An introduction to Tutankhamen


One of the most famous Egyptian pharaohs was called Tutankhamun. He is famous, not because he was particularly rich and powerful, but because of the discovery of his tomb in the 20th century. But before we discuss that great archaeological find, let's look at the life of this pharaoh.


Tutankhamun was a pharaoh during the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt, during the New Kingdom period. He was born around 1346 BC in the ancient Egyptian capital city of Akhetaten and took the throne following the death of his father, Akhenaten. Akhenaten was an important figure in ancient Egyptian history because he had chosen to change the religion of Egypt, by only worshipping one god, called the 'Aten'. This was a very unpopular decision, so after Akhenaten died, they were looking for a new ruler who would return the old religion and its many gods.


Tutankhamun was quite young when he became pharaoh: probably around 9 or 10 years old. So, he is often called the 'boy king' by people today. As he took charge of the country, Tutankhamun abandoned his father's religious revolution and returned to the old Egyptian religion. By his third year as pharaoh, the Egyptian people were allowed to worship the old gods again. He even changed the capital city from Akhetaten to Thebes.


Tutankhamun died suddenly when he was about 18 years old, which meant that he barely reigned for 10 years. He had his tomb built in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes, which is where he was buried. However, because his death was so unexpected, his burial was quite rushed, and evidence that the tomb was still not entirely finished survives today. His burial place was eventually lost over the centuries and very few people even remembered who Tutankhamun was. 

That was, until in November 1922, almost 3000 years after Tutankhamun's death, it was rediscovered by the English Egyptologist, Howard Carter. Because the tomb had never been robbed and had been forgotten, it was still filled with golden treasures and precious archaeological artifacts. The most famous items from his tomb are his golden death mask, a flat-packed chariot and a knife made from a meteorite. 

The treasures of Tutankhamun's tomb. Source:
The treasures of Tutankhamun's tomb. Source:

What killed Tutankhamun?

Many mysteries still surround the Tutankhamun's unexpected death. Thankfully, his mummy has survived, which has allowed modern forensic archaeologists to examine the king's body to find clues. Unfortunately, there are many possibilities. Here are a few:

  1. Malaria parasites were found in his body, which can cause death under some circumstances
  2. The mummy shows a broken leg, so he may have died from complications from this
  3. There is some damage to the mummy's skull. Therefore, he may have had an accident, such as falling from a chariot, which may have killed. Alternatively, maybe someone murdered the king by hitting him on the head.