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King Tut

King Tut

King Tutankhamen was largely erased from history until his tomb was discovered in the 1900s. His tomb and mummy are still being studied using high-tech tools.

Grades

9 - 12

Image

Tutankhamen's Coffin

Photograph of Tutankhamen's solid-gold coffin displayed at an obtuse angle against a black background.

Photograph by Kenneth Garrett

King Tutankhamen—or King Tut as he is more commonly known today—was relatively unknown to the world until 1922, when his tomb was discovered by Howard Carter. His tomb contained thousands of artifacts, a sarcophagus containing his mummy, and a now-famous headdress. It took Carter and his team almost ten years to catalog the contents of the tomb. Since the tomb's discovery, King Tut has become the world's most well-known Egyptian pharaoh, fascinating generations of scientists and students.

Tutankhamen was born around 1341 B.C.E. His name means “living image of Aten.” Aten was the name of the sun deity Tutankhamen's father and predecessor to power, Akhenaten, ordered his people to worship. Before this decree, ancient Egypt had been a polytheistic society, meaning that it worshipped many gods instead of one. Akhenaten also moved the capital and religious center of Egypt from Thebes to Amarna

When Akhenaten died, Tutankhamen took his place. He was just nine years old. Aided by advisers, King Tut reversed many of his father’s decisions. Under his rule, Egypt returned to polytheism. This “boy king” ruled for less than a decade; he died at age nineteen.

For many years, people puzzled over King Tut’s death. Many suspected foul play. Others speculated his death was an accident. However, almost a century after his tomb was discovered in the Valley of the Kings, scientists used digital imaging and DNA testing to suggest King Tut most likely died from malaria or an infection.

Modern technology has also shed light on other mysteries surrounding Tutankhamen. For years, people speculated King Tut's tomb might have hidden chambers holding the remains of the Nefertiti, a famous Egyptian queen and wife of Akhenaten. This theory was dispelled when radar testing revealed no hidden chambers in King Tut’s tomb.

Compared to many other burial tombs, King Tut’s final resting place is small and unassuming. Yet, it remained untouched for thousands of years. The nearly five thousand artifacts and well-preserved mummies found in the tomb have brought new insights into life in ancient Egypt and the governance of the boy who became king.

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Director
Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
Author
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

August 4, 2022

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