Once lost to time, the legacy of Tutankhamun, the boy king of ancient Egypt, continues to enthral the world over a century after his treasures were first unveiled. The grandeur and mystique of his life, and the profound secrets of his afterlife, encapsulated in the opulent artifacts discovered in his tomb, bring to life a story of timeless splendour, intrigue, and fascination.
On numerous occasions, I have said that Egypt is more than just a land of pyramids and temples. In fact, it has so much more to offer. More than one hundred years have passed since Howard Carter, the British archaeologist, and an Egyptian team unveiled a cryptic stairway to the past on November 4, 1922. Hidden beneath Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, this stairway, untouched for over three millennia, led to an unparalleled archaeological revelation – the intact tomb of Tutankhamun, the boy king of ancient Egypt.
King Tutankhamun, the “Boy King,” ascended to the Egyptian throne at the tender age of nine and ruled during a particularly tumultuous period in Egyptian history. His reign, although short-lived, marked a return to traditional religious practices following the radical alterations introduced by his father, Akhenaten. This significant shift made him pivotal in restoring the old gods and traditional Egyptian religious and cultural values, thereby solidifying his historical significance.
But King Tut’s fame today predominantly arises from a blend of mystery and magnificence. Despite a relatively unremarkable reign compared to other pharaohs, he became an international sensation due to the unprecedented discovery of his almost intact tomb in 1922, sparking a global fascination with ancient Egypt. The mystery surrounding his early death and the ‘Pharaoh’s Curse’ tales have only heightened his popularity, making King Tut one of the most famous figures from antiquity in modern culture.
The Epiphany of a Historic Discovery
Guided by a faint glow, Carter and his team journeyed into a realm long swallowed by time. As their eyes adjusted to the weak candlelight, a hoard of mystifying artifacts appeared before them, awash in a sea of gold. Overwhelmed, Carter answered his sponsor, Lord Carnarvon’s impatient query about the sight with a simple yet profound, “Yes, wonderful things.”
The team unearthed the resting place of Tutankhamun, a king whose rule may not have commanded the grandeur of pharaohs like Ramesses the Great but whose treasures remained almost pristine, safe from thieves and nature’s wrath. His tomb, overlooked for centuries, held over 5,000 invaluable artifacts. Even today, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb stands unrivaled in archaeological significance. Here below are some of the most awestriking discoveries made inside the extremely well-preserved tomb of King Tutankhamun.
A Gift from the Heavens: The Iron Dagger
This iron dagger, a seemingly mundane find, is in fact significant as iron forging was unheard of during Tutankhamun’s reign. The blade’s origin was traced back to meteorites, adding an ethereal touch to this royal artifact. According to Mueller, it was possibly a gift from a foreign king, symbolic of divine power.
A Priceless Surprise Hidden in a Scarf
In a small, ornate chest, Carter found a linen scarf hiding several gold rings, hinting that the tomb had been subject to discreet looting soon after King Tut’s death. This hastily abandoned loot stands as a testament to the tomb’s partial pillaging.
A Game That Defied Mortality: Senet
Among the treasures were four senet boards, a popular pastime in ancient Egypt. The game, akin to modern checkers, carried profound religious significance and was believed to be a duel against the god of death, according to Mueller.
The Unseen Daughters of King Tut
Despite King Tut’s short reign and lack of heirs, Carter’s discovery revealed that Tutankhamun’s wife, Ankhesenamun, gave birth to two stillborn daughters buried with their father.
The Golden Sandals: A Symbol of Victory
Among King Tut’s possessions were golden court sandals, the soles of which depicted nine traditional enemies of Egypt. This was a constant reminder of the pharaoh’s supremacy, with him symbolically treading on his enemies every day.
King Tut’s Immortal Servants: The Ushabti
Found in Tutankhamun’s tomb were 413 ushabti, figurines destined to serve the king in the afterlife. These figurines, made from different materials, including faience, wood, and stone, were adorned in the manner of court officials, emphasizing King Tut’s eternal majesty.
The Mask that Enthralled the World
Undoubtedly the most iconic artifact, the golden mask of Tutankhamun, is an extraordinary piece of craftsmanship. The mask, laden with semi-precious stones and pure gold, encapsulated the youthful face of the pharaoh, lending him a serene, divine aura.
The Throne of the Boy King
Tutankhamun’s throne is a marvel of the ancient world. Adorned with intricate designs depicting the king and his wife, the throne reveals the grandeur of his rule and showcases the meticulous detailing of Egyptian craftsmanship.
The Riddle of the Miniature Coffins
Perhaps one of the most mystifying finds, three miniature coffins made of solid gold housed the internal organs of the king. This practice was part of the embalming process, preserving the organs for the king’s journey in the afterlife.