The legendary treasure of ancient Egypt’s boy pharaoh Tutankhamun, some of which is touring the world for the first time, is shrouded in richness and mystery. Here are some facts:
Hoard uncovered intact –
The tomb of Tutankhamun, who died aged 19 in 1324 BC after nine years on the throne, was discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor in November 1922. The hoard of more than 4,500 objects laid out across five rooms included thrones, statues, jewels, furniture and weapons. It is pharaonic Egypt’s only mausoleum found so far with its burial artefacts intact. Many other resting places of pharaohs and dignitaries had been pillaged by tomb robbers down the centuries.
Golden treasures –
Among the discovered artefacts are a gilded bed featuring posts made of carved lion heads, a chariot, and a gold-handled dagger that experts say was forged from the iron of meteorites.
The walls of the chamber in which Tutankhamun was laid to rest were covered in gold; his coffin is a three-piece sarcophagus, the innermost 110 kilogrammes (240 pounds) of solid gold. His funeral mask, now one of the world’s most instantly recognisable Egyptian artefacts, is made of gold inlaid with lapis lazuli and with eyes of obsidian and quartz. The mask was damaged in 2014 when its beard, symbol of the pharaohs, was knocked off during maintenance in the Cairo Museum. It was stuck back on with epoxy glue and took a team of German experts two months of restoration work to fix the botched repair.
Tests have established that Tutankhamun’s father was the pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled between 1351 and 1334 BC. Akhenaten was the husband of the legendary beauty Queen Nefertiti.
Another mummy has been confirmed as Tutankhamun’s mother, whose name is not known. That discovery ended the theory that Tutankhamun was the son of Nefertiti.
The mother was a sister of Akhenaten, with genetic analyses showing incest between the parents.
It was at the age of nine, towards 1333 BC, that Tutankhamun is believed to have acceded to the throne of Upper and Lower Egypt, although his exact age and dates vary from one expert to another.
Tutankhamun’s reign coincided with a troubled time in Egyptian history known as the Amarna period, during which Akhenaten tried to radically transform religion to focus on just one god, Aton. Tutankhamum is believed to have married his half-sister Ankhesenpaaten, with marriage between brother and sister commonplace in the Egypt of the pharaohs. He sired two children, both girls, but they died in the womb, according to experts. The death of Tutankhamun, which ended the 18th dynasty under the period of Egyptian history known as the New Kingdom, had been a mystery. It was blamed variously on a chariot accident, illness or murder. In 2010 a study of DNA tests and CT scans concluded that he suffered from an often-fatal form of malaria and a club foot that caused him to walk with a cane.
‘Curse’ of King Tut –
Several months after the fabulous discovery, Britain’s Lord Carnarvon, who financed the research, died in April 1923 of septicaemia following an infected cut.
His death fuelled speculation that the fabled “curse of the pharaohs” had struck one of those responsible for violating the tomb of “King Tut”. Archaeologist Carter himself died in 1939 without ever achieving the publication of his findings.
One explanation put forward for the deaths is the existence of poisonous fungi found on black spots within the tomb. — AFP