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Definition: Tutankhamen from Philip's Encyclopedia

Egyptian pharaoh (r.1333-1323 BC) of the New Kingdom's 18th dynasty (1550-1307 BC). The revolutionary changes made by his predecessor, Akhnaten, were reversed during his reign. The capital was re-established at Thebes (Luxor) and worship of Amun reinstated. Tutankhamen's fame is due to the discovery of his tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. The only royal tomb of ancient Egypt not completely stripped by robbers, it contained magnificent treasures, which are now on display in Cairo.


Summary Article: Tutankhamen from Encyclopedia of African Religion

Nebkheperara Tutankhamen (1342-1323 BC) was a short-lived and relatively insignificant ruler during a troubled time in the history of Kernet. He became king during the fabled 18th dynasty, but was responsible for nothing remarkable. Few people had ever mentioned his life or his rule prior to the 1922 discovery of his tomb by the Englishman Howard Carter, who had been commissioned by Lord Carnavon. Buried with Tutankhamen were treasures that had been undisturbed by grave robbers, a rarity in the Valley of the Kings, and thus the discovery assured the king of historical fame. Tutankhamen was named at birth Tutankhaten after the deity his father Akhenaten had chosen as the state deity of Kernet. He later took the name Tutankhamen, “the living image of Amen,” to reflect his return to the great deity Amen.

Tutankhamen became king at the age of 9 years old. Surrounded by a royal house that had made its home in Akhetaten, the new city established by Akhenaten, the boy king seemed to have enjoyed his life under the watchful eye of his grandmother, Queen Tiye. She would prove to be the most politically astute keeper of the royal throne in the history of Egypt. She had been the wife of Amenhotep III and was the mother of Akhenaten and the grandmother of Tutankhamen. Queen Tiye never forgot the ancient god Amen and may have influenced the court to return to the worship of the deity.

Art and Spirituality

The pictorial art found in Tutankhamen's burial chambers introduced the world to the incredibly rich material culture, as well as the spiritual philosophy, of ancient Kernet. The sacred language on the papyri as well as on the Neb Ankh, called by the Greeks “sarcophagus,” represented the complex spiritual system of the ancient Africans. Information from the tomb confirmed all the findings that indicated that the ancient people of Kernet lived for immortality. Death was merely the end of life, but not the end of existence. Tutankhamen's tomb gave a clearer understanding of how the African artists were able to represent the quest for eternal life.

The Afterlife

Tutankhamen's tomb suggests that the philosophy of eternal life was pervasive in the Nile Valley. The story of the afterlife transcribed on his tomb suggests that death is the entrance into the afterlife. It is in the afterlife that one receives a new life and mission for the next life. His tomb also explains the religious tenets of immortality.

Christianity and Tutankhamen

Many of the words and verses of the Bible come to life and take on new meaning when one begins to examine the life and death of Tutankhamen. It is in his death and the discovery of the tomb that other religious beliefs gain more credibility. The detailed pictures and words describe religious beliefs that were before a mystery to religious believers. His tomb explains the meanings of the words “being born again” and to “receive life after death.”

Healing and Tutankhamen

When Tutankhamen's tomb was opened, at least 50 jars of essential oils were found in his tomb. These are the same types of oils that are today used for healing purposes in both traditional hospitals and alternative medical practices. The use of essential oils has developed into the practice of aromatherapy, which is a regenerated healing practice that came from Egyptian religious practices. These ancient practices have been incorporated into modern-day religious ceremonies, especially the use of frankincense, myrrh, and hyssop.

During most of Tutankhamen's short reign, the country was actually run by senior officials most likely under the command of Queen Tiye. The senior officials brought peace to the political process that had been disrupted by Akhenaten, and they put an end to the worship of Aton, who had been introduced by the former Pharaoh. It was the vizier Ay (who would become the next Pharaoh) who oversaw the return to Amen. They abandoned Akhetaten and returned to the city of Waset.

Tutankhamen's Death

Much controversy and speculation has occurred about the death of Tutankhamen. It was believed by scholars for many centuries that he was treacherously murdered. Recently, it has been found that he died of natural causes. He actually died as a result of a leg wound that became infected and led to his early death. Tutankhamen was one of the few pharaohs whose burial remains were not stolen by tomb robbers.

Tutankhamen and Rituals

Many of the pictographs that were found in Tutankhamen's tomb describe in detail the religious rituals that were used before his death and in the afterlife. Thanks to the graphic nature of the panels found in his burial chambers, we can now understand in simplistic form the necessity for rituals in all spiritual beliefs. Tutankhamen's return to Waset and the worship of Amen represented one of the lasting historical moments in Kemet's history. Yet when he died at the age of 18, he probably would have remained generally unremarked had it not been for the discovery of his grave in the 20th century.

See also

Akhenaten

Further Readings
  • Asante, M. K. (2007).. The History of Africa. London: Routledge.
  • Carter, H. (1977).. The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen. New York: Dover.
  • Edwards, E. S. (1977).. Treasures of Tutankhamun. New York: Ballantine.
  • Alexandria, Edona M.
    Copyright © 2009 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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