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Tutankhamun

In January 2015 it was reported that museum officials had accidentally detached the blue and gold beard from the mask during a cleaning process, and that conservators had hurriedly glued the beard back on with epoxy resin, damaging the timeless artefact. On 11 October 2015 the mask of boy king Tutankhamun was transported from its permanent display case in the jewelry halls of the Egyptian Museum to another second floor room that had been transformed into a laboratory specifically for the mask's restoration.

The tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun at the Valley of the Kings on Luxor's west bank was opened 02 November 2015 for the upcoming celebration of the city's national day on 4 November, which coincides with the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922.

Exploration work started 26 November 2015 to test a theory that Egyptian Queen Nefertiti is buried behind a wall in the tomb of King Tutankhamun in Luxor's Valley of the Kings, according to Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities. The theory was developed by Arizona University Egyptology Professor Nicholas Reeves, who is currently working with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities to use non-invasive Japanese radar to search for the queen's remains.

Tutankhamun

Tutankhamun was born during the Amarna Age, a time when the pharaoh Akheneaten, his probable father, had introduced quasi-monotheistic beliefs into ancient Egypt, replacing the traditional religion. Akhenaten had also moved the administrative center (Memphis in the north) and religious capital (Thebes in the south) to Akhetaten (modern Tel el Amarna) in Middle Egypt, a site not previously associated with any other god.

Only a few years into his reign, Tutankhaten ("Living Image of the Aten") changed his name to Tutankhamun ("Living Image of Amun"). Likewise, his queen Ankhsenpaaten became Ankhsenamun. During his rule of almost ten years, the young king worked hard to restore the worship of Amun and the other gods who had been neglected under Akhenaten. He rebuilt their temples, replenished their treasuries, and left Amarna to return to Memphis and Thebes.

Tutankhamun ultimately did not maintain the religious movement his father introduced. He ascended the throne (around 1333 BCE), while still a child. Guided by two officials of the court, the general Horemhab and the god's father Aye (perhaps a relative of the young king); Tutankhamun restored the traditional gods and re-established Thebes as the religious capital and Memphis as the administrative center. He also changed his name to Tutankhamun in order to direct attention to the restoration of the pantheon and the god Amun at its head.

After a brief nine-year reign, the boy king died unexpectedly before reaching his twentieth birthday. The cause of Tutankhamun's death remains uncertain. In 1968 x-rays seemed to show damage to the base of the skull, perhaps due to a blow to the head, however, CT scans in 2005 have disproved that theory. Recent examinations also revealed a compound fracture of the left thigh. If Tutankhamun sustained such an injury, it is also possible that he could have died quickly of infection, but the soft tissue is too damaged to provide conclusive proof.

The Cult of Aten

To maintain maat, order in the universe, the living constantly had to pacify the many deities who existed in the cosmos. This system of beliefs persisted for thousands of years until Akhenaten (probably Tutankhamun's father) introduced the concept of the one god Aten and did away with the pantheon of gods.

At the beginning of the XVIII Dynasty, the god Amun took center stage and became the chief god of the state. Other prominent gods at this time were the solar deity Re, creator god Ptah, the great god of the Underworld, Osiris, and many more. Monumental temples to these gods were built across the land.

When Amenhotep IV (later called Akhenaten) came to the throne, he was steeped in these orthodox beliefs. But he soon brought a new religion to prominence that would have repercussions for Tutankhamun, his son. By the third year of his reign, Amenhotep IV had begun a series of temples dedicated to the solar cult at Karnak. This cult emphasized the visible image of the sun, called Aten, which was then as a sun disk whose rays ended in human hands that extended ankh ("life") symbols to the king and his queen. In the fifth year of his reign, Amenhotep IV honored his new god by changing his own name to Akhenaten ("The One Who is Effective for the Aten"). He also moved the capital from Thebes to a new city on virgin soil, not sacred to any other gods. Called Akhetaten ("Horizon of the Sun Disk"), this city is now known as Amarna.

To implement this new religion, agents of the king traveled throughout Egypt, destroying the names and images of other deities. Even the plural word "gods" was obliterated. Aten could now be worshiped only through representations of the royal family, who were portrayed in a rounded exaggerated style quite different from traditional Egyptian art. This unusual practice would not remain in public favor long, once Tutankhamun came to power.

Mummification

Royalty and wealthy private citizens alike mummified the dead, a process that mirrored the myth of the Underworld god Osiris, whose body had been dismembered, reassembled and reanimated. Since the ba, or spiritual essence of the person needed to return to the mummy to ensure its continued life, the body had to be preserved through an elaborate embalming process, which took at least 70 days.

Despite his early and unexpected death, Tutankhamun received traditional mummification. Embalmers laid the body in a bed of natron, a combination of salt and baking soda that naturally occurs in Egypt, to dry out the flesh. This material was also stuffed into the body cavity. Resins were then applied to soften the leathery skin. The brain was removed through the nostrils with a long metal hook. The heart was left in place or removed, dried out, and put back into the chest cavity.

Embalmers removed the lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines through an incision in the left side of the body. Each was carefully dried in salts, anointed with oils, and then wrapped. Next these bundles were placed in canopic jars and stored in the burial chamber. Tutankhamun's organs, however, received elaborate treatment. Each were put into a solid gold miniature coffin which in turn was placed in a stone canopic chest divided into four compartments, and each section had its own lid bearing the image of the king. Protective spells appear on the interior of caffeinate and on the exterior of the outer chests.

Tutankhamun's limbs were wrapped in the finest linen bandages. Priests recited special spells during the wrapping process and placed more than a hundred beautiful amulets and pieces of jewelry between the layers of cloth. Golden cylinders covered the king's fingers and toes and a magnificent golden funerary mask protected his face.

During the New Kingdom, special police protected the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. These men were relatively effective until the late New Kingdom, when, despite their best efforts, the royal tombs were at first randomly and then systematically violated.

Thieves invaded Tutankhamun's tomb fairly soon after his burial. It seems the thieves were caught in the act and official inspectors reorganized the contents and resealed the tomb. Several generations later, workmen constructing the nearby tomb of another pharaoh built their huts over the young king's place of burial, thus obscuring it. Later flooding in the area erased any evidence of its existence. Tutankhamun's tomb would remain hidden for more than three thousand years.

Discovering the Tomb

On November 4, 1922, workmen uncovered the top step of a staircase which archaeologist Howard Carter followed to discover eleven stairs and sealed door. Stamped on the surface of the doorway was the Jackal and Nine-Captives seal of the official guards, but a royal name was not visible. The upper left-hand corner of the door had been re-plastered and resealed, which told Carter that robbers had broken into the tomb in antiquity, but that something important still remained inside. After making a small hole, Carter peered inside and saw a corridor filled with rubble. He curbed his impatience, had his men refill the stairway, and sent the momentous telegram to Lord Carnarvon in England.

He did not realize the extent of his discovery until November 26th, when he held a small candle up to a breach in the doorway separating him from the first of the four rooms, checking for noxious gases and then a few seconds later enlarging the opening and peering inside. Carter recorded his first impression in his popular book, The Tomb of Tutankhamen:

"At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold - everywhere the glint of gold...I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, "Can you see anything?" it was all I could do to get out the words, "Yes, wonderful things."

On November 11, 1925, Carter and his staff began the first examination of the mummy. A black resin covered the body inside and adhered the king's head to his gorgeous, gold funerary mask. Over a span of four days, the team delicately unraveled the bandages and recorded each of the artifacts hidden within the wrappings.

In October 1926, Carter re-wrapped the body and laid it, in its tray of sand, returning it to its outermost coffin and its stone sarcophagus. A plate glass lid was placed on top to protect the coffin. The mummy was undisturbed in its original tomb for another 40 years, until 1968 when x-rays were performed.

Curse of King Tut

The Curse of King Tutankhamun is directly connected with the death of Lord Carnarvon on May 6, 1923. As news of Lord Carnarvon's death was reported around the world, stories of the curse began to surface almost immediately. Carnarvon, the financial supporter of the expedition led by Howard Carter, died less than one year after the tomb of King Tut had been opened. Legend states that a writer had made a prediction of danger to those who entered the tomb two weeks prior to the tragic incident. Then after Carnarvon's death, it was reported that tomb had contained an ancient Egyptian curse: "They who enter this sacred tomb shall swift be visited by the wings of death." Despite the fact that no such hieroglyphic text existed, the public seemed fascinated by such misinformation. Apparently they preferred to accept what they read about the curse in the newspapers and journals, rather than to listen to the experts and scholars.

While the discovery of the tomb and the very public death of Lord Carnarvon were very interesting stories, at this point in time it was not easy for the media to receive direct information regarding what the excavators were doing in the tomb. With policies in place that restricted entrance of the tomb to only a select few, journalists had limited resources for information and perhaps for this reason several stories were invented.

The limited access to the tomb allowed Carter and his staff to work without constant interruption. In addition, Lord Carnarvon and the Times of London had signed a contract, to help fund the lengthy clearing of the tomb. This contract allowed only the Times of London direct access to all of the data and information found before it was released to other sources. This apparently, motivated some reporters to take matters into their own hands and they conspired with others to make news by concocting a fictional curse, based on the tragedy of Lord Carnarvon's death.

In the beginning only the one death was attributed to the curse, but soon the fatality of any one even remotely connected with the tomb was ascribed to the same cause. In fact, only six individuals directly associated with opening of the tomb had died after ten years. Perhaps most important is that the discoverer of the tomb, Howard Carter lived more than seventeen years after discovering the tomb and then died at the age of sixty four.

All of this interest in a concocted curse obscures the fact that the ancient Egyptians did in fact engage in the use of various types of curses and threats. Some even were directed specifically against trespassers who attempted to violate the tomb. But the tomb of Tutankhamun did not possess such protection.




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