The most famous Egyptian ruler was actually a rather insignificant figure in the history of Egypt.
In November 1922, in the Egyptian Valley of Kings, both the Egyptologist Howard Carter and amateur archaeologist George Herbert Carnarvon stumbled across a hidden entrance in the tomb of pharaoh Ramesses VI. It led to another funeral site.
When the entrance was cleared, a unique picture appeared before the scientists’ eyes – they’ve just found one of the few tombs of the Pharaoh which was not yet plundered in the past millennium.
The mummy of Tutankhamun was discovered in a gold sarcophagus with turquoise ornaments.
From then on, Tutankhamun became one of the most important figures in ancient Egyptian history. Even those unfamiliar the Country of Pharaohs, have heard of the name Tutankhamun.
Until the beginning of the 20th century Egyptologists actually knew very little about Tutankhamun. Besides, his reign as a pharaoh was placed under question by many.
Later investigations revealed that those who wanted to erase Tutankhamun from history were the rulers who replaced him illegally and tried to hide all compromising evidence.
Illustrations of Tutankhamun were removed; his face, arms, legs and thighs were erased from his statues. For the ancient Egyptians it was much easier to fill up the entrance of the tomb, rather than to desecrate it.
The Heir of the Great Reformer
What made Tutankhamun so inconvenient for his successors?
Tutankhamun reigned over Ancient Egypt from 1332 until 1323 BC He was crowned at the age of 10 and passed away before reaching his twenties.
Scientists share different opinions about the origin of Tutankhamun. Some assume he was a son of pharaoh Echnaton, while others believe that the father of Tutankhamun was pharaoh Smenkhara who was a son or a brother of Echnaton.
This revolutionary reform was started by Echnaton and aimed at depriving of power the influential caste of the priests.
The opposition between the new and the old beliefs was so fierce that Echnaton left Thebes, where the priests had a lot of influence which is why the pharaoh ordered a new city to be built – it was to become the new capital.
The city of Akhetaten became a centre for propagation of the new religion which very soon had to fight for its own existence. The pharaoh reformer found himself in isolation and even though he did not give up his plans, he could not in anyway defeat the believers of the old.
Following Echnaton’s death, a process of bringing back the previous belief of the Egyptians started which lasted the reign of several pharaohs.
One of these ‘intermediate rulers’ was Tutankhamun whose name initially was Tutankhaten (literally meaning “Living Image of Aten”).
The death of the advocate for “centralism”
In the first few years Tutankhamun followed the religion of Echnaton, but after that returned to his old believes and even changed his name.
Aside of that, as he gave back the rights to the followers of the old faith, Tutankhamun began prosecuting the Aten followers hoping to keep the peace in the kingdom.
In order to keep the balance in his country, Tutankhamun left Akhetaten but did not return to Thebes and instead stayed in Memphis.
Two experienced politicians exerted great influence upon Tutankhamun – the dignitary Ay and military commander Horemheb. In fact, the whole nine years of Tutankhamun’s reign passed under their guardianship which the young pharaoh did not have the chance to escape from.
The main figure in this chain was Echnaton – the pharaoh reformer who made an attempt to introduce monotheism in Egypt. According to it the Egyptians had to worship the solar disc – Aten – and the pharaoh himself as a chief priest of the new God.
Arguments behind the reason of Tutankhamun’s early death continue to this day. Scientists noticed a wreath of cornflowers and daisies on the mummy’s neck. Because flowers in Egypt blossom in March and April and the mummification process lasts for 70 days, the conclusion was drawn – Tutankhamun died in December or January.
This time of the year was considered to be the peak of the hunting season in Egypt the following suggestion emerged: Tutankhamun probably injured himself fatally during a hunt.
Among the alternative versions were death from malaria or even a murder perpetrated by Ay and Horemheb who decided to get rid of the obstacle between them and the authority.
Repressed even after his death
Ay and Horemheb actually became the successors of Tutankhamun and did everything possible to erase the traces of his reign.
Horemheb was extremely successful in his endeavour as he fully destroyed the remains of Aten’s cult. Furthermore, he deleted four of his predecessors from the pharaohs’ list of Egypt including his ‘partner’ Ay as he proclaimed himself to be the heir of Amenhotep III – the last pharaoh before the age of Aten.
‘The heretic pharaohs’ were condemned to oblivion. The city of Akhetaten was destroyed as well as the tombs of the ‘sinful’ rulers and their entourage. The Tutankhamun’s tomb was the only one to survive.
This is exactly what allowed Tutankhamun to come out of oblivion after three millennia and become the ‘star’ of Ancient Egypt for the people of the 20th and the 21st centuries.
Thanks to English archaeologists, Tutankhamun’s ‘posthumous glory’ turned out to be brighter and richer than his actual life.