhamun greeting the goddess Nut. On the right side, Ay performing the opening of the mouth for Tutankhamun.[78]
A painted, wooden figure of Tutankhamun suggested to be a mannequin for clothing

Tutankhamun's health and early death are heavily debated. The most recent study suggests Tutankhamun had bone necrosis and a possible clubfoot, which may have rendered him dependent on assistive canes. This theory is disputed, as neither the canes nor his sandals show the kinds of the wear expected. He also had other health issues, including scoliosis, and had contracted several strains of malaria. He likely died of complications from a broken leg, possibly compounded by malaria.

Tutankhamun was slight of build, and roughly 167 cm (5 ft 6 in) tall.[79][80] CT investigations of Tutankhamun's skull revealed an excellent condition of his dentition. He had large front incisors and an overbite characteristic of the Thutmosid royal line to which he belonged.[81] Analysis of the clothing found in his tomb, particularly the dimensions of his loincloths and belts indicates that he had a narrow waist and rounded hips.[82] In attempts to explain both his unusual depiction in art and his early death it has been theorised that Tutankhamun had gynecomastia,[83] Marfan syndrome, Wilson–Turner X-linked intellectual disability syndrome, Fröhlich syndrome (adiposogenital dystrophy), Klinefelter syndrome,[84] androgen insensitivity syndrome, aromatase excess syndrome in conjunction with sagittal craniosynostosis syndrome, Antley–Bixler syndrome or one of its variants.[85] It has also been suggested that he had inherited temporal lobe epilepsy in a bid to explain the religiosity of his great-grandfather Thutmose IV and father Akhenaten and their early deaths.[86] However, caution has been urged in this diagnosis.[87]

In January 2005 Tutankhamun's mummy was CT scanned. The results showed that the young king had a partially cleft hard palate and possibly a mild case of scoliosis.[88][89] Additionally, he was diagnosed with a flat right foot with hypophalangism, while his left foot was clubbed and had bone necrosis of the second and third metatarsals (Freiberg disease or Köhler disease II).[90] However, the clubfoot diagnosis is disputed.[91] James Gamble instead suggests that the position is a result of Tutankhamun habitually walking on the outside of his foot due to the pain caused by Köhler disease II;[92] this theory has been refuted by members of Hawass' team.[93] The condition may have forced Tutankhamun to walk with the use of a cane, many of which were found in his tomb.[23] However, none of them show the wear expected of essential aids; the wear on his sandals, where present, is also even on both feet.[94] The presence of such a number of sticks is not unexpected, as canes were a symbol of status in ancient Egypt.[95] Genetic testing through STR analysis rejected the hypothesis of gynecomastia and craniosynostoses (e.g., Antley–Bixler syndrome) or Marfan syndrome.[65] Genetic testing for STEVOR, AMA1, or MSP1 genes specific for Plasmodium falciparum revealed indications of malaria tropica in 4 mummies, including Tutankhamun's.[65] This is currently the oldest known genetic proof of the ailment.[96] The team discovered DNA from several strains of the parasite, indicating that he was repeatedly infected with the most severe strain of malaria. His malaria infections may have caused a fatal immune response in the body or triggered circulatory shock.[97] The CT scan also showed that he had experienced a compound left leg fracture. This injury being the result of modern damage was ruled out based on the ragged edges of the fracture; modern damage features sharp edges. Embalming substances were present within the fracture indicating that it was associated with an open wound; no signs of healing were present.[98]

Facial reconstruction

Close-up of Tutankhamun's mummified head

A facial reconstruction of Tutankhamun was carried out in 2005 by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and National Geographic. Three separate teams—Egyptian, French, and American—worked separately to approximate the face of the boy king. While the Egyptian and French teams knew their subject was Tutankhamun, the American team worked blind. All teams produced very similar results, but it was that of the French team that was ultimately cast in silicone.[99][100]


Stuart Tyson Smith, Egyptologist and professor of anthropology at University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2008 expressed criticism of the forensic reconstruction in a journal review. He noted that "Tutankhamun's face" was depicted as "very light-skinned," reflecting a "bias" among media outlets. Smith further added that "Egyptologists have been strangely reluctant to admit that the ancient Egyptians were rather dark-skinned Africans, especially the farther south one goes".[101]


There are no surviving records of the circumstances of Tutankhamun's death; it has been the subject of considerable debate and major studies.[102] Hawass and his team postulate that his death was likely the result of the combination of his multiple weakening disorders, a leg fracture, perhaps as the result of a fall, and a severe malarial infection.[103] However, Timmann and Meyer have argued that sickle cell anemia better fits the pathologies exhibited by the king,[104] a suggestion the Egyptian team has called "interesting and plausible".[105]

Murder by a blow to the head was theorised as a result of the 1968 x-ray which showed two bone fragments inside the skull.[106] This theory was disproved by further analysis of the x-rays and the CT scan. The inter-cranial bone fragments were determined to be the result of the modern unwrapping of the mummy as they are loose and not adherent to the embalming resin.[107] No evidence of bone thinning or calcified membranes, which could be indicative of a fatal blow to the head, were found.[108] It has also been suggested that the young king was killed in a chariot accident due to a pattern of crushing injuries, including the fact that the front part of his chest wall and ribs are missing.[109][110] However, the missing ribs are unlikely to be a result of an injury sustained at the time of death; photographs taken at the conclusion of Carter's excavation in 1926 show that the chest wall of the king was intact, still wearing a beaded collar with falcon-headed terminals. The absence of both the collar and chest wall was noted in the 1968 x-ray[111] and further confirmed by the CT scan.[89] It is likely that the front part of his chest was removed by robbers during the theft of the beaded collar; the intricate beaded skullcap the king was pictured wearing in 1926 was also missing by 1968.[112]


Since the two children of Tutankhamun and his sister-wife queen Ankhesenamun were both born stillborn, and Tutankhamun was the last of the royal male siblings, there was no immediate heir apparent to assume the throne as Ankhesenamun's husband. Records in Horemheb's tomb state that Tutankhamun appointed him "lord of the land" as Iry-pat (heir designate), which is essentially the designated hereditary prince to maintain law. However, queen Ankhesenamun preferred to not marry someone of lesser status than royal queen status. Horemheb was a militaryman of peasant birth and was, as the military commander-in-chief, technically a servant of queen Ankhesenamun. The vizier Ay, while of some royal blood, was an established vizier, and also technically a servant of queen Ankhesenamun. Ankhesenamun's preference ignited a series of disruption in the fulfillment of king Tutankhamun's will on throne heirship.[113]

Reign of vizier Ay

Ankhesenamun generated a predicament involving the Hittite king Suppiluliuma I and his son prince Zannanza known as the Zannanza affair. Meanwhile, Tutankhamun's vizier maneuvered in the midst of Tutankhamun's death to intercept the throne, circumventing Horemheb's rightful heirship, marrying Ankhesenamun towards the onset of this Hittite-Egyptian negotiation period, unbeknownst to Hittites. The fact that Ay is depicted presiding over Tutankhamun's funeral, which is customary for the successor pharaoh, and the fact that Horemheb appears to have been absent at Tutankhamun's funeral aligns with this.[114]

The pharaoh Ay's reign was abruptly short and his death again left a vacancy in the throne with no royal bloodline heir because Ay did not have children with queen Ankhesenamun. Despite the fact that toward the end of his reign, Ay named his son, military generalissimo Nakhtmin, to be successor to the throne, Nakhtmin never became pharaoh because he died before he could.[115]

Horemheb Iry-pat fulfillment

Ultimately, as prescribed by the will of Tutankhamun, Horemheb succeeded the throne as pharaoh, likely marrying Ankhesenamun. The marriage was brief as Ankhesenamun died only a couple years into Horemheb's lengthy reign. Horemheb never had any children with Ankhesenamun, and with her death, the royal bloodline of Tutankhamun completely came to a halt. As pharaoh, Horemheb saw to it that the restoration of the traditional ancient Egyptian religion that Tutankhamun was previously spearheading was completed, restabilizing the nation. Notably, during the standard damnatio memoriae process that each new Egyptian pharaoh undertakes, Horemheb defaced Ay's tomb, but left Tutankhamun's untouched, presumably out of respect.[116]

In due course, Horemheb had selected then civilian military officer, Ramesses I, as heir to the throne, who already had a grandson, Ramesses II, who would then go on to found the Ramesside dynasty and become the greatest pharaoh of ancient Egypt.[116] This initiated a new royal bloodline that replaced the royal bloodline that ended with the death of Tutankhamun.


Main article: Tomb of Tutankhamun

The wall decorations in KV62's burial chamber are modest in comparison with other royal tombs found in the Valley of the Kings

Tutankhamun was buried in a tomb that was unusually small considering his status. His death may have occurred unexpectedly, before the completion of a grander royal tomb, causing his mummy to be buried in a tomb intended for someone else. This would preserve the observance of the customary 70 days between death and burial.[117] His tomb was robbed at least twice in antiquity, but based on the items taken (including perishable oils and perfumes) and the evidence of restoration of the tomb after the intrusions, these robberies likely took place within several months at most of the initial burial. The location of the tomb was lost because it had come to be buried by debris from subsequent tombs, and workers' houses were built over the tomb entrance.[118]


Main article: Discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun

George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, 1921

The concession rights for excavating the Valley of the Kings was held by Theodore Davis from 1905 until 1914. In that time, he had unearthed ten tombs including the nearly intact but non-royal tomb of Queen Tiye's parents, Yuya and Thuya. As he continued working there in the later years, he uncovered nothing of major significance.[119] Davis did find several objects in KV58 referring to Tutankhamun, which included knobs and handles bearing his name most significantly the embalming cache of the king (KV54). He believed this to be the pharaoh's lost tomb and published his findings as such with the line; "I fear the Valley of the Tombs is exhausted".[120][121] In 1907, Howard Carter was invited by William Garstin and Gaston Maspero to excavate for George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon in the Valley. The Earl of Carnarvon and Carter had hoped this would lead to their gaining the concession when Davis gave it up but had to be satisfied with excavations in different parts of the Theban Necropolis for seven more years.[122]

After a systematic search beginning in 1915, Carter discovered the actual tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) in November 1922.[123] An ancient stroke of luck allowed the tomb to survive to modern times. The tomb's entrance was buried by mounds of debris from the cutting of KV9 over 150 years after Tutankhamun's burial; ancient workmen's huts were also built on the site.[124][125] This area remained unexcavated until 1922 due to its proximity to KV9, as excavations would impede tourist access to that tomb.[126] Carter commenced excavations in early November 1922, before the height of the tourist season.[127] The first step of the tomb's entrance staircase was uncovered on 4 November 1922. According to Carter's account the workmen discovered the step while digging beneath the remains of the huts; other accounts attribute the discovery to a boy digging outside the assigned work area.[128][m]

By February 1923 the antechamber had been cleared of everything but two sentinel statues. A day and time were selected to unseal the tomb with about twenty appointed witnesses that included Lord Carnarvon, several Egyptian officials, museum representatives and the staff of the Government Press Bureau. On 17 February 1923 at just after two o'clock, the seal was broken.[132]

Letters published in 2022 of correspondence between Rex Engelbach and Alan Gardiner, reveal that Howard Carter had stolen objects from the tomb, such as a 'whm amulet', before the tomb was officially opened. Rex Engelbach said in a letter to Gardiner about a 'whm amulet' gifted to Gardiner from Carter that "The whm amulet you showed me has been undoubtedly stolen from the tomb of Tutankhamun."[133]


Main articles: Mask of Tutankhamun and Tomb of Tutankhamun

An alabaster stopper from his canopic chest

Tutankhamun's tomb is the only royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings found in near-intact condition.[134] There were 5,398 items found in the tomb, including a solid gold coffin, face mask, thrones, archery bows, trumpets, a lotus chalice, two Imiut fetishes, gold toe stalls, furniture, food, wine, sandals, and fresh linen underwear. Howard Carter took 10 years to catalog the items.[135] Recent analysis suggests a dagger recovered from the tomb had an iron blade made from a meteorite; study of artifacts of the time including other artifacts from Tutankhamun's tomb could provide valuable insights into metalworking technologies around the Mediterranean at the time.[136][137] Complete study of the iron artefacts from the tomb (besides the blade of a richly decorated golden dagger, small iron chisel blades set into wooden handles, an Eye of Horus amulet, and a miniature headrest) demonstrated that all were made of similar material.[138] Only in 2022, a complex technological and material study of the Tutankhamun's mask was published.[139] Many of Tutankhamun's burial goods show signs of being adapted for his use after being originally made for earlier owners, probably Smenkhkare or Neferneferuaten or both.[140][141][142]

On 4 November 2007, 85 years to the day after Carter's discovery, Tutankhamun's mummy was placed on display in his underground tomb at Luxor, when the linen-wrapped mummy was removed from its golden sarcophagus to a climate-controlled glass box. The case was designed to prevent the heightened rate of decomposition caused by the humidity and warmth from tourists visiting the tomb.[143] In 2009, the tomb was closed for restoration by the Ministry of Antiquities and the Getty Conservation Institute. While the closure was originally planned for five years to restore the walls affected by humidity, the Egyptian revolution of 2011 set the project back. The tomb re-opened in February 2019.[144]

Rumored curse

Howard Carter examining the innermost coffin of Tutankhamun, 1925

For many years, rumors of a "curse of the pharaohs" (probably fueled by newspapers seeking sales at the time of the discovery[145]) persisted, emphasizing the early death of some of those who had entered the tomb. The most prominent was George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who died on 5 April 1923, five months after the discovery of the first step leading down to the tomb on 4 November 1922.[146]

The cause of Carnarvon's death was pneumonia supervening on [facial] erysipelas (a streptococcal infection of the skin and underlying soft tissue).[147] The Earl had been in an automobile accident in 1901 making him very unhealthy and frail. His doctor recommended a warmer climate so in 1903 the Carnarvons traveled to Egypt where the Earl became interested in Egyptology.[146] Along with the stresses of the excavation, Carnarvon was already in a weakened state when an infection led to pneumonia.[148]

A study showed that of the 58 people who were present when the tomb and sarcophagus were opened, only eight died within a dozen years;[149] Howard Carter died of lymphoma in 1939 at the age of 64.[150] The last survivors included Lady Evelyn Herbert, Lord Carnarvon's daughter who was among the first people to enter the tomb after its discovery in November 1922, who lived for a further 57 years and died in 1980,[151] and American archaeologist J.O. Kinnaman who died in 1961, 39 years after the event.[152]


The "Egyptian Number" of Life, 19 April 1923

Tutankhamun's fame is primarily the result of his well-preserved tomb and the global exhibitions of his associated artifacts. As Jon Manchip White writes, in his foreword to the 1977 edition of Carter's The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, "The pharaoh who in life was one of the least esteemed of Egypt's Pharaohs has become in death the most renowned".[153]

The discoveries in the tomb were prominent news in the 1920s. Tutankhamen came to be called by a modern neologism, "King Tut". Ancient Egyptian references became common in popular culture, including Tin Pan Alley songs; the most popular of the latter was "Old King Tut" by Harry Von Tilzer from 1923,[154][155] which was recorded by such prominent artists of the time as Jones & Hare[156] and Sophie Tucker.[154] "King Tut" became the name of products, businesses, and the pet dog of U.S. President Herbert Hoover.[157] While The Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibit was touring the United States in 1978, comedian Steve Martin wrote a novelty song "King Tut". Originally performed on Saturday Night Live, the song was released as a single and sold over a million copies.[158] In 2023, an extinct whale discovered in the Eocene deposits of Egypt was named Tutcetus, after Tutankhamun, due to the small size and immature age of the type specimen.[159]

International exhibitions

Further information: Exhibitions of artifacts from the tomb of Tutankhamun

San Francisco's M. H. de Young Memorial Museum hosted an exhibition of Tutankhamun artifacts in 2009[160]

Tutankhamun's artifacts have traveled the world with unprecedented visitorship.[161] The exhibitions began in 1962 when Algeria won its independence from France. With the ending of that conflict, the Louvre Museum in Paris was quickly able to arrange an exhibition of Tutankhamun's treasures through Christiane Desroches Noblecourt. The French Egyptologist was already in Egypt as part of a UNESCO appointment. The French exhibit drew 1.2 million visitors. Noblecourt had also convinced the Egyptian Minister of Culture to allow British photographer George Rainbird to re-photograph the collection in color. The new color photos as well as the Louvre exhibition began a Tutankhamun revival.[162]

In 1965, the Tutankhamun exhibit traveled to Tokyo National Museum in Tokyo, Japan (21 August–10 October)[163] where it garnered more visitors than the future New York exhibit in 1979. The exhibit next moved to the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art in Kyoto (15 October–28 November)[163] with almost 1.75 million visitors, and then to the Fukuoka Prefectural Cultural Hall in Fukuoka (3 December–26 December).[163] The blockbuster attraction exceeded all other exhibitions of Tutankhamun's treasures for the next 60 years.[161][164] The Treasures of Tutankhamun tour ran from 1972 to 1979. This exhibition was first shown in London at the British Museum from 30 March until 30 September 1972. More than 1.6 million visitors saw the exhibition.[161][165] The exhibition moved on to many other countries, including the United States, Soviet Union, Japan, France, Canada, and West Germany. The Metropolitan Museum of Art organized the U.S. exhibition, which ran from 17 November 1976 through 15 April 1979. More than eight million attended.[166][167] The showing in the United States was part of a diplomatic effort begun by Henry Kissinger to further convince Americans of the value of Egypt as an ally. It traveled first to Washington D.C., then Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Seattle, and finished in New York.[168]

In 2005, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, in partnership with Arts and Exhibitions International and the National Geographic Society, launched a tour of Tutankhamun treasures and other 18th Dynasty funerary objects, this time called Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. It featured the same exhibits as Tutankhamen: The Golden Hereafter in a slightly different format. It was expected to draw more than three million people but exceeded that with almost four million people attending just the first four tour stops.[169] The exhibition started in Los Angeles, then moved to Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadelphia and London before finally returning to Egypt in August 2008. An encore of the exhibition in the United States ran at the Dallas Museum of Art.[170] After Dallas the exhibition moved to the de Young Museum in San Francisco, followed by the Discovery Times Square Exposition in New York City.[171]

Tutankhamun exhibition in 2018

The exhibition visited Australia for the first time, opening at the Melbourne Museum for its only Australian stop before Egypt's treasures returned to Cairo in December 2011.[172]

The exhibition included 80 exhibits from the reigns of Tutankhamun's immediate predecessors in the 18th Dynasty, such as Hatshepsut, whose trade policies greatly increased the wealth of that dynasty and enabled the lavish wealth of Tutankhamun's burial artifacts, as well as 50 from Tutankhamun's tomb. The exhibition did not include the gold mask that was a feature of the 1972–1979 tour, as the Egyptian government has decided that damage which occurred to previous artifacts on tours precludes this one from joining them.[173]

In 2018, it was announced that the largest collection of Tutankhamun artifacts, amounting to forty percent of the entire collection, would be leaving Egypt again in 2019 for an international tour entitled; "King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh".[174] The 2019–2022 tour began with an exhibit called; "Tutankhamun, Pharaoh's Treasures," which launched in Los Angeles and then traveled to Paris. The exhibit featured at the Grande Halle de la Villette in Paris ran from March to September 2019. The exhibit featured one hundred and fifty gold coins, along with various pieces of jewelry, sculpture and carvings, as well as the renowned gold mask of Tutankhamun. Promotion of the exhibit filled the streets of Paris with posters of the event. The exhibit moved to London in November 2019 and was scheduled to travel to Boston and Sydney when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the tour. On 28 August 2020 the artifacts that made up the temporary exhibition returned to the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, and other institutions.[175] The treasures will be permanently housed in the new Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, expected to open between October 2023 and February 2024.[176][177][178]

Family tree

Based on genetic testing and archeological evidence

Thutmose IV (m)Mutemwiya (f)Tjuyu (f)[i]Yuya (m)[i]
Amenhotep III (m)[i]Tiye (f)[i]
Body identified as KV35EL
Nefertiti (f)Akhenaten (m)[i]
Body identified in KV55
The Younger Lady (f)[i]
Body identified as KV35YL
Possibly Nebetah or Beketaten
Ankhesenamun (f)
Body believed to be KV21A
Tutankhamun (m)[i]
Child 1 (f) Child 2 (f)
Explanatory notes and reference sources


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Cooney - Jasno - pp. 219 - 220
    "DNA indicated a probability in excess of 99.99%" that Amenhotep III was the father of the man interred in KV55. The probability that the man interred in KV55 is the father of Tutankhamun was equally as great." "[T]he lock of hair found in Tutankhamun's tomb seemed to link him in some intimate way to KV35EL". "Tiye's parents, Yuya and Thuya, had been found.." "..genetic analysis confirmed KV35EL as their daughter." "Furthermore, and as anticipated, the KV55 mummy genetically matched as the offspring of KV35EL." "Perhaps the most curious results of the genetic fingerprinting came from KV35YL. She proved to be not only a daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye but also the mother of Tutankhamun."[α]
  1. ^ Cooney, Kathlyn M.; Jasnow, Richard (25 August 2015). Joyful in Thebes: Egyptological Studies in Honor of Betsy M. Bryan. Lockwood Press. ISBN 978-1-937040-41-3.

See also


  1. ^ /ˌttənkɑːˈmn/ TOO-tən-kah-MOON)[7]
  2. ^ /ˌttənˈkɑːmən, -mɛn/ TOO-tən-KAH-mən, -⁠men[7]
  3. ^ Tutankhaten was believed to mean "Living-image-of-Aten" as far back as 1877; however, not all Egyptologists agree with this interpretation. English Egyptologist Battiscombe Gunn believed that the older interpretation did not fit with Akhenaten's theology. Gunn believed that such a name would have been blasphemous. He saw tut as a verb and not a noun and gave his translation in 1926 as The-life-of-Aten-is-pleasing. Professor Gerhard Fecht also believed the word tut was a verb. He noted that Akhenaten used tit as a word for 'image', not tut. Fecht translated the verb tut as "To be perfect/complete". Using Aten as the subject, Fecht's full translation was "One-perfect-of-life-is-Aten". The Hermopolis Block (two carved block fragments discovered in Ashmunein) has a unique spelling of the first nomen written as Tutankhuaten; it uses ankh as a verb, which does support the older translation of Living-image-of-Aten.[9]
  4. ^ Part of this interpretation is based on the inscribed block from Hermopolis, which names a "King's Son" in conjunction with a "King's Daughter".[16] Princes were not commonly depicted in the Eighteenth Dynasty so it is argued depictions of daughters does not necessarily mean Nefertiti did not have a son.[17]
  5. ^ His parents are suggested to be Meritaten and her known husband Smenkhkare based on a re-examination of a box lid and coronation tunic found in his tomb.[18]
  6. ^ Meketaten's candidacy is based on a relief from the Royal Tomb at Amarna which depicts a child in the arms of a nurse outside a chamber in which Meketaten is being mourned by her parents and siblings, which has been interpreted to indicate she died in childbirth.[19] This possibility has been deemed unlikely given that she was about 10 years old at the time of her death.[20]
  7. ^ The team reported it was over 99.99 percent certain that Amenhotep III was the father of the individual in KV55, who was in turn the father of Tutankhamun.[24] More recent genetic analysis, published in 2020, revealed Tutankhamun shared his Y-haplogroup with his father, the KV55 mummy (Akhenaten), and grandfather, Amenhotep III, and his mtDNA haplogroup with his mother, The Younger Lady, his grandmother, Tiye, and his great-grandmother, Thuya, upholding the results of the earlier genetic study.[25]
  8. ^ Tutankhamun's Horus Name was Ka nakht tut mesut,[3] translated as; Victorious bull, the (very) image of (re)birth.[5]
  9. ^ His second full nomen (also called the Son of Re Name) was; Tut ankh imen, heqa iunu shemau, translated as; The living image of Amun, Ruler of Southern Heliopolis.[5]
  10. ^ Tutankahmun's Nebty or Two Ladies Name was; (1): Nefer hepu, segereh tawy,[3] translated as; Perfect of laws, who has quieted down the Two Lands.[5] (2): Nefer hepu, segereh tawy sehetep netjeru nebu, translated as; Perfect of laws, who has quieted down the Two Lands and pacified all the gods.[5] (3): Wer ah imen, translated as; The great one of the palace of Amun.[47]
  11. ^ Tutankhamun's Gold Falcon Name was: (1): Wetjes khau, sehetep netjeru[3] translated as; Elevated of appearances, who has satisfied the gods.[5] *Gold Falcon name (2): Wetjes khau it ef ra, translates as; Who has elevated the appearances of his father Re.[47]
  12. ^ Tutankhamun's Prenomen (Throne Name) was: Neb kheperu re,[3][47] translated as: The possessor of the manifestation of Re.[5] which had an epithet added: Heqa maat, translated as; Ruler of Maat.[47]
  13. ^ Karl Kitchen, a reporter for the Boston Globe, wrote in 1924 that a boy named Mohamed Gorgar had found the step; he interviewed Gorgar, who did not say whether the story was true.[129] Lee Keedick, the organiser of Carter's American lecture tour, said Carter attributed the discovery to an unnamed boy carrying water for the workmen.[130] Many recent accounts, such as the 2018 book Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh by the Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, identify the water-boy as Hussein Abd el-Rassul, a member of a prominent local family. Hawass says he heard this story from el-Rassul in person. Another Egyptologist, Christina Riggs, suggests the story may instead be a conflation of Keedick's account, which was widely publicised by the 1978 book Tutankhamun: The Untold Story by Thomas Hoving, with el-Rassul's long-standing claim to have been the boy who was photographed wearing one of Tutankhamun's pectorals in 1926.[131]


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Further reading

  • Andritsos, John. Social Studies of Ancient Egypt: Tutankhamun. Australia 2006.
  • Brier, Bob. The Murder of Tutankhamun: A True Story. Putnam Adult, 13 April 1998, ISBN 0-425-16689-9 (paperback), ISBN 0-399-14383-1 (hardcover), ISBN 0-613-28967-6 (School & Library Binding).
  • Carter, Howard and Arthur C. Mace, The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Courier Dover Publications, 1 June 1977, ISBN 0-486-23500-9 The semi-popular account of the discovery and opening of the tomb written by the archaeologist responsible.
  • Desroches-Noblecourt, Christiane. Sarwat Okasha (Preface), Tutankhamun: Life and Death of a Pharaoh. New York: New York Graphic Society, 1963, ISBN 0-8212-0151-4 (1976 reprint, hardcover), ISBN 0-14-011665-6 (1990 reprint, paperback).
  • Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, The Mummy of Tutankhamun: The CT Scan Report, as printed in Ancient Egypt, June/July 2005.
  • Haag, Michael. The Rough Guide to Tutankhamun: The King: The Treasure: The Dynasty. London 2005. ISBN 1-84353-554-8.
  • Hoving, Thomas. The Search for Tutankhamun: The Untold Story of Adventure and Intrigue Surrounding the Greatest Modern archeological find. New York: Simon & Schuster, 15 October 1978, ISBN 0-671-24305-5 (hardcover), ISBN 0-8154-1186-3 (paperback) This book details a number of anecdotes about the discovery and excavation of the tomb.
  • James, T. G. H. Tutankhamun. New York: Friedman/Fairfax, 1 September 2000, ISBN 1-58663-032-6 (hardcover) A large-format volume by the former Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum, filled with colour illustrations of the funerary furnishings of Tutankhamun, and related objects.
  • Neubert, Otto. Tutankhamun and the Valley of the Kings. London: Granada Publishing Limited, 1972, ISBN 0-583-12141-1 (paperback) First hand account of the discovery of the Tomb.
  • Rossi, Renzo. Tutankhamun. Cincinnati (Ohio) 2007 ISBN 978-0-7153-2763-0, a work all illustrated and coloured.