Tutankhamun (originally "Tutankhaten") was an 18th Dynasty Pharaoh of the 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; theres 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 probable grandfather 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 didnt 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.
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.
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 Carter 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.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:
- It was long thought that Ay killed Tut, but evidence shows that he probably died from a broken leg that got infected, and he also had malaria. Despite this, many works say he was murdered because it makes for a better story.
- Tutankhamun was also originally assumed to have been a pretty irrelevant pharaoh, on account of his young age and brief reign. This was before it became clear that his reign came at a pivotal time in Egyptian history. While he didn't have time to do a lot before his death, Tutankhamun still presided over the restoration of traditional Egyptian religion.
- Tutankhamun has been portrayed as the half brother or the nephew of Akhenaten but DNA evidence suggests he was in fact a son of the Heretic Pharaoh. Originally the many depictions of Tutankhamun hunting and chariot driving were taken on their face value giving an impression of a healthy, physically active youth. Careful examination of his mummy has detracted from this image showing him to have been a lame and rather frail youngster.
- And yet, the 2018 examination of his leather armor showed it to be worn out and having marks of cuts, with some amounts of rust, which may suggest a more warlike way of life.
- There is a lot of evidence to say that Tutankhamun was a soldier. Tut's pelvis, ribs and left leg are crushed and X-rays and CT scans have previously shown that the pharaoh's heart, chest wall, the front part of his sternum and adjacent ribs, are missing. His mummified body is also noticeably burnt. Experts suspect the oils used in the embalming process soaked the linen that formed the king's burial shroud. In the presence of oxygen, these flammable oils started a chain reaction that ignited and "cooked" Tutankhamun's body at temperatures exceeding 390 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius).
- For years, evidence has suggested the pharaoh was buried in haste spots on the walls of Tut's tomb caused by microbial activity, for example, led researchers to believe that the paint on the walls hadn't even dried before the tomb was sealed. The additional evidence of an accidental burning lends credence to the idea that Tut's entire burial was basically a rush job.
- Tutankhamun was also buried with an iron dagger, as well as other iron objects that were wrapped with Tutankhamuns mummy; these include a miniature headrest contained inside the golden death mask, an amulet attached to a golden bracelet and a dagger blade with gold haft. All were made by relatively crude methods with the exception of the dagger blade which is clearly expertly produced and in 2016 was confirmed to have been forged from iron sourced from a meteorite.
- There is a full article that discusses Tutankhamun being anything but a lame and rather frail youngster.
Appearances and references in works of fiction:
- Tintin: The story of the supposed curse of Tutankhamun inspired the plot of two albums: Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh, which takes place in Egypt, and Tintin: The Seven Crystal Balls in which seven archeologists who discovered the mummy of an Inca king all fall victim to something that is suspected to be a curse.
Films — Animated
- A supporting character in Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
Films — Live-Action
- Virtually every Mummy film is inspired by the so-called "Curse of Tutankhamun", going from The Mummy (1932) to Raiders of the Lost Ark until The Mummy Trilogy and The Mummy.
- 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.
- "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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.