Ancient Egypt - Pharaoh Tutankhamun
Updated: Feb 10, 2021
Originally known as Tutankhaten, he was nine years old when he became Pharaoh, and would rule for about 10 years. Since he comes to power at such an early age, most of the decisions were handled by his vizier and eventual successor, Kheperkheperure Ay. King Tutankhaten married his half-sister, Ankhesenpaaten, who would later change her name to Ankhesenamun. She was evidently older than he since she had a daughter by the time she married Tutankhaten. The father of the first child is unknown and open for debate.
The Restoration of Amun
In Year 3 of his reign, under the influence of his advisers, Tutankhaten reversed several changes made by 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 the traditional priesthood was restored. The capital was moved back to Thebes and the city of Akhetaten was abandoned. Tutankhaten also changed his name to Tutankhamun, meaning the 'Living Image of Amun'.
This country was economically weak and in turmoil following the reign of Akhenaten. Diplomatic relations with other kingdoms had been neglected and Tutankhamun attempted to restore them. Despite his efforts for improved relations, battles with Nubians and Asiatics were recorded in his mortuary temple in Thebes. Given his youth and poor health, he most likely did not participate in these battles.
The Mummy of King Tut
Between 2007 and 2009, various mummies were subjected to detailed anthropological, radiological, and genetic studies as part of the King Tutankhamun Family Project. The research revealed that all seven vertebrae in his neck may have been completely fused. Examinations also revealed deformations to his left foot, caused by a necrosis of bone tissue. This affliction may have caused Tutankhamun to
walk with a cane, many of which were found in his tomb. The DNA tests of his mummy also revealed DNA from 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 he contracted multiple malarial infections. According to National Geographic:
'The Malaria would have weakened Tutankhamun's immune
system and interfered with the healing of his foot. These
factors, combined with the fracture of his left thighbone,
which scientists found in 2005, may have been what
ultimately killed the young king.'
After the death of Tutankhamun, Ankhesenamun wrote to the Hittite king, Suppiluliuma I, in one of the most striking and disturbing letters in the Amarna period:
'My husband has died and I have no son. They say about you
that you have many sons. You might give me one of your
sons to become my husband. I would not wish to take one of my
subjects as a husband... I am afraid.'
That last line speaks volumes as to the danger that she was in. It was extraordinary that any rival king would be asked to take the throne and may reveal how dangerous Egypt had become at this time. Suppiluliuma I was suspicious and dispatched an ambassador who reported the situation as accurate. He then dispatched his son and crown prince to Egypt in hopes of uniting both kingdoms. This union would have transformed the Hittites to the most powerful empire the world had yet seen.
The Hittite prince never made it past the Egyptian border. Suppiluliuma accused the Egyptians of murdering him and declared war. Hittite forces attacked Egyptian settlements along the border in retaliation. The co-regent, General Horemheb was most likely in Asia with his troops during this time.
Vizier and Chief Minister Ay, now an old man, took advantage of Horemheb's absence and sought control. Horemheb had been designated successor for almost 10-years when Ay sidelined him. Ay legitimized his claim to the throne by marrying Ankhesenamun, almost certainly against her wishes. The wedding must have taken place rapidly because Ay officiated Tutankhamun's funeral as a king wearing the blue crown. Furthermore, by burying his predecessor, he consolidated his claim to the throne even further. Ankhesenamun did not survive Ay and there is no further record of her after the marriage. It is very likely that she was murdered. With her died the last of the true Amarna royal blood line.
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