What we still do not know about Tutankhamun a century after his discovery

"It is a dream come true".

29 October 2022 Saturday 22:46
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What we still do not know about Tutankhamun a century after his discovery

"It is a dream come true". This is how the Egyptologist Alejandro Jiménez Serrano, who has been directing an excavation in the Qubbet el-Hawa necropolis, describes the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb on November 4, 2022, although it was not accessed inside until the 24th. waiting for the arrival in Egypt of Lord Carnarvon, who financed the mission. Beyond its riches, for the first time the tomb of a pharaoh with his grave goods was found almost intact and also "for the first time objects that we previously knew only through drawings appeared in three dimensions", points out the also Egyptologist Maite Mascort, co-director of the excavation at Oxyrhynchus. This is the case, for example, of funerary chapels or royal insignia.

It is considered that Tutankhamun was a minor king of the XVIII dynasty, the one that gave rise to the New Kingdom and that has such glorious pharaohs as Tutmosis I, Hatshepsut, Tutmosis III, Amenhotep III or even Akhenaten, called the heretic for imposing a monotheistic cult dedicated to the god Aton. The death of the latter gave way to a period of instability that culminated in the arrival on the throne of little Tutankhamun, who reestablished polytheism, and especially the powerful clergy of the god Amun. He even changed his name from Tutankhaton, which means living image of Aten, to Tutankhamun, living image of Amun.

Crowned at the age of nine, the surely sickly child died after a decade of reign (about 3,300 years ago). His untimely demise may be the cause of his hypogeum being too small for a king, less than 80 square meters. However, he was buried next to an impressive grave goods made up of more than 5,000 objects of great wealth.

Mascort and Jiménez Serrano know the field work, hence they recognize the results achieved by Howard Carter at a time when the discipline was incipient. "He was the first to carry out a well-done excavation in the Valley of the Kings, his work was exemplary," Mascort values. However, both take for granted the accusations that currently tarnish his figure and that point to the fact that he illegally extracted objects. "He said that the tomb was found partially open, that there were break-ins shortly after the pharaoh's death, and this is being called into question as it appears that the items that disappeared from the tomb could have been collected by Carter in an illegal manner. ”, explains Jiménez Serrano.

Several collections, especially from the United States, have grave goods acquired just after the British's work in the Valley of the Kings and also after his death. "I don't think he invented historical robberies," says Mascord, and without wanting to justify the action, he adds that "those were other times." And he remembers that shortly before the discovery, whoever financed the excavation kept its contents, something that Lord Carnarvon could not do, at least not openly.

"Thanks to Carter, 95% of the material was saved, without him we wouldn't have what we have now," he adds. And among what there is, some unknowns stand out that still surround the figure of Tutankhamun despite the fact that one hundred years have passed since his discovery.

Although there are several theories, it is not clear who was the father of Tutankhamun. The possibility that it was Amenhotep III has been considered, which would make him a younger brother of Akhenaten. Although the most widespread option is the one that indicates that he is the son of this last pharaoh with a secondary woman. This would be the reason why he does not appear in the representations of the royal family of Amarna next to Nefertiti and her daughters.

The key can be solved, according to Egyptologists, if new genetic analyzes are carried out. "It's an easy answer to obtain if you analyze the DNA of the mummies of Amenhotep III and Tutankhamun", both well identified, indicates Jiménez Serrano.

"Tutankhamun's mummy was found in very poor condition, covered with hardened resins, it took a lot to take off the body and with the manipulation a lot of data about his death was lost," explains Jiménez Serrano. “And afterwards, the mummy continued to be very poorly treated, even losing his penis for a while,” Mascort continues. The result: everything fits, from death due to illness, due to an accident and even murder is not ruled out. "She was a puppet in the hands of the priests of Amun," reveals the Egyptologist.

So far, the DNA results have resolved that he suffered from malaria on a couple of occasions, that he had necrosis in his left foot and that he had suffered a fracture in his left leg.

After a recent restoration, it has been questioned whether the famous mask really belongs to Tutankhamun after finding a deleted name, that of Ankhkheperura Neferneferuaton, which could correspond to Nefertiti. That the earlobes are pierced seems another indication that the jewel had previously belonged to a woman. "In her treasure there are many pieces from other owners, especially women from the Amarna court," explains Mascort. “The burial was done in a hurry and elements from other funerals were used,” he adds.

Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves argues that Tutankhamun's tomb is not as small as it appears and that its structure continues behind the north wall of the burial chamber. And he theorizes that it hides another relevant burial, that of Queen Nefertiti. The British is based on different evidence, such as marks on the wall that would hide two doors or changes of names in the actual cartouches of the paintings.

"The truth is that the tomb is too small for a king and its floor plan is rare," Mascort details. "Reeves' hypothesis is well founded, he is a highly prestigious Egyptologist and probably the one who knows the most about the royal tombs of the New Kingdom," continues Jiménez Serrano.

The death of Lord Carnarvon just over four months after the opening of the tomb along with the warning message found inside, gave rise to the well-known curse of Tutankhamun that fueled one of the most popular novelists of the time, Arthur Conan Doyle, fan of spiritualism.

"Carter, who had the most contact with Tutankhamun, died of cancer in 1939, many years later," recalls Mascort. "I would relate the curse more to the lack of resources that we Spanish Egyptologists have to carry out our research in Egypt," jokes Jiménez Serrano to conclude the topic.



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