King Tut is one of the most well-known figures in Egyptian history. He became pharaoh when he was just nine years old and reigned for ten years before his death. Tutankhamen died in 1323 BC and ruled during the stable period of the New Kingdom. His significance in the history of ancient Egypt was secured in 1922, when Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s Tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The tomb had remained completely intact since antiquity, as its location had been lost due to flooding and shifting of the land ahead. Despite the tomb's discovery, the cause of death of Tutankhamen is unknown, though it is suspected that he died quickly and unexpectedly.
King Tut’s tomb is the most complete ancient royal tomb ever discovered. Although there are signs of theft during the time immediately after his burial, archaeologists now believe that it remained undisturbed from antiquity until 1922 when Carter discovered it. This opened up many questions on the life of King Tut, and ultimately led to some answers, as the ancient Egyptians left many clues for archeologists to debate over regarding the young pharaoh’s life. It is thought that King Tut was worshipped like a god during his reign, and many believed he had supernatural powers.
King Tut died at the young age of nineteen. His youth suggests that during his reign he was assisted by political advisors to help him govern Egypt. His successor was called Ay, and archaeologists speculate that he made most of the important decisions during this period. King Tut’s tomb was modest in size in comparison to his status. This is further evidence that his death was unexpected, as there wasn’t time to construct a more elaborate tomb for the king. Some historians think that the tomb may have been built for Ay, but in order to bury the king in the customary 70 day period, they buried King Tut in a tomb that may not have been intended for him.
The most common symbol of Tutankhamen is the famous gold burial mask. The mask was removed from the mummy by Carter’s team during the 1920’s. The artifacts discovered by Carter, including jewelry and amulets found on the mummy, have been on display at museums for decades, and an exhibition of King Tut artifacts is guaranteed to draw a crowd. These pieces have traveled to museums all over the world and attracted millions of visitors. The artifacts revealed details not only about his life, but about his death as well.
Scientists and doctors have speculated about the cause of King Tut’s death since the first x-rays were taken in 1968. There are indications that the young pharaoh received a blow to the back of the head, which may have caused his death. Some scientists say that this could not have happened as an accident and that Tutankhamen was murdered, but it's not known for certain why he died. Today, tourists can visit the Valley of the Kings and King Tut’s tomb during a vacation to Egypt. While you are there, be sure to visit some of the temples and tombs of other ancient Egyptian kings, to see the full range of opulence in burial practices. The Valley of the Queens and the burial grounds at Memphis and Saqqara are excellent sites to learn about the practice in ancient Egypt.