Of all the names that come to mind when you think of Ancient Egypt, only Cleopatra can hold a candle to the riches and mystery that surrounds the legend of Tutankhamun.
As ITV retells the story of Howard Carter’s phenomenal discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the new drama Tutankhamun, we found out the answers to your burning questions about the boy who became king.
Who was Tutankhamun?
Photo credit: ImageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock
Tutankhamun was one of Ancient Egypt’s most famous pharaohs who ruled during the late 18th dynasty in around 1300 BC.
It is thought he was born in the city of Akhetaten – then capital of Egypt – around 1346 BC. His father was Akhenaten, while his mother is often referred to as “The Younger Lady” and is believed to have been one of Akhenaten’s five sisters.
Tutankhamun ascended the throne aged just nine or 10 in 1337 BC. As a prince he was known as Tutankhaten, becoming known as Tutankhamun when he became pharaoh.
When he became king, he married his half-sister Ankhesenpaaten who later became known as Ankhesenamun. The couple had two daughters, both of whom were sadly stillborn.
Tutankhamun’s reign came to an end when he died aged around 18.
It is not known how Tutankhamun died. Theories include sickle cell disease, malaria or temporal lobe epilepsy, amongst others.
After his death, the Thutmosid family line came to an end and Tutankhamun’s widow married Ay, one of Tutankhamun’s advisers, who succeeded him as pharaoh.
What happened during his reign?
As Tutankhamun was so young when he ascended the throne, he had a number of powerful advisers. These were most likely General Horemheb and Grand Vizier Ay – the latter would later succeed him.
Under their influence, Tutankhamun reversed a number of changes brought in by his father.
He ended the worship of the god Aten and restored the god Amun to supremacy, as indicated by his name change from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamun, which means “living image of Amun”.
Photo credit: Design Pics Inc/REX/Shutterstock
He moved the capital from Akhetaten to Thebes (now Luxor) and made efforts to restore diplomatic relations with other kingdoms.
Who was Howard Carter?
Born on May 9, 1874, Howard Carter was an archaeologist and Egyptologist.
He grew up in Norfolk, close to Didlington Hall, the mansion belonging to the Amherst family, which contained a collection of Egyptian antiques.
This sparked Carter’s interest in the subject.
In 1891, aged 17, Carter was sent by the Egyptian Exploration Fund to assist the excavation of the Middle Kingdom tombs in Beni Hasan.
Carter worked under the tutelage of a few Egyptologists before he was made chief inspector of the Egyptian Antiquities Service.
In 1907, Carter was hired by Lord Carnarvon to supervise excavations in the Valley of the Kings.
The work was financed by Carnarvon to 1914, though excavations were interrupted until 1917 by the First World War.
When work resumed, Carnarvon became dissatisfied with the lack of results and in 1922 he informed Carter that he only had one more season to search for Tutankhamun’s tomb.
How did Carter find the tomb?
Carter was led to Tutankhamun’s tomb in part by previous findings in the area by archaeologist Theodore M. Davis.
In 1907 Davis had discovered Horemheb’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. While on the dig his team had uncovered a small site where they found artefacts with Tutankhamun’s name, and some embalming parts.
Carter then returned to a line of huts he had abandoned in the Valley of the Kings a few seasons earlier, where the team found a deep stone step cut into the bedrock.
On November 4, 1922, they uncovered a flight of steps that led to a mud-plastered doorway.
Carter sent Carnarvon a telegram and he arrived in the Valley of the Kings with his 21-year-old daughter, Evelyn, two weeks later.
Using the chisel his grandmother had given him on his 17th birthday, Carter made a tiny breach in the doorway.
Peering through by candlelight, Carnarvon asked Carter if he could see anything, to which Carter famously replied: “Yes, wonderful things!”
The ensuing months were spent cataloguing the contents of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, Carter opened the sealed doorway and saw the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun for the first time.
Why was the discovery significant?
Tutankhamun’s tomb is considered the best preserved pharaoh’s tomb ever found in the Valley of the Kings.
The tomb was gilded in gold and so densely packed with treasures that it took eight years to empty.
Photo credit: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock
Earlier this year a report showed that Tutankhamun was buried with a dagger made from an iron meteorite.
The items found in the tomb are now on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and tourists are also currently able to visit the tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
Was there really a curse?
The idea of a curse surrounding Tutankhamun’s tomb first surfaced after a number of high-profile deaths - some in mysterious circumstances - among those who had entered the tomb.
Lord Carnarvon died just four months after the tomb’s opening after accidentally shaving over a mosquito bite and contracting blood poisoning.
Two weeks before his death, a letter by Marie Corelli had been published in New York World magazine in which she had quoted a book that claimed those who entered a sealed tomb would face dire punishment.
Mussolini subequently had an Egyptian mummy, which he had accepted as a gift, removed from the Palazzo Chigi.
A friend of Carter, Sir Bruce Ingram, was given a paperweight composed of a mummified hand with its wrist adorned with a scarab bracelet marked with: "Cursed be he who moves my body. To him shall come fire, water and pestilence."
Soon after receiving the gift, Ingram's house burned down, followed by a flood when it was rebuilt.
Many people did, however, visit the tomb and live healthy lives. Of the 58 people present when the tomb and sarcophagus were first opened, only eight died within 12 years. Howard Carter himself lived until 1939.