Posted in English 2018-2019, Uncategorized

4 things you (probably) didn’t know about Tutankhamun

1

His original name was not Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun was originally named Tutankhaten. This name, which literally means “living image of the Aten”, reflected the fact that Tutankhaten’s parents worshipped a sun god known as “the Aten”. After a few years on the throne the young king changed his religion, abandoned the Aten, and started to worship the god Amun [who was revered as king of the gods]. This caused him to change his name to Tutankhamun, or “living image of Amun”.

Tutankhamun was not, however, the name by which his people knew him. Like all of Egypt’s kings, Tutankhamun actually had five royal names. These took the form of short sentences that outlined the focus of his reign. Officially, he was:

(1) Horus Name: Image of births
(2) Two Ladies Name: Beautiful of laws who quells the Two Lands/who makes content all the gods
(3) Golden Horus Name: Elevated of appearances for the god/his father Re
(4) Prenomen: Nebkheperure
(5) Nomen: Tutankhamun

His last two names, known today as the prenomen and the nomen, are the names that we see written in cartouches (oval loops) on his monuments. We know him by his nomen, Tutankhamun. His people, however, knew him by his prenomen, Nebkheperure, which literally translates as “[the sun god] Re is the lord of manifestations”.

 

2

Tutankhamun has the smallest royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings

The first pharaohs built highly conspicuous pyramids in Egypt’s northern deserts. However, by the time of the New Kingdom (1550–1069 BC), this fashion had ended. Most kings were now buried in relative secrecy in rock-cut tombs tunnelled into the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile at the southern city of Thebes (modern-day Luxor). These tombs had inconspicuous doors, but were both spacious and well decorated inside.

Cemeteries carried their own potent magic, and dead kings were thought to have powerful spirits that might benefit others. Burial amongst his ancestors would have helped Tutankhamun to achieve his own afterlife. It therefore seems likely that Tutankhamun would have wished to be buried in a splendid tomb in either the main valley or in an offshoot, the Western Valley, where his grandfather, Amenhotep III, was buried. But, whatever he may have had intended, we know that Tutankhamun was actually buried in a cramped tomb cut into the floor of the main valley.

 

3

He was buried in a second-hand coffin

Tutankhamun’s mummy lay within a nest of three golden coffins, which fitted snugly one inside another like a set of Russian dolls. During the funeral ritual the combined coffins were placed in a rectangular stone sarcophagus. Unfortunately, the outer coffin proved to be slightly too big, and its toes peeked over the edge of the sarcophagus, preventing the lid from closing. Carpenters were quickly summoned and the coffin’s toes were cut away. More than 3,000 years later Howard Carter would find the fragments lying in the base of the sarcophagus.

 

4

Tutankhamun loved to hunt ostriches

Tutankhamun’s ostrich-feather fan was discovered lying in his burial chamber, close by the king’s body. Originally the fan consisted of a long golden handle topped by a semi-circular ‘palm’ that supported 42 alternating brown and white feathers. These feathers crumbled away long ago, but their story is preserved in writing on the fan handle. This tells us that that the feathers were taken from ostriches captured by the king himself while hunting in the desert to the east of Heliopolis (near modern-day Cairo). The embossed scene on the palm shows, on one face, Tutankhamun setting off in his chariot to hunt ostrich, and on the reverse, the king returning in triumph with his prey.

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