Saturday,17 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1384, (8 - 14 March 2018)
Saturday,17 November, 2018
Issue 1384, (8 - 14 March 2018)

Ahram Weekly

What you don’t know about King Tut

Egypt has many sites bearing witness to the reign of the ancient Egyptian boy-king Tutankhamun in addition to the famous funerary collection in the Egyptian Museum, writes Zahi Hawass

 

For 10 years after the discovery of the tomb of the ancient Egyptian boy-king Tutankhamun, the world watched in amazement as spectacular artefacts were removed from the tightly packed chambers of this long-hidden royal burial. Over the decades since then, millions of visitors have flocked to see these treasures at their permanent home in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. 

The 5,398 objects found by British Egyptologist Howard Carter inside Tutankhamun’s tomb tell us the story of the height of Egypt’s golden age, when Egypt’s foreign possessions were secure and its borders safe, when gold poured into its coffers, and when its kings married the daughters of their enemies instead of confronting them on the battlefield. It was at this moment that a rogue player stepped onto the stage. This was Akhenaten, a heretic king, seen by some as a saint and by others as a monster. His wife was the beautiful Nefertiti and Tutankhamun was his son.

The story of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb and the artefacts found within it can be read in many places. In this article, I will reveal information about Tutankhamun that many do not know.

I would like to start with the time that 55 objects from the tomb left the Egyptian Museum and travelled to Europe, Russia and the United States. The famous golden mask of the Pharaoh was among the objects that left. At the Los Angeles County Museum in the US, an American lady was later looking at the mask when it was put on show as part of this travelling exhibition when suddenly she fainted. When she woke up, she was asked what had happened. “I saw king Tut on the right and Cary Grant on the left, and I could not stand the charm of my two favourite men on earth,” she said.

Many people think that the only two important monuments to Tutankhamun are the 4,500 objects that are on show in the Egyptian Museum and at his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. But we can do a tour of Egypt to follow in the footsteps of Tutankhamun. Starting at the Giza Pyramids and going south to the Valley Temple of Khafre, we come to a rest house used by the young boy-king after he had been hunting wild animals in the desert of Memphis. The area near the Sphinx at Giza was also originally called the Valley of Gazelles.

We can also follow Tutankhamun to Memphis, because we know that he issued a decree recorded on a monument that has since become known as the Restoration Stela and is now in the Egyptian Museum. The inscription on this stela describes the state of the country when Tutankhamun, the son of the god Amun, was crowned. The temples and their estates were in ruins, and he restored all these monuments. From this stela, we can also be sure that Tutankhamun lived in a palace in Memphis.

We can also visit the tomb of Horemheb at Saqqara, which Horemheb, the overseer of the army, built for himself, along with the tomb of Maya, Tutankhamun’s treasurer and the overseer of construction at the Saqqara Necropolis. It is possible to visit the recently discovered tomb of the boy-king’s wet nurse, where a scene on the tomb walls shows her seated with Tutankhamun as king sitting on her lap.

Under a house in a village between Abusir and Saqqara, blocks have been found that show the Pharaoh smiting an enemy and sitting with his queen while shooting animals. It has been pointed out to me by Egyptologist Ray Johnson that these blocks originally came from the tomb of Horemheb.

If we go to the site of Ashmunein, we can see blocks in the storage area that prove that Tutankhamun was the son of a king and that he lived in the city of Amarna. In Amarna itself, it is possible to visit the tomb of his father Akhenaten. In the first room of this tomb, there is a depiction of a woman holding a child who may be Tutankhamun, though it is still a mystery why Tutankhamun himself is not shown in the depictions at Amarna. We only see Nefertiti and her daughters with Akhenaten.

In Luxor in Upper Egypt, we can see reliefs dedicated by Tutankhamun in the great colonnade at the Temple of Luxor to mark the ancient Egyptian Opet Festival and the Festival of Min, the god of fertility. On the west bank at Luxor, we can visit the tombs of Horemheb and Ay and several tombs belonging to high officials from Tutankhamun’s reign. Going north to Akhmim, it is possible to visit the tomb of Senedjem, the royal tutor.

The Luxor Museum holds many important artefacts from the reign of Tutankhamun, and artefacts from his tomb have been stored there since its discovery. At the end of the tour, visitors should visit Carter’s original rest house, which I myself turned into a museum to honour the memory of this great Egyptologist.

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