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Who Was King Tut?

The Boy Pharaoh Tutankhamen?

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Tutankhamen

Tutankhamen

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images English archaeologist Howard Carter (1874 - 1939)

English archaeologist Howard Carter (1874 - 1939) whose discoveries include the tomb of Tutankhamen (in 1922).

Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images Sekhmet, King Tutankhamen and Ptah

Bijou de la tombe de Toutânkhamon (musée du Caire / Egypte)

CC Flickr User dalbera

When archaeologist Howard Carter (1873-1939) found the tomb of King Tut in the Valley of the Kings, in Luxor, Egypt, it was filled with a marvelous 3,000-year-old find: more than 30,000 ancient objects, many of them gold. Soon after British Egyptologist Lord Carnarvon (who financed Carter), visited the tomb, he died, suddenly, and mysteriously enough to fuel a story about a mummy's curse. Who was King Tut, the occupant of the fateful tomb?

Tutankhamen (or Nebkheprure), but sometimes shortened to King Tut was a pharaoh in the Egyptian late 18th dynasty. Tutankhamen is thought to have ruled in the second half of the 14th century B.C.

The tomb of King Tut, who is also referred to as the boy king, was found in 1922 by Howard Carter. Little was known of Tutankhamen beyond his death as a teen, but the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb, with his mummified body inside, was of tremendous importance for the archaeology of Ancient Egypt.

Recent CAT scans reveal that Tutankhamen had a cleft palate and club foot. More recent DNA evidence reveals King Tut to have been the son of the so-called heretic king, Akhenaten and, probably, a sibling. He seems to have led battles against neighbors in Syria and Nubia. [Source: Warrior Tut, by W. Raymond Johnson, in March/April 2010 Archaeology Magazine.] A February 2013 Harvard Gazette article, A different take on Tut, says DNA evidence suggests Tutankhamen's mother may have been Nefertiti.

The cause of death of Tutankhamen had been thought to be tuberculosis (now ruled out), although a fragment of bone found inside the mummy's skull suggested a more violent death, possibly at the hands of General Horemheb, who suspiciously became the pharaoh Zeserkheperure-Setepenre. The DNA analysis shows there was no foul play. King Tut suffered from malaria and perhaps a fatal battle wound in his leg, according to W. Raymond Johnson.

Tutankhamen died at about the age of 19. He was succeeded by the court advisor Ay, who reigned from about 1325 to 1321 B.C. as the pharaoh Kheperkheperu-re.

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