This essay will cover the enigmatic 18th dynasty pharaoh Tutankhamen – his
life and death, his role as pharaoh, and his religious beliefs, both the
Aten and Amen religions. It will also cover the beliefs of the people in
New Kingdom Egypt. It will attempt to explain what we can learn about
these topics.

In the beginning of the Eighteenth Dynasty, Egypt was a unified and wealthy
state ruled by a god-king. It had a semitropical climate, creating a large
agricultural surplus. Papyrus grew wild and was used for building
materials, food and paper. Even the desert provided useful goods such as
salt, natron, other minerals, semiprecious stones and gold. Egypt had a
highly organized government that was run by the scribal class, who were
organized and carried out the details of the business of the state. They
knew how to read and write and also had knowledge of the specific position
they were to inherit, such as knowledge in agriculture. The majority of the
people were farmers. During the period of inundation, the three months when
the fields were flooded, they participated in corvee. The farmers became a
national labor force, which built and maintained large-scale public
buildings. There was also a smaller group of nomadic cattle herders.

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Families were the basic social unit in Ancient Egypt, with groups of
families forming villages. The people of Ancient Egypt followed a
hereditary calling, and the whole family shared in the work.

Tutankhamen was born during the Amarna Period, when he was first known as
Tutankhaten (living image of the Aten) but later changed his name,
presumably to try and distance himself from the “Atenist” reigns of
Akhenaten, and possibly Smenkhare. His wife Ankhesenpaaten, who was one of
Akhenaten’s daughters, similarly changed her name to Ankhesenamen.

Interestingly however, some of the most famous images of Tutankhamen and
Ankhesenamen include the distinctive Aten sun disc with arms outstretched
down towards them. Aged about nine when he was crowned at Memphis,
Tutankhaten and his wife Ankhesenpaaten changed the “aten” ending of their
names to “amen” in year 2 of his rule. Tutankhamen probably had little to
do with this, or indeed many other decisions, as his “advisors” were the
ones who held the reins and manipulated the boy king. Apart from the
pivotal return to Thebes and the cult of Amun, few events from
Tutankhamen’s reign have been I documented. Like Akhenaten and Ay, his name
had been omitted from the king lists of Abydos and Karnak, which simply
jump from Amenhotep III to Horemheb. Indeed, Tutankhamen’s exact identity
and his parentage still remain a bit of a mystery. It is clear, however
that he was bought up at Amarna, as a number of items found in his tomb are
relics of his life at the Atenist court – notably the portrayal of the Aten
disc protecting him and his young wife on the back panel of his golden
throne. Tutankhamen died young, probably during his ninth regal year.

Forensic analysis of his mummy has put his age at death at around 17-19
years. Clay seals on wine jars found in his tomb record the king’s regal
year when each wine was laid down. The highest recorded date is year 9
which suggests that the king may have died in that year. There is no
positive evidence on Tutankhamen’s mummy as to how he died. Post mortems
and X-rays have located a small sliver of bone within the upper cranial
cavity. It may have arrived there as the result of a blow, but whether he
was deliberately struck indicating murder or whether it was the result of
an accident, is pure speculation.

The tomb of Tutankhamen was one of the most valuable discoveries in the
history of Egyptian archaeology. But there were several discrepancies about
the tomb which confused its discoverers. Tutankhamen, the people’s link to
the gods on Earth, occupied a small, undecorated tomb in an unobtrusive
part of the Valley of the Kings. This is very unusual in that pharaohs were
usually buried in enormous, richly decorated tombs. In comparison,
Tutankhamen’s tomb is bare. It is less than half the size of other tombs of
the same period, and only one wall in the burial chamber is painted. It
contains only the most necessary ritual paintings, giving the impression
that it was hastily finished. The condition and structure of the tomb has
been explained by many historians. They almost unanimously suggest that
this was originally the tomb of one of Tutankhamen’s close advisors, the
commander of the Egyptian army Horemheb. Since Tutankhamen died far earlier


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