This week is the anniversary of the opening of King Tutankamum‘s tomb in 1923. Howard Carter discovered the Egyptian pharaoh’s tomb with all its treasures intact. Tut who died 3,300 years ago was only about nineteen when he died after ruling Egypt for eight years. He may have died from infection in the leg he had broken shortly before his death. He also suffered from malaria and numerous genetic abnormalities. Why the abnormalities? The pharaohs often intermarried with their close relatives. Tut married his half-sister, Ankhesenamun – the daughter of King Akhenaten and his famous Queen Nefertiti. Tut’s mother was his father Akhenaten’s full sister.
The statuette pictured is from the tomb. The poignant pic (one of many representations of the couple) is from the back of Tut’s throne. When Tut died, his wife was pressured by Grand Vizier Ay to marry him so that he could become pharaoh. Ankhsenamun’s message to the King of the Hittites survived in the Hittite archives: “My husband has died and I have no son. They say about you that you have many sons. You might give me one of your sons to become my husband. I would not wish to take one of my subjects as a husband… I am afraid.” The Hittite king sent one of his sons to Egypt but he died –perhaps murdered- on the journey to Egypt. Ankhsenamun disappeared from history. A sad story of a brief love. Tomorrow, More Pics. Rita Bay
When Howard Carter entered the Antechamber of King Tut’s tomb and the attached Annex, he realized the scope of the work and called in assistance from additional experts. It took a year and a half to catalog and conserve the contents. It was February before they could enter the burial chamber that was filled with Tut’s shrine. It measured 16’ x 10’ x 9’ feet high. Unlike the other rooms with bare walls, these walls had been plastered and painted with funerary scenes.
When they lifted the quartzite sarcophagus, they found a gold- painted coffin inside, and inside that another one. The mummy was wrapped in bandages and covered with unguents with 150+ jewels and precious treasures were contained in the wrappings. The head and shoulders were covered by a magnificent gold mask.
In a room leading off the burial chamber, amid more treasure and the canopic jars were the sad tiny mummified bodies of two fetuses. King Tut had married his half-sister, Ankhesenpaamun, which was the custom of the pharaohs. When close relatives have children together, the genetic diversity that each person offers is decreased. Children of these close unions are more likely to have genetic conditions which leads to some of the illnesses that Tut whose father and mother were brother and sister suffered.
Tomorrow, a Vintage Valentine Rita Bay
This week celebrates the opening of King Tut’s tomb by Howard Carter (Pic on right) in 1922. King Tutankhamun was an 18th Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh of the New Kingdom. He died over 3,300 years ago and was buried, along with sixty-two other pharaohs from the period, in the Valley of the Kings which is located near Thebes which is now called Luxor.
Prior to the discovery of Tut, archaeologists claimed that the area had been entirely excavated. Tombs of the great pharaohs stood open, looted ages before destroying the pharaohs’ chance for immortality.
British nobleman George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, (Pic on right) wintered in Egypt due to poor health. He first began excavations in Egypt in 1905. Being a novice, he was a complete failure. He hired archaeologist Howard Carter to manage the excavations that he funded. The onset of World War I stopped their efforts. After the war ended, they returned to their excavations in the area where a few items identified with King Tut had been discovered. They continued their excavations without success for several years. Lord Carnarvon decided to shut down the operation but Carter convinced him to give it one more year. That year they hit pay dirt.
Tomorrow, Tut’s Tomb. Rita Bay