April 17, 2012

Tutankhamun Pharaoh 1334-1325 BC

Tutankhamun
(heqaiunushema)
Nebkheperure
Dynasty 18
1334-1325 BC

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.
Tutankhamun's name was known in the early years of this century from a few references, but his exact place in the sequence of the 'Amarna kings' was uncertain. Like Akhenaten and Ay, his name had been omitted from the classic king lists of Abydos and Karnak, which simply jump from Amenhotep III to Horemheb. Indeed, Tutankhamun's exact identity - and his parentage - is still a matter of some conjecture, although it is clear that the young prince was brought up at Amarna, probably in the North Palace. A number of items found in his tomb are relics of his life at the Aten court, notably the Aten's disc shown protecting him and his young wife, Ankhesenpaaten, on the pictorial back panel of his gold-inlaid throne [opposite).

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.

Tutankhamun
As soon as the new king had been installed, a move was made back to the old religion. This was signified radically in Year 2 when both king and queen changed the -aten ending of their names to -amun. Tutankhamun probably had little to do with this or indeed many other decisions - his 'advisors' were the ones who held the reins and manipulated the puppet strings of the boy-king. A great 'Restoration' stele records the reinstallation of the old religion of Amun and the reopening and rebuilding of the temples. The stele is known from two copies, both of which were later usurped by Horemheb, as were many other monuments of Tutankhamun.

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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