Tutankhamun (/ˌtuːtənkɑːˈmuːn/;[a][b] c. 1341 – c. 1323 BC) was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty (ruled c. 1332 – 1323 BC in the conventional chronology), during the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom. He has, since the discovery of his intact tomb, been referred to colloquially as King Tut.

His original name, Tutankhaten, means "the living image of Aten", while Tutankhamun means "the living image of Amun". In hieroglyphs, the name Tutankhamun was typically written Amun-tut-ankh because of a scribal custom that placed a divine name at the beginning of a phrase to show appropriate reverence.[7] He is possibly the Nibhurrereya of the Amarna letters, and likely the 18th-dynasty king Rathotis who, according to ancient historian Manetho, had reigned for nine years—a figure that conforms with Flavius Josephus's version of Manetho's Epitome.[8]

The 1922 discovery by Howard Carter of Tutankhamun's nearly intact tomb, funded by Lord Carnarvon,[9][10] received worldwide press coverage. It sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun's mask, now in the Egyptian Museum, remains a popular symbol. In February 2010, genetic testing confirmed that he was the son of the mummy found in the tomb KV55, believed by some to be Akhenaten. His mother was his father's sister and wife, whose name is unknown but whose remains are positively identified as The Younger Lady mummy found in KV35.[11] The deaths of a few involved in the discovery of Tutankhamun's mummy have been popularly attributed to the curse of the pharaohs.[12]


Tutankhamun was likely the son of Akhenaten (formerly Amenhotep IV) and one of Akhenaten's sisters or cousins.[2][13] As a prince, he was known as Tutankhaten.[14] He ascended to the throne in 1333 BC, at the age of nine or ten, taking the throne name Nebkheperure.[15] His wet nurse was a woman called Maia, known from her tomb at Saqqara.[16]

When he became king, he married his half-sister, Ankhesenpaaten, who later changed her name to Ankhesenamun. They had two daughters, neither of whom survived infancy.[11] Computed tomography studies released in 2011 revealed that one daughter was born prematurely at 5–6 months of pregnancy and the other at full-term, 9 months.[17] The daughter born at 9 months gestation had spina bifida, scoliosis, and Sprengel's deformity (a condition affecting the placement of the scapula).[18]


Tutankhamun was nine years old when he became Pharaoh, and he reigned for about ten years.[19] Tutankhamun is historically significant because his reign was near the apogee of Egypt as a world power and because he rejected the radical religious innovations introduced by his predecessor and father, Akhenaten.[20] Secondly, his tomb in the Valley of the Kings was discovered by Carter almost completely intact—the most complete ancient Egyptian royal tomb found. As Tutankhamun began his reign so young, his vizier and eventual successor, Ay, was probably making most of the important political decisions during Tutankhamun's reign.[21]

Tutankhamun receives flowers from Ankhesenamun

Kings were venerated after their deaths through mortuary cults and associated temples. Tutankhamun was one of the few kings worshiped in this manner during his lifetime.[22] A stela discovered at Karnak and dedicated to Amun-Ra and Tutankhamun indicates that the king could be appealed to in his deified state for forgiveness and to free the petitioner from an ailment caused by sin. Temples of his cult were built as far away as in Kawa and Faras in Nubia. The title of the sister of the Viceroy of Kush included a reference to the deified king, indicative of the universality of his cult.[23]

The country was economically weak and in turmoil following the reign of Akhenaten. Diplomatic relations with other kingdoms had been neglected, and Tutankhamun sought to restore them, in particular with the Mitanni. Evidence of his success is suggested by the gifts from various countries found in his tomb. Despite his efforts for improved relations, battles with Nubians and Asiatics were recorded in his mortuary temple at Thebes. His tomb contained body armor, folding stools appropriate for military campaigns, and bows, and he was trained in archery.[24] However, given his youth and physical disabilities, which seemed to require the use of a cane in order to walk, most historians speculate that he did not personally take part in these battles.[11][25][26]

As part of his restoration, the king initiated building projects, in particular at Karnak in Thebes, where he dedicated a temple to Amun. Many monuments were erected, and an inscription on his tomb door declares the king had "spent his life in fashioning the images of the gods". The traditional festivals were now celebrated again, including those related to the Apis Bull, Horemakhet, and Opet. His restoration stela says:

The temples of the gods and goddesses ... were in ruins. Their shrines were deserted and overgrown. Their sanctuaries were as non-existent and their courts were used as roads ... the gods turned their backs upon this land ... If anyone made a prayer to a god for advice he would never respond.[27]

Given his age, the king probably had very powerful advisers, presumably including General Horemheb (Grand Vizier Ay's possible son in law and successor) and Grand Vizier Ay (who succeeded Tutankhamun). Horemheb records that the king appointed him "lord of the land" as hereditary prince to maintain law. He also noted his ability to calm the young king when his temper flared.[28]

In his third regnal year, under the influence of his advisors, Tutankhamun reversed several changes made during his father's reign. He ended the worship of the god Aten and restored the god Amun to supremacy. The ban on the cult of Amun was lifted and traditional privileges were restored to its priesthood. The capital was moved back to Thebes and the city of Akhetaten abandoned.[29] This is when he changed his name to Tutankhamun, "Living image of Amun", reinforcing the restoration of Amun.[21]

Health and appearance

Close-up of Tutankhamun's head

Tutankhamun was slight of build, and roughly 167 cm (5 ft 6 in) tall.[30][31] He had large front incisors and an overbite characteristic of the Thutmosid royal line to which he belonged. Between September 2007 and October 2009, various mummies were subjected to detailed anthropological, radiological, and genetic studies as part of the King Tutankhamun Family Project. The research showed that Tutankhamun also had "a slightly cleft palate"[32] and possibly a mild case of scoliosis, a medical condition in which the spine deviates to the side from the normal position. It was posited in the 2002 documentary 'Assassination of King Tut' for the Discovery Channel that he suffered from Klippel-Feil syndrome, but subsequent analysis excluded this as an acceptable diagnosis.[33] Examination of Tutankhamun's body has also revealed deformations in his left foot, caused by necrosis of bone tissue. The affliction may have forced Tutankhamun to walk with the use of a cane, many of which were found in his tomb.[34] In DNA tests of Tutankhamun's mummy, scientists found DNA from the mosquito-borne parasites that cause malaria. This is currently the oldest known genetic proof of the disease. More than one strain of the malaria parasite was found, indicating that Tutankhamun contracted multiple malarial infections.[34]


In 2008, genetic research on the mummified remains of other members of Tutankhamun and his family members was conducted at the University of Cairo. The results indicated that his father was Akhenaten, and that his mother was not one of Akhenaten's known wives but one of his father's five sisters.[35][36] The team reported it was over 99.99 percent certain that Amenhotep III was the father of the individual in KV55, who was in turn the father of Tutankhamun.[37] The young king's mother was found through the DNA testing of a mummy designated as 'The Younger Lady' (KV35YL), which was found lying beside Queen Tiye in the alcove of KV35.[37][38] The validity and reliability of the genetic data from mummified remains has been questioned due to possible degradation due to decay.[citation needed]

Statue of Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun at Luxor, hacked at during the damnatio memoriae campaign against the Amarna era pharaohs

While the data are still incomplete, the study suggests that one of the mummies found in Tutankhamun's tomb is his daughter, and the other fetus is most likely also his child. only partial data for the two female mummies from KV21 has been obtained so far.[37] One of them, KV21A, may be the infants' mother, and, thus, Tutankhamun's wife, Ankhesenamun. It is known from history that she was the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, and therefore likely to be her husband's half-sister. One consequence of inbreeding can be children whose genetic defects do not allow them to be brought to term.[39]


There are no surviving records of Tutankhamun's death. The cause of his death has been the subject of considerable debate and major studies have been conducted to establish it. A CT scan taken in 2005 showed that he had suffered a compound left leg fracture[40] shortly before his death, and that the leg had become infected. DNA analysis conducted in 2010 showed the presence of malaria in his system, leading to the belief that a combination of malaria and Köhler disease II led to his death.[41]

In 2005, research using CT scans on the mummy found that he was not killed by a blow to the head.[37] New CT images discovered congenital flaws, which are more common among the children of incest. Siblings are more likely to pass on twin copies of deleterious alleles, which is why children of incest more commonly manifest genetic defects.[42] It is suspected he also had a partially cleft palate, another congenital defect.[37]

Tutankhamun's other diseases included Marfan syndrome, Wilson–Turner X-linked mental retardation syndrome, Fröhlich syndrome (adiposogenital dystrophy), Klinefelter syndrome, androgen insensitivity syndrome, aromatase excess syndrome in conjunction with sagittal craniosynostosis syndrome, Antley–Bixler syndrome or one of its variants,[43] and temporal lobe epilepsy.[44]

A research team from the National Research Centre in Cairo conducted further CT scans, STR analysis have rejected the hypothesis of gynecomastia and craniosynostoses (e.g., Antley–Bixler syndrome) or Marfan syndrome, but an accumulation of malformations in Tutankhamun's family was evident. Several pathologies including Köhler disease II were diagnosed in Tutankhamun; none alone would have caused death. Genetic testing for STEVOR, AMA1, or MSP1 genes specific for Plasmodium falciparum revealed indications of malaria tropica in 4 mummies, including Tutankhamun's.[11] The team discovered DNA from several strains of a parasite, indicated that he was repeatedly infected with the most severe strain of malaria multiple times. His malaria infections may have caused a fatal immune response in the body or trigger circulatory shock.[45] Additionally, he suffered from mild kyphoscoliosis, pes planus (flat feet), hypophalangism of the right foot, bone necrosis of the second and third metatarsal bones of the left foot, malaria, and a complex bone fracture of the right knee, which occurred shortly before his death.[46]


Howard Carter and associates opening the shrine doors in the burial chamber (1924 reconstruction of the 1923 event)

Tutankhamun was buried in a tomb that was unusually small considering his status. His death may have occurred unexpectedly, before the completion of a grander royal tomb, causing his mummy to be buried in a tomb intended for someone else. This would preserve the observance of the customary 70 days between death and burial.[47]

In 1915, George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, the financial backer of the search for and the excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, employed English archaeologist Howard Carter to explore it. After a systematic search, Carter discovered the actual tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) in November 1922,[48] and unsealed the burial chamber on 16 February 1923.[49]

On 4 November 2007, 85 years to the day after Carter's discovery, Tutankhamun's mummy was placed on display in his underground tomb at Luxor, when the linen-wrapped mummy was removed from its golden sarcophagus to a climate-controlled glass box. The case was designed to prevent the heightened rate of decomposition caused by the humidity and warmth from tourists visiting the tomb.[50]

His tomb was robbed at least twice in antiquity, but based on the items taken (including perishable oils and perfumes) and the evidence of restoration of the tomb after the intrusions, these robberies likely took place within several months at most of the initial burial. The location of the tomb was lost because it had come to be buried by debris from subsequent tombs, and worker's houses were built over the tomb entrance.[51]

There were 5,398 items found in the tomb, including a solid gold coffin, face mask, thrones, archery bows, trumpets, a lotus chalice, food, wine, sandals, and fresh linen underwear. Howard Carter took 10 years to catalog the items.[52] Recent analysis suggests a dagger recovered from the tomb had an iron blade made from a meteorite; study of artifacts of the time including other artifacts from Tutankhamun's tomb could provide valuable insights into metalworking technologies around the Mediterranean at the time.[53][54][55][56]

Almost 80% of Tutankhamun's burial equipment originated from the female pharaoh Neferneferuaten's funerary goods, including the Mask of Tutankhamun.[57][58] In 2015, English Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves published evidence showing that an earlier cartouche on Tutankhamun's famous gold mask read "Ankhkheperure mery-Neferkheperure" (Ankhkheperure beloved of Akhenaten); therefore, the mask was originally made for Nefertiti, Akhenaten's chief queen, who used the royal name Ankhkheperure when she most likely assumed the throne after her husband's death.[59] Neferneferuaten (likely Nefertiti if she assumed the throne after Akhenaten's death) may have been deposed in a struggle for power and possibly deprived of a royal burial, or she was buried with a different set of Akhenaten's funerary equipment by Tutankhamun's officials, since Tutankhamun succeeded her as king.[60] Neferneferuaten was likely succeeded by Tutankhamun based on the presence of her funerary goods in his tomb.[61][62]

In January 2019, it was announced that the tomb would re-open to visitors after nine years of restoration.[63]


For many years, rumors of a "curse of the pharaohs" (probably fueled by newspapers seeking sales at the time of the discovery)[64] persisted, emphasizing the early death of some of those who had entered the tomb. The most prominent was George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who died on 5 April 1923, five months after the discovery of the first step leading down to the tomb on 4 November 1922.[65]

A study of documents and academic sources led The Lancet to conclude that Carnarvon's death had nothing to do with Tutankhamun's tomb, regardless of whether because of a curse or exposure to toxic fungi (mycotoxins).[66] The cause of Carnarvon's death was pneumonia supervening on [facial] erysipelas (a streptococcal infection of the skin and underlying soft tissue). Pneumonia was thought to be only one of various complications, arising from the progressively invasive infection, that eventually resulted in multiorgan failure".[67] The Earl had been "prone to frequent and severe lung infections" according to The Lancet and there had been a "general belief ... that one acute attack of bronchitis could have killed him. In such a debilitated state, the Earl's immune system was easily overwhelmed by erysipelas".[66]

A study showed that of the 58 people who were present when the tomb and sarcophagus were opened, only eight died within a dozen years;[68] Howard Carter died of lymphoma in 1939 at the age of 64.[69] The last survivors included Lady Evelyn Herbert, Lord Carnarvon's daughter who was among the first people to enter the tomb after its discovery in November 1922, who lived for a further 57 years and died in 1980,[70] and American archaeologist J.O. Kinnaman who died in 1961, 39 years after the event.[71]


Pectoral belonging to Tutankhamun, representing his prenomen

Tutankhamun's fame is primarily the result of his well-preserved tomb and the global exhibitions of his associated artifacts. As Jon Manchip White writes, in his foreword to the 1977 edition of Carter's The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, "The pharaoh who in life was one of the least esteemed of Egypt's Pharaohs has become in death the most renowned".[72]

The discoveries in the tomb were prominent news in the 1920s. Tutankhamen came to be called by a modern neologism, "King Tut". Ancient Egyptian references became common in popular culture, including Tin Pan Alley songs; the most popular of the latter was "Old King Tut" by Harry Von Tilzer from 1923, which was recorded by such prominent artists of the time as Jones & Hare and Sophie Tucker. "King Tut" became the name of products, businesses, and the pet dog of U.S. President Herbert Hoover.[73]

Relics from Tutankhamun's tomb are among the most traveled artifacts in the world. They have been to many countries, but probably the best-known exhibition tour was The Treasures of Tutankhamun tour, which ran from 1972 to 1979. This exhibition was first shown in London at the British Museum from 30 March until 30 September 1972. More than 1.6 million visitors saw the exhibition, some queuing for up to eight hours. It remains the most popular exhibition in the Museum's history.[74] The exhibition moved on to many other countries, including the United States, Soviet Union, Japan, France, Canada, and West Germany. The Metropolitan Museum of Art organized the U.S. exhibition, which ran from 17 November 1976 through 15 April 1979. More than eight million attended.[75]

Tutankhamun's chest, now in the Cairo Museum

In 2005, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, in partnership with Arts and Exhibitions International and the National Geographic Society, launched a tour of Tutankhamun treasures and other 18th Dynasty funerary objects, this time called Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. It featured the same exhibits as Tutankhamen: The Golden Hereafter in a slightly different format. It was expected to draw more than three million people.[76]

The exhibition started in Los Angeles, then moved to Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Philadelphia and London before finally returning to Egypt in August 2008.[77] An encore of the exhibition in the United States ran at the Dallas Museum of Art.[78] The tour continued to other U.S. cities.[79] After Dallas the exhibition moved to the de Young Museum in San Francisco, followed by the Discovery Times Square Exposition in New York City.[80]

The exhibition visited Australia for the first time, opening at the Melbourne Museum for its only Australian stop before Egypt's treasures returned to Cairo in December 2011.[81]

The exhibition included 80 exhibits from the reigns of Tutankhamun's immediate predecessors in the 18th dynasty, such as Hatshepsut, whose trade policies greatly increased the wealth of that dynasty and enabled the lavish wealth of Tutankhamun's burial artifacts, as well as 50 from Tutankhamun's tomb. The exhibition does not include the gold mask that was a feature of the 1972–1979 tour, as the Egyptian government has decided that damage which occurred to previous artifacts on tours precludes this one from joining them.[82]


Horus name
Kanakht Tutmesut
The strong bull, pleasing of birth[citation needed]
Nebti name

Neferhepusegerehtawy Werahamun Nebrdjer
One of perfect laws, who pacifies the two lands; Great of the palace of Amun; Lord of all[83]
Golden Horus name
t p

t p

Wetjeskhausehetepnetjeru Heqamaatsehetepnetjeru Wetjeskhauitefre Wetjeskhautjestawyim
Who wears crowns and pleases the gods; Ruler of Truth, who pleases the gods; Who wears the crowns of his father, Re; Who wears crowns, and binds the two lands therein
Hiero Ca1.svg
Hiero Ca2.svg
𓇓𓆤 𓍹𓇳𓆣𓏥𓎟𓍺
Lord of the forms of Re
Son of Re
Hiero Ca1.svg
Hiero Ca2.svg
𓅭𓇳 𓍹𓇋𓏠𓈖𓏏𓅱𓏏𓋹𓋾𓉺𓇗𓍺
Tutankhamun Hekaiunushema
Living Image of Amun, ruler of Upper Heliopolis

At the reintroduction of traditional religious practice, his name changed. It is transliterated as twt-ꜥnḫ-ỉmn ḥqꜣ-ỉwnw-šmꜥ, and according to modern Egyptological convention is written Tutankhamun Hekaiunushema, meaning "Living image of Amun, ruler of Upper Heliopolis". On his ascension to the throne, Tutankhamun took a prenomen. This is transliterated as nb-ḫprw-rꜥ, and, again, according to modern Egyptological convention is written Nebkheperure, meaning "Lord of the forms of Re". The name Nibhurrereya (𒉌𒅁𒄷𒊑𒊑𒅀) in the Amarna letters may be closer to how his prenomen was actually pronounced.[citation needed]

The Egyptian priest Manetho wrote about ancient Egyptian history, starting from before the First Dynasty and continuing down to Alexander the Great. The copies, however, were poorly transcribed.[84] Josephus, a Jewish historian, for example, had two different copies. This history called Tutankhamun "King Rathotis", and according to Manetho, he reigned for nine years, a figure that conforms with Josephus's two copies.[84]


Amenhotep II
Thutmose IV
Amenhotep III
KV55, possibly Akhenaten
The Younger Lady

See also



  1. ^ Alternatively spelled with Tutenkhamen,[3] or -amon
  2. ^ Comparative reconstructions suggest that his name was actually pronounced as something like *[taˈwaːt ˈʕaːnxu ʔaˈmaːn] in his lifetime.[4][5][6]


  1. ^ Clayton, Peter A. (2006). Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-500-28628-9.
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  4. ^ Vycichl (1983:10, 224, 250)
  5. ^ Fecht, Gerhard, Wortakzent und Silbenstruktur: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der ägyptischen Sprache, J. J. Augustin, Glückstadt-Hamburg-New Yor, 1960), §§ 112 A. 194, 254 A. 395
  6. ^ Schenkel, W. "Zur Rekonstruktion deverbalen Nominalbildung des Ägyptischen", Harrasowitz, Wiesbaden. 1983, pp. 212, 214,247
  7. ^ Zauzich, Karl-Theodor (1992). Hieroglyphs Without Mystery. Austin: University of Texas Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-0-292-79804-5.
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  • Booth, Charlotte (2007). The Boy Behind the Mask: Meeting the Real Tutankhamun. Oneworld. ISBN 978-1-85168-544-8.
  • Gilbert, Katherine Stoddert; Holt, Joan K.; Hudson, Sara, eds. (1976). Treasures of Tutankhamun. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 978-0-87099-156-1.
  • Reeves, C. Nicholas. The Complete Tutankhamun: The King, the Tomb, the Royal Treasure. London: Thames & Hudson, 1 November 1990, ISBN 0-500-05058-9 (hardcover)/ISBN 0-500-27810-5 (paperback) Fully covers the complete contents of his tomb.
  • Reeves, Nicholas; Wilkinson, Richard H. (1996). The Complete Valley of the Kings. London: Thames and Hudson.

Further reading

  • Andritsos, John. Social Studies of Ancient Egypt: Tutankhamun. Australia 2006.
  • Brier, Bob. The Murder of Tutankhamun: A True Story. Putnam Adult, 13 April 1998, ISBN 0-425-16689-9 (paperback)/ISBN 0-399-14383-1 (hardcover)/ISBN 0-613-28967-6 (School & Library Binding).
  • Carter, Howard and Arthur C. Mace, The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Courier Dover Publications, 1 June 1977, ISBN 0-486-23500-9 The semi-popular account of the discovery and opening of the tomb written by the archaeologist responsible.
  • Desroches-Noblecourt, Christiane. Sarwat Okasha (Preface), Tutankhamun: Life and Death of a Pharaoh. New York: New York Graphic Society, 1963, ISBN 0-8212-0151-4 (1976 reprint, hardcover) /ISBN 0-14-011665-6 (1990 reprint, paperback).
  • Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, The Mummy of Tutankhamun: The CT Scan Report, as printed in Ancient Egypt, June/July 2005.
  • Haag, Michael. The Rough Guide to Tutankhamun: The King: The Treasure: The Dynasty. London 2005. ISBN 1-84353-554-8.
  • Hoving, Thomas. The Search for Tutankhamun: The Untold Story of Adventure and Intrigue Surrounding the Greatest Modern archeological find. New York: Simon & Schuster, 15 October 1978, ISBN 0-671-24305-5 (hardcover)/ISBN 0-8154-1186-3 (paperback) This book details a number of anecdotes about the discovery and excavation of the tomb.
  • James, T. G. H. Tutankhamun. New York: Friedman/Fairfax, 1 September 2000, ISBN 1-58663-032-6 (hardcover) A large-format volume by the former Keeper of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum, filled with colour illustrations of the funerary furnishings of Tutankhamun, and related objects.
  • Neubert, Otto. Tutankhamun and the Valley of the Kings. London: Granada Publishing Limited, 1972, ISBN 0-583-12141-1 (paperback) First hand account of the discovery of the Tomb.
  • Rossi, Renzo. Tutankhamun. Cincinnati (Ohio) 2007 ISBN 978-0-7153-2763-0, a work all illustrated and coloured.

External links

  • Grim secrets of Pharaoh's city—BBC News
  • Tutankhamun and the Age of the Golden Pharaohs website
  • British Museum Tutankhamun highlight
  • "Swiss geneticists examine Tutankhamun's genetic profile" by Reuters
  • Ultimate Tut Documentary produced by the PBS Series Secrets of the Dead