On 4 November 1922, the tomb of Egypt's boy-king
Tutankhamun was discovered by the English archaeologist, Howard Carter.
Tutankhamun became pharaoh at the tender age of nine and he died in
1324 BC, when he was just nineteen years old.
Until recently, he was usually thought to be the
son-in-law of Sakere, his predecessor, but there is a possibility
that the mysterious Sakere may in fact have been Queen Nefertiti,
perhaps using a different name to avoid the persecution visited
upon her late husband. If that's correct then Tutankhamun was the
son of Nefertiti and Akhenaton.
The last male pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty,
he is now regarded as one of the most famous rulers of Egypt. Oddly,
the reason is more for the fact that he died and was buried rather
than anything he may have done when he was alive. The discovery of
his remarkable tomb is one of the great archaeological events of
the twentieth century.
The find of the century
In 1917, Howard Carter was a monuments inspector
who also supervised excavations begun by Theodore Davies. Theodore
Davies was a rich American patron of archaeology and it was he who
held the concession to excavate in the Valley of the Kings where
Tutankhamun's tomb was eventually found.
That tomb had managed to stay hidden for 3,300
years. Theodore Davies relinquished the concession to excavate in
the Valley of the Kings in 1914. Lord Carnarvon, who was already
working with Carter, took it over and immediately sponsored an
expedition for him to find the tomb of the boy pharaoh.
Tutankhamun's tomb had not been finished, so his
chief advisor and former regent, Ai, had his own tomb hastily
prepared with paintings and a sarcophagus fit for a royal burial.
All the goods that the boy would need in the next
life, including a boat, were crammed into the tomb, as were the
miscarried children of his young wife, Ankhesenamen. Then the tomb
was sealed and the site covered over with rocks and rubble to hide
it from prying eyes, where it remained undisturbed for millennia.
Evidence suggests that Ai now proclaimed himself
pharaoh, and may even have married Ankhesenamen to secure his
position. Incestuous relationships were nothing new in ancient Egypt,
where keeping the royal bloodline pure was more important than the
problems such relationships could cause the royal baby production
line. It seems likely that Ai may even have upheld tradition, being
the grandfather of Ankhesenamen as well as her husband.