Who Was King Tut (Tutankhamun)

Who Was King Tut

by Jimmy Dunn

This plaster mask is not Tut, but perhaps his mother Kiya

Who exactly was King Tut, known during his early life as Tutankhuaten (or Tutankhaten), reflecting his Amarna roots, and later as Tutankhamun, reflecting the return to Egypt's traditional religion? Despite the richness of his burial, King Tutankhamun remains somewhat of an enigmatic figure, even though he has been the subject of much investigation. Presumably, he was born in Akhetaten (modern el-Amarna), during the latter half of the reign of Akhenaten, the Heretic king who attempted to establish a radical departure from traditional Egyptian religion. We believe that he died in his late teens, judging from various analyses of his mummy.

Although his royal lineage has sometimes been questioned, an inscription unearthed at el-Ahsmunein across the river from el-Amarna confirms that Tutankhuaten (as he was known at that time) was indeed the son of a king. Not surprisingly, official policy during the boy's reign seems to have been to stress his association with Amenhotep III, who we actually presume to be his grandfather. Given the absence of a long co-regency between Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (later Akhenaten), it probably must be that Tutankhamun was the son of the latter.

A recent, French reconstruction of King Tut's face

Though it seems that Akhenaten must have been King Tut's father, much less evidence exists as to his mother. However, a degree of informed speculation is possible. For example, we can probably eliminate Nefertiti, since she appears to have provided her husband, Akhenaten, with no sons. Of course, she was not his only wife. Among the king's secondary wives and concubines, one in particular stands out. She is lady Kiya, identified by some with the Mitannian princess Tadukhepa, daughter of Tushratta, sent to Egypt to cement treaty relations between the two countries at the start of the reign.

Kiya is peculiarly prominent in the sculptural record at el-Amarna and her special position in the king's favor is reflected in her unique title, "Greatly Beloved Wife". In a number of Amarna reliefs, Kiya is shown in the company of a daughter. Many believe that she might have also borne a son. Chronological considerations by no means rule out the possibility. There are indications that Kiya was a favorite of the Amarna court prior to years nine and ten of Akhenaten's reign, but after year eleven, about the time of Tutankhamun's birth, she disappears from the the record and her monuments at el-Amarna were appropriated by Nefertiti's daughter, Meritaten. One possible explanation is that Kiya died in childbirth, as a fragmentary mourning scene in Akhenaten's tomb perhaps suggests.

However, it is equally possible that Kiya fell from grace, the victim of court intrigue engineered by the jealous Nefertiti. Indeed, it may be no coincidence that the meteoric rise in the status of Nefertiti seems to have begun in earnest only after Kiya's disappearance.

Irregardless of his mother's identity, Tutankhamun came to the throne in about 1333 BC, then a young child still burdened with the name, Tutankhaten. He married Ankhesenpaaten, the somewhat older third daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, a match perhaps made to unite opposing royal factions. He would rule Egypt for only nine or so years, though there can be little doubt that for most of this time, the reigns of the government were firmly in the hands of others, such as Ay, his successor and perhaps a relative of the king, and General Horemheb, who would succeed Ay to the throne.

The Restoration Stela

Hard facts related to Tutankhamun's reign are few, but it is clear that the principal event of his reign related to the reestablishment of the traditional Egyptian religion, as well as the relocation of the Capital back to Memphis and the reestablishment of the country's religious center at Thebes. When the royal couple abandoned the "aten" forms of their name during year two of the king's reign, it signaled the formal resurgence of Amun, away from the worship of Aten, and the traditional pantheon. Promulgated by a decree at Memphis and recorded in the retrospectively dated "Restoration Stela", this one event marks the reign as pivotal to the subsequent course of Egyptian History.

Hence, while it is frequently said that Tutankhamun was a relatively insignificant king (we too have been guilty of this), despite the wealth of his tomb, his reign was not. Whether the changes that were brought about were his, Ay's or Horemheb's, his was a very important time in the history of Egypt.

King Tut's Titles and Names

The Horus Name: Ka-nakht tut-mesut, "Strong bull, fitting of created forms"

The Horus Name

The King's Horus Name

The Nebty or He of the Two Ladies' Name: Nefer-hepu segereh-tawy schetep-netjeru nebu, "Dynamic of laws, who calms the Two Lands, who propitiates all the gods" (variant 1: Wer-ah-Amun, "Great of the Palace of Amun; variant 2: neb-er-djer, "...lord of all")

Nebty or He of the Two Ladies' Name

The King's Nebty or He of the Two Ladies' Name
The Golden Falcon Name: Wetjes-khau sehetep-netjeru, "Who displays the regalia, who propitiates the gods" (variant 1: Heqa-maat schetep-netjeru, "The one who brings together the cosmic order, who propitiates the gods; variant 2: Wetjes-khau-yotef-Re, "Who displays the regalia of his father Re"; variant 3: Wetjes-khau tjes-tawy em..., "Who dsiplays the regalia, who keeps the Two Lands together)

Golden Falcon Name

The King's Golden Falcon Name
The Prenomen, which commonly follows the group nesu-bity, "dual king", traditionally rendered "King of upper and Lower Egypt": Nebkheprure, "The lordly manifestation of Re"


The King's Prenomen
The Nomen, introduced by sa-ra, "Son of Re": Tutankhamun heqa-Iunu-shema, "Living iamge of Amun, ruler of Upper Egyptian Heliopolis (earlier variant: Tutankhaten, "Living image of the Aten")


The King's Nomen

See Also:

Tut's Tomb






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