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Useful Notes / Tutankhamun

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King Tut's death mask

"Honestly, the only reason King Tut is famous is that most Pharaohs had their graves robbed by ancient people, and King Tut had his grave robbed by 20th-century British people."

Born in Arizona, moved to Babylonia.

The Horus, the victorious bull, the very image of rebirth; the one protected by the Two Ladies, the perfect of laws who has quieted down the Two Lands; the Golden Horus, the elevated of appearances who has satisfied the gods; the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Nebkheperure, the Son of Re Tutankhamun, Lord of the Southern Heliopolis.note 

Tutankhamun (originally "Tutankhaten") was an 18th Dynasty Pharaoh of the ancient Egyptian New Kingdom most famous for his luxurious tomb, which was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. As an actual Pharaoh, his successes are debatable: since he came to the throne aged about nine, how much of his actions were his, and how much were those of his officials? He died at 18 or 19, after only 9-10 years of rule, so he didn't have time to do all that much himself.

Tutankhamun came to power after a brief and confused interregnum under two ephemeral pharaohs, Smenkhkara and Neferneferuaten — or possibly Neferneferuaten and Smenkhkara — who were the immediate successors of the Heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten. Tutankhamun's Restoration Stela proclaims how he returned the old gods to Egypt and put things right again. He (nominally) moved the capital back to Thebes (his court and government were actually in Memphis), restored temples, had a few wars,note  and then died without (surviving)note  issue.

It's been shown through modern investigations that he probably wasn't killed by his vizier, Ay, but a lot of media likes to claim he was anyway. He was probably killed by an infection arising from an injury he got in a chariot accident while hunting, to which he might have been more susceptible because of an earlier bout of malaria (which tends to weaken the immune system). He seems to have had some significant health problems; there’s speculation that he had temporal lobe epilepsy. He definitely had a cleft palate, which probably affected his speech. He also seems to have had some foot deformities that affected his ability to walk; he was buried with several walking sticks that appear to have seen regular use, and most depictions showing him standing or walking (as opposed to sitting or in a chariot) show him using one.

For all that, he appears to have been something of an active young king, albeit hardly a policymaker. Most scholars agree that he was partaking in the religious ritual roles of the king for much if not most of his reign. After all, a ten-year-old is more than capable of chanting and making appropriate gestures when prompted. And it wouldn't be unprecedented within Egyptian history; his ancestor Amenhotep III appears to have done the same thing, presiding over the funeral of his father Thutmose IV at about the same age. Tutankhamen also seems to have enjoyed driving chariots (the sports cars of the day) and hunting (preferably from his chariot).note  He may have had some battlefield experience against human enemies as well—armor found in his tomb that was clearly made to fit his body also had distinctive damage suggesting use in a real war. Thus one of the great what-ifs of the era is, assuming he was physically healthy enough to rule actively and didn’t die young, whether he would have taken more direct control over policy in his 20s (like his predecessors Thutmose III and Amenhotep III) or continued to be a creature of his ministers. At the very least, had he survived, he might have taken some lesser wives or concubines with whom he might have fathered a male heir; his great-grandfather Thutmose IV and great-great-great-great grandfather Thutmose II,note  both sickly monarchs who had no heirs by their Great Royal Wives (probably because they were too closely related), managed to produce healthy heirs by lesser consorts. (Actually, more than healthy heirs—the relevant sons were none other than Thutmose III and Amenhotep III, the two greatest and longest-reigning kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty.)

The discovery of his tomb in 1922 was massive, worldwide news, because unlike other tombs of the pharaohs (or indeed of other Egyptian nobles), most of which had been cleaned out by (roughly) contemporary graverobbers, his was largely intact. Indeed, it is the most intact ancient Egyptian royal burial known today.note  It does seem that Tutankhamun's was robbed twice, but both times within a matter of months after his death, and by robbers who only had time to take a few small-but-probably-valuable items. As a result, his tomb was resealed permanently with most of the treasure still intact (if in some disarray after the theft). Shortly thereafter, it seems that one of the rainstorms that occasionally strike Thebes came and (as usually happens) flooded the Valley of the Kings; as Tutankhamun's tomb has an entrance near the valley floor, the sediment carried by the floodwaters built up over the tomb entrance, hiding it from view for the next 3,200 years. Interestingly, while the tomb as discovered was fabulous in absolute terms, it was probably small and modest for an ancient Egyptian sovereign; because Tutankhamun's death was sudden and unexpected, it seems a small tomb intended for a royal official (possibly his advisor and successor Ay) was repurposed by giving it royal decoration and filling it with the late boy-king's possessions.

He is the only Pharaoh popularly known by a nickname: King Tut.

Tropes associated with King Tut in media portrayals:

  • Curse of the Pharaoh: Urban Legend about the "curse" of Tutankhamun evolved shortly after the tomb opening in 1922, as several people who had been present when the grave was discovered all died within the span of a few years under allegedly mysterious circumstances. This made Tutankamun even more infamous in popular culture, and inspired several "Mummy rising from his grave" stories, including The Mummy (1932) with Boris Karloff. Needless to say, most of the "mysterious" deaths could be easily explained as coincidence and/or other circumstances not directly related to the opening of the tomb. For instance, the most famous "victim" of the "curse", the Earl of Carnarvon (the British Peer who had bankrolled the discovery), pretty straightforwardly died in 1923 of an infection after he nicked a mosquito bite while shaving and then disregarded his doctors' advice to stop drinking a whole bottle of wine every day so he could, you know, fight the infection. (He almost certainly would have survived had penicillin been available, but that wouldn't be discovered—let alone applied as an antibiotic—until 1928.) And some people who helped discover the tomb or merely visited it lived long lives, including Howard Carter — the one who opened the coffin first. What actually happened was that Lord Carnarvon had signed an exclusive deal with The Times of London, which charged exorbitant rates for other newspapers to carry actual news from the tomb dig. You see, Carnarvon had been at school with several key people at the Times, and regarded the paper as the best, most well-resourced news operation in the world (which, admittedly, it was). Carter, for his part, wanted to reduce the number of journalists poking around the dig site so he could work in peace—limiting the press corps onsite to one gentleman from the Times served this purpose marvelously.note  However, wild speculation about an exotic ancient curse didn't fall under this deal, so papers the world over could (and did) run it at no cost beyond the usual for column-inches.
  • Dated History:
  • Royal Inbreeding: His biological parents, the "younger lady" and a pharaoh believed to be Akhenaten, have been confirmed by DNA analysis to be full siblings. While his own wife is believed to have been a daughter of Akhenaten and his primary wife Nefertiti, who may have been cousins.

Appearances and references in works of fiction:

Comic Books

Films — Animated

Films — Live-Action

Live-Action TV

  • Batman: "King Tut" is one of the more often recurring members of the show's Rogues Gallery, as well as the most notable one invented for the show. Here, he's the split personality of an Egyptologist, but while the professor is meek and nice, Tut is a cruel Large Ham — and, fittingly enough, a Psychopathic Manchild.
  • Tut: A Canadian-American miniseries based on his ascent and rule.
  • In Kamen Rider Ghost, he appears as one of the 15 Heroic Eyecons. His Eyecon is often used by the Sixth Ranger, Second Rider Kamen Rider Specter.


  • Tutankhamun appears as the protagonist in the historical trilogy A Legacy of Light.


  • "Old King Tut", the 1923 jazz song which modern audiences mainly know from its performance in Boardwalk Empire.
  • "King Tut" by Steve Martin. This song's refrain says he was "Born in Arizona / Moved to Babylonia", though neither is true.
  • "Dead Egyptian Blues" by Trout Fishing In America.
  • "Tutankhamen" by Nightwish.

Tabletop Games

  • Claim the Sky, set in a world where super-powered individuals have existed into antiquity, gives Tutankhamun as an example. In this setting, he inherited his father's solar powers and lived a long life, ruling the most powerful and prosperous Egyptian kingdom of all time.


  • During "Feed Me (Git It)" from Little Shop of Horrors, Audrey II, the plant character, sings to main character Seymour Krelborn, "Trust me and your life will surely rival King Tut's."

Video Games

  • In Pharaoh: Cleopatra, one timed mission consists in building his tomb after his sudden death.
  • In Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, the titular mummy is named after him.
  • Though not personally depicted in the game, The Secret World reveals that Tutankhamun was directly responsible for ending his father's reign, having started a revolution to dethrone him after Akhenaten murdered Nefertiti in cold blood and set out to bring the Aten to Earth. The movement Tut created still lives on in the form of the Marya, a group of freedom fighters dedicated to halting the spread of Atenism.
  • The game Tutankham is (mostly) named after him, and it involves an explorer raiding an Egyptian tomb whose final treasure is Tutankhamun's death mask.
  • He crops up in the Assassin's Creed Origins DLC "Curse of the Pharaohs" (you couldn't have a pharaoh's curse without at least mentioning ol' Tut, after all). With the focus on the time of Akhenaten and the subsequent restoration, his reign is quite significant to the plot, and his mummy is then the last of the three bosses you have to fight in the afterlife, as well as one of the four that appears occasionally around Thebes.

Western Animation

  • Tutenstein: The main character shares a similar name with him — Tutankhensetamun — and likewise was crowned at a young age (though the historical Tut lived longer).
  • The Fleischer Studios Superman Theatrical Cartoons had the episode "The Mummy Strikes", revolving around a supposedly cursed egyptian mummy of the pharaoh King Tush. For some reason, they didn't use the real King Tut's name, but its clearly intended to be him.
  • The animated Horrible Histories series had the main characters visit Tutankhamun in one episode.
  • The title character of Papyrus is eventually revealed to be the descendant of Tutankhamun.
  • The series Lily the Witch had the episode "Pharaoh's Curse." While Ay still plots against Tutankhamun, the cause of young pharaoh's death is left ambiguous. However, Tutankhamun aids himself with a stick when walking, which points to his historical health problems.

Alternative Title(s): King Tut