Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Dana from Richmond, TX. Dana Wonders, “Who was King Tut?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Dana!
When you think of Egypt, what comes to mind? The Great Pyramids of Giza? The Nile River? Those are definitely icons of Egypt that most people know. What about Egyptian rulers, though? There's probably at least one ancient Egyptian king that you've heard of. Who are we talking about? King Tut, of course!
If Tut seems like an odd name, that's because it's a nickname. When he was born in approximately 1341 B.C., he was given the name Tutankhatun (sometimes spelled Tutankhaten), which means "the living image of Aten." Aten was the Egyptian sun god.
Tut's father, Akhenaten, was an unpopular pharaoh known for sweeping religious changes and a corrupt regime. Many historians believe he was forced to abdicate his throne and died soon thereafter. After a brief period of rule by other pharaohs, 9-year-old Tut became the 12th king of the 18th Egyptian dynasty around 1332 B.C.
Given his young age, Tut's first years as pharaoh were probably guided closely by an advisor (known as a vizier) named Ay, as well as Egypt's top military commander, named Horemheb. Under their guidance, Tut reversed many of his father's unpopular changes, including returning the country to its traditional worship of a variety of different gods, rather than just Aten.
Tut also changed his name to Tutankhamun (sometimes spelled Tutankhamen), which means "the living image of Amun." Amun was an Egyptian god known as the "King of the Gods." Scholars believe Tut received military training and tried to reestablish relations with Egypt's neighbors. Otherwise, not a lot is known about Tut's reign.
Tut died at the young age of 19 around 1323 B.C. He was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings. His body was mummified, which was the traditional means of preservation at that time. After his death and burial, Tut remained lost to history, virtually unknown until his tomb was discovered in 1922.
British archeologists Howard Carter and George Herbert discovered Tut's tomb in the Valley of the Kings on November 26, 1922. Most of what we know about Tut has come since that time, as different scientists have examined and inspected the tomb, Tut's mummified body, and the objects buried with him.
New discoveries are still being made today. As newer technologies and scientific techniques are developed, scientists continue to apply the latest methods to Tut's tomb and all that it contained.
Archeologists have uncovered a spectacular collection of thousands of objects over the years, including priceless jewelry, furniture, childhood toys, clothing, chariots, weapons, statues, walking sticks, and oils. They also discovered paintings on the walls of the tomb that told parts of Tut's story.
The most interesting find was Tut's mummified body, preserved for over 3,000 years within a stone sarcophagus that contained three separate coffins, the last of which was made of gold. Researchers believe Tut suffered from a crippling bone disease that made him physically frail.
His cause of death remains a mystery even today. Some believe he was assassinated, while others believe he may have succumbed to infections from either malaria or a broken left leg.