A forensic reconstruction of King Tutankhamen based on computed tomography (CT) scans.

Image by Atelier Daynes Paris
  • King Tutankhamen—or King Tut as he is more commonly known today—was relatively unknown to the world until 1922, when his tomb was discovered by Howard Carter. His tomb contained thousands of artifacts, a sarcophagus containing his mummy, and a now-famous headdress. It took Carter and his team almost ten years to catalog the contents of the tomb. Since the tomb's discovery, King Tut has become the world's most well-known Egyptian pharaoh, fascinating generations of scientists and students.

    Tutankhamen was born around 1341 B.C.E. His name means “living image of Aten.” Aten was the name of the sun deity Tutankhamen's father and predecessor to power, Akhenaten, ordered his people to worship. Before this decree, ancient Egypt had been a polytheistic society, meaning that it worshipped many gods instead of one. Akhenaten also moved the capital and religious center of Egypt from Thebes to Amarna 

    When Akhenaten died, Tutankhamen took his place. He was just nine years old. Aided by advisers, King Tut reversed many of his father’s decisions. Under his rule, Egypt returned to polytheism. This “boy king” ruled for less than a decade; he died at age nineteen. 

    For many years, people puzzled over King Tut’s death. Many suspected foul play. Others speculated his death was an accident. However, almost a century after his tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings, scientists used digital imaging and DNA testing to suggest King Tut most likely died from malaria or an infection.

    Modern technology has also shed light on other mysteries surrounding Tutankhamen. For years, people speculated King Tut's tomb might have hidden chambers holding the remains of the Nefertiti, a famous Egyptian queen and wife of Akhenaten. This theory was dispelled when radar testing revealed no hidden chambers in King Tut’s tomb.

    Compared to many other burial tombs, King Tut’s final resting place is small and unassuming. Yet, it remained untouched for thousands of years. The nearly five thousand artifacts and well-preserved mummies found in the tomb have brought new insights into life in ancient Egypt and the governance of the boy who became king.  

     

    King Tut

    A forensic reconstruction of King Tutankhamen based on computed tomography (CT) scans.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    artifact Noun

    material remains of a culture, such as tools, clothing, or food.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Artifact
    deity Noun

    very holy or spiritual being.

    digital imaging Noun

    process of creating, processing, storing, and displaying images made from binary code.

    DNA Noun

    (deoxyribonucleic acid) molecule in every living organism that contains specific genetic information on that organism.

    headdress Noun

    covering, often decorative or ceremonial, for the head.

    malaria Noun

    infectious disease caused by a parasite carried by mosquitoes.

    mummy Noun

    corpse of a person or animal that has been preserved by natural environmental conditions or human techniques.

    pharaoh Noun

    ruler of ancient Egypt.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Pharaoh
    polytheistic Adjective

    having a belief in many gods and goddesses.

    predecessor Noun

    person or thing that held a title or position before someone or something else.

    sarcophagus Noun

    stone coffin, usually decorated with inscriptions.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Sarcophagus
    tomb Noun

    enclosed burial place.