Sunday, August 29, 2010

King Tutankhamun of Egypt

One of the most intriguing stories laid beneath the barren desert of Egypt is the story of a boy king who ascended the throne at the age of 9 but ruled for only ten years before dying at 19 around 1324 B.C. The last heir of a powerful family that had ruled Egypt and its empire for centuries, he was laid to rest laden with gold and eventually forgotten. His tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter, an archeologist and Egyptologist who later died in mysterious fashion. Did the pharaoh's curse kill Carter? What actually happened to King Tutankhamun? Who were his parents, and what happened to the kingdom after his death? ( giler! XD)

Despite his brief reign, King Tut is perhaps Egypt's best known pharaoh because of the wealth of treasures, including a solid gold death mask, found during the surprise discovery of his intact tomb.

The story began when the great pharaoh Amenhotep III assumed the throne of Egypt in 1390 b.c. Controlling an empire stretching 1,200 miles from the Euphrates in the north to the Fourth Cataract of the Nile in the south, this king of the 18th dynasty was rich beyond imagining. Along with his powerful queen Tiye, Amenhotep III ruled for 37 years, worshipping the gods of his ancestors Amun, while his people prospered.

King Amenhotep III

When Amenhotep III died, he was succeeded by his second son, Amenhotep IV,who later changed his name to Akhenaten. He turned away from Amun and the other gods of the state pantheon and worshiped instead a single deity known as the Aten, the disk of the sun.

He elevated himself to the status of a living god and abandoned the traditional religious capital at Thebes, building a great ceremonial city 180 miles to the north, at a place now called Amarna. Here he lived with his wife, the legendary Nefertiti(she was made famous by a bust), and together they served as the high priests of the Aten.

King Akhenaten

Nefertiti Bust

When he died, his wife Nefertiti assumed the throne. The story then suffered a vacuum of information as there were no evidence whatsoever on what happened for the next few years, until all of a sudden, King Tut was on the throne, at the tender age of 9.

Within the first two years of his tenure, he and his wife, Ankhesenpaaten (a daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, royal incest was a common practise among ancient Egyptian royalty. Akhenaten and Nefertiti were siblings), abandoned Amarna and returned to Thebes, reopened the temples and restored their wealth and glory. They changed their names to Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun, proclaiming their rejection of Akhenaten's heresy and their renewed dedication to the cult of Amun.

Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun

Nefertiti has got no tomb. Why? Because it was said that King Tut tried erasing her from the record by not giving her a proper burial and scrapping all records about her off the wall. Why would someone want to delete his own mother from the history book? Well, in fact Nefertiti was not his mother. King Tut was conceived by another women lost in history(perhaps executed by Nefertiti?), we'll never know.

Ten years after ascending the throne, Tutankhamun was dead, leaving no heirs to succeed him. He was hastily buried in a small tomb, designed originally for a private person rather than a king. In a backlash against his father's heresy, his successors managed to delete from history nearly all traces of the Amarna kings, including Tutankhamun.

Ironically, this attempt to erase his memory preserved Tutankhamun for all time. Less than a century after his death, the location of his tomb had been forgotten. Hidden from robbers by structures built directly above, it remained virtually untouched until its discovery in 1922

CT scan shows that Tutankhamun's left foot was clubbed, one toe was missing a bone, and the bones in part of the foot were destroyed by necrosis. Both the clubbed foot and the bone disease would have impeded his ability to walk.

Necrosis-tissue death
Of all the pharaohs, only Tutankhamun is shown seated while performing activities such as shooting an arrow from a bow or using a throw stick. This was not a king who held a staff just as a symbol of power. This was a young man who needed a cane to walk. Scholars had already noted that 130 partial or whole walking sticks had been found in Tutankhamun's tomb, some of which show clear signs of use.

Tutankhamun's bone disease was crippling, but on its own would not have been fatal. Based on the presence of DNA from several strains of a parasite called Plasmodium falciparum in his bone, it was evident that King Tut was infected with malaria, and it was made fatal by his weak immune system.

Tutankhamun's health was compromised from the moment he was conceived. His mother and father were full brother and sister. Pharaonic Egypt was not the only society in history to institutionalize royal incest, which can have political advantages. But there can be a dangerous consequence. Married siblings are more likely to pass on twin copies of harmful genes, leaving their children vulnerable to a variety of genetic defects. Tutankhamun's malformed foot may have been one such flaw, not forgetting his weak immune system.

The reconstruction of Tutankhamun's face

After Tutankhamun's death, his wife appealed to the king of the Hittites, Egypt's principal enemies, to send a prince to marry her, because "my husband is dead, and I have no son." The Hittite king sent one of his sons, but he died before reaching Egypt, presumably murdered by Horemheb, the commander in chief of Tutankhamun's armies, who eventually took the throne for himself. But Horemheb too died childless, leaving the throne to a fellow army commander.

The new pharaoh's name was Ramses I, who later started another dynasty, one which, under the rule of his grandson Ramses the Great, saw Egypt rose to new heights of imperial power.

Ramses the Great (King Ramses II) is known as one of Egypt's greatest warriors, but also as a peace-maker and for the monuments he left behind all over Egypt. He was the first king in history to sign a peace treaty with his enemies, the Hittites, ending long years of wars and hostility. King Ramses reigned for 67 years. Under him Egypt acquired unprecedented splendor.





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