King Tut, as Tutankhamun is popularly known, is probably the most famous figure from Ancient Egyptian history. The discovery of his intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings in 1922 by Howard Carter set off a wave of renewed interest in Ancient Egypt and began the era of modern Egyptian tourism. Tutankhamun’s tomb is still the only royal tomb discovered in Egypt that had not previously been broken into and raided by tomb robbers, making it one of the most famous and significant archeological discoveries of the 20th century. Today, the contents of King Tut’s tomb, including his iconic burial mask, are on display in the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo.
In life, Tutankhamun’s reign was much less illustrious. In fact, he was a relatively minor pharaoh. He assumed the throne in 1333 BC at only ten years old, ruling Egypt for only nine years before his premature death at the age of 19 in 1324 BC. As a result of his youth, his advisors were very powerful during his reign. Tutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten, the heretic king, who outlawed the worship of the cult of Amun and attempted to form a new monotheistic religion worshipping Aten. Popular outrage surrounding this change eventually resulted in Akhenaten being assassinated and overthrown. It is thought that Tutankhamun was allowed to the take throne because he was so young and therefore easy to control. Under Tutankhamun, the ancient religious cult was restored and the capital of Akhetaten that his father built was abandoned.
Until recently, it was thought that Tutankhamun’s death was by assassination, but new evidence suggests that he died as a result of congenital defects. DNA analysis found that he was the product of an insestuous relitionship between his father and his aunt and it is thought that this was the cause of several chronic medical problems and deformities that the young King suffered from. He may not have been able to talk without the aid of a cane and possibly suffered from epilepsy. He also had a slightly cleft palate and a curved spine.