King Tutankhamun: Biography, Family Tree & Death

Instructor: Kathleen Halecki

Kathleen Halecki possesses a B.A. and M.A. in history, and a doctoral degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on early modern Scotland. She has been teaching for over a decade in subjects such as history, philosophy and anthropology.

This lesson we will learn a little bit about the life of the Egyptian pharaoh, Tutankhamun. We will explore his complex family tree, and the theories surrounding his death.

Tutankhamun: Boy King of Egypt

You are the ruler of one of the most powerful and oldest kingdoms. You decide life and death for your people and all that you see, you command. You sit on a throne, wear a fancy crown, and live in a palace with your wife; you are only nine years old. This was the life of Tutankhamun, who was a pharaoh during the New Kingdom period in Egyptian history. He ruled for the next decade and died at the age of nineteen. He is best known by his modern name: King Tut.

King Tut
king tut

Life of a Pharaoh

It is difficult to tell what sort of childhood Tutankhamun had since records are not readily available. Most of what we know about King Tut has been gathered from archaeological digs. King Tut was born in 1341 BCE. He was only five years old when his father died, and he assumed the throne a few years later when he was nine. King Tut came to the throne after a great deal of religious upheaval caused by his father. Religion was very important to the ancient Egyptians, and his father had attempted a religious revolution, changing the old practices dedicated to the gods such as Amun-Re, and installing the Aten as the center of religious life. King Tut seems to have been caught between two men who each vied for power but swore to protect him. There was Ay, his vizier, and Horemheb, a powerful military commander.

Scholars learned a little bit about Tut's life from the Restoration Stela. The stela, a document of text and images, was found in 1905 at the Temple of Amun at Karnak. It was this particular item that led Howard Carter to search for King Tut, as the pharaoh was mentioned by name. The Restoration Stela revealed the actions King Tut intended to take during his reign. Since King Tut's father had neglected the borders of Egypt and forced the people to turn away from the old gods, it was up to King Tut to undo the damage. Many people believed that the old gods were angry at being forgotten, and this is reflected in the words on the stela that declared that the temples were in ruins and overgrown with weeds. The world the Egyptians had been living in under King Tut's father was chaotic, therefore the gods turned their backs on the people by not answering their prayers and not helping the army in battle. However, King Tut was alleged to have ''vanquished chaos from the whole land,'' so that Egypt became like it was during ''the time of Creation.''

We do know that King Tut did as he promised. He made repairs to crumbling temples and continued construction on the Temple of Amun at Karnak. He also finished the work begun by his grandfather on the red granite lions at Soleb, and brought back old religious celebrations.

Red granite lions at Soleb
soleb lion

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