The mystery and mystique that surrounds King Tut have never seemed to go away. Why else would the day his tomb was discovered still be celebrated? Perhaps all the unknowns about who he was, how he lived and died, and the potential royal intrigue draw people in to see his artifacts, discovered in 1922 in the Valley of the Kings. King Tutankhamen’s burial chamber was opened in 1923 and is considered one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th Century.
According to history, King Tut ruled Egypt for approximately ten years, assuming the throne at age nine. He died when he was in his late teens, perhaps as a result of an accident. Or, maybe he was murdered. Egyptian royalty was known to be ruthless, and the murder of potential rulers or family rivals was not uncommon. The history of Cleopatra supports that theory with the deaths of her siblings, so that she alone could rule.
In keeping with traditions of that time, King Tut’s internal organs were removed and buried separately in small coffins. Typically, the heart was preserved and left in the body, since it was considered the most important organ. However, this was not the case for King Tut; his heart was not in the body. Speculation was that he might have died too far away for his heart to be adequately preserved, perhaps in a hunting accident.
He was known to be fond of hunting ostriches. There was an ornate feathered ostrich fan found in his burial chambers. Ostrich hunting was considered a royal sport, although somewhat dangerous, i.e., the “royal fox hunting” sport of his day.
King Tut had five different royal names; most were phrases that described him. He actually changed his birth name after he took the throne.
Although important in its discovery, King Tut’s tomb is the smallest of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Some think that there may be more to be found; possible secret chambers that lead off from the original find.
What were some of the finds?
Among the nearly 5,000 artifacts, two trumpets were found. One was silver, the other bronze with gold overlay. In 1939, the trumpets were played during a BBC radio show. According to the legend of the curse, playing those trumpets resulted in the onset of World War II.
Items found that would be needed in the afterlife included food (watermelon seeds and almonds), six royal chariots, two thrones, couches, beds, and alabaster containers.
Symbolic statues found included a jackal to act as a guard and the head of a leopard. Also discovered were a favorite board game played at all levels of Egyptian society, known as Senet, and throwing sticks that were commonly used to hunt birds. Their shapes were similar to boomerangs.
King Tut’s Burial Mask
There were three coffins, each encased in the other. Two were made from wood and covered in gold. The middle coffin may not have been designed for King Tut, as the images were not in keeping with those on the other two. The third coffin was spectacular; it was made of thick sheets of beaten gold.
The Popularity of King Tut
Depictions of King Tut were widely used in advertising early in the 20th Century. Egyptian motifs appeared in fabrics and fashions.
President Herbert Hoover named his dog, a German shepherd, King Tut.
In 1923, Harry von Tilzer performed his musical hit, Old King Tut. One of the lines referenced his tomb “full of souvenirs.”
In 1978, Steve Martin wrote and performed his famous King Tut video. In it, he included the stylized dress and headpiece. When the coffin opened, a golden Tut played his trumpet. Like Von Tilzer, Martin made reference to the commercialization of the finding of the tomb. His song included the line, “…he gave his life for tourism.”
No matter the mystery or myths, the treasures found in King Tut’s tomb are amazing and fascinating. Even today.