Before the spectacular discovery of his almost intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings (KV 62) in November 1922, Tutankhamun was a shadowy and little known figure of the late 18th Dynasty. To a certain extent he still is, despite the prominence he has acquired from the contents of his tomb.
|Mask of Tutankhamun's mummy, the popular icon for ancient Egypt at The Egyptian Museum.|
Towards the end of Akhenaten's reign the senior members of the court, especially Ay and Horemheb, probably realized that things could not go on as they were. Smenkhkare, Akhenaten's brother (or son?) and co-regent, must have come to the same conclusion since he had left Akhetaten and moved back to the old secular capital, Memphis, where he may have been in contact with the proscribed members of the priesthood of Amun before his death and burial at Thebes.
Soon after Akhenaten's death, Tutankhaten (as he then was) was crowned at Memphis. Aged about nine when he succeeded, the young king would have had no close female relatives left - his probable mother Kiya (p. 130), his stepmother Nefertiti and his elder step-sisters all being dead. He was probably under the direct care and influence of Ay, the senior civil servant, and Horemheb, the military man. Tutankhaten's wife, Ankhesenpaaten, was evidently older than he since she was already of child-bearing age, seemingly having had a daughter by her father, Akhenaten.
A large number of reliefs and statues have been identified as originally belonging to Tutankhamun (the majority showing him either in the company of Amun or as the god himself), for although the inscriptions have been changed, the king's boyish features are clearly recognizable. Extensive building works were carried out at Karnak and Luxor in Tutankhamun's name, especially the great colonnade and the relief scenes of the Festival of Opet at Luxor, but all were subsequently taken over by Horemheb. Apart from the pivotal return to Thebes and the cult of Amun, few events from Tutankhamun's reign have been documented.
Military campaigns were apparently mounted in Nubia and Palestine/Syria, suggested by a brightly painted gesso box from Tutankhamun's tomb which has four spirited scenes featuring the king. One shows him hunting lions in the desert, another gazelles, whilst on the third and fourth he furiously attacks Nubians and then Syrians, who fall to his arrows. Finely carved scenes of prisoners in the Memphite tomb of the military commander-in-chief, Horemheb, lend some veracity to the scenes on the gesso box, as does the painting in the tomb of Huy, Viceroy of Nubia, which shows subservient Nubian princes and piles of tribute. It is doubtful, however, that Tutankhamun actually took part in any of the campaigns.
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