Who was King Tut? Of all the fascinating pharaohs who once ruled over Egypt, probably none is better known than the young man nicknamed “King Tut.” King Tut’s full name was Tutankhamen (too teng KAH muhn). Out of respect, I will refer to him as Tutankhamen in this lesson. But you should probably know him by both names since “King Tut” remains a popular nickname today—and is much easier to say!
Who Was King Tut?
The story of Tutankhamen’s life is, unfortunately, a very short one. Though he ascended the throne in 1333 B.C., at age 8 or 9, he died 10 years later at only 18 or 19! Yet we almost know more about Tutankhamen’s brief life than we know about any of the other pharaohs. Why? Because in 1922 an archaeologist named Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb completely untouched!
Carter Discovers an Untouched Tomb!
That discovery was a big deal in 1922. You see, almost all the pyramids had great wealth and gold in them because of the Egyptian belief system. Kings and queens wanted to take things with them to the afterlife. But buried treasure of that magnitude was far too appealing to thieves. So, over the years, most of the known pyramids were wiped clean by robbers.
Somehow, Tutankhamen’s elaborate tomb had remained buried in the Valley of the Kings for over three thousand years without anyone stealing a thing out of it! The items that Carter found in the tomb were absolutely incredible, and have helped us answer the question, “Who was King Tut?” Several rooms were found piled to the ceiling with thousands of Tutankhamen’s treasures and daily belongings. You have probably already seen pictures from the tomb and not even realized it.
One of the most famous pieces was the actual coffin of Tutankhamen. It had four layers, but the third was made of 2,500 pounds of pure gold! This and a beautiful gold mask of the young king are pictured almost anywhere that ancient Egypt is written about. Begin to keep an eye out for how often you see them.
Other relics found in the tomb include models of typical life in Egypt. There were carved wooden boats showing their transportation, statues of women grinding grain, and models of their homes and gardens. Much information is now known about the Egyptians’ way of life because of this remarkable archaeological discovery.
So we know quite a bit to answer that question, “Who was King Tut?” But, one thing no one knows for sure is just how or why Tutankhamen died so very young. There are many speculations. Some think he was murdered by Ay (eye), his co-regent, who wanted to rule. Others believe he was murdered because of his belief system. You see, he was married to the daughter of Amenhotep IV and Nefertiti (a previous pharaoh and his wife. In fact, some speculate King Tut was the son of Amenhotep IV and that Tut married his half-sister!)
Nonetheless, the unique thing about Amenhotep IV and Nefertiti is that they worshiped only one god, whom they called Aten. In fact, Tutankhamen’s original name was Tutankhaten, which means “Beautiful in life is Aten.” The priests of the old Egyptian religion forced him to change his name and abandon the religion of Akhenaten, his father-in-law (or father.)
One last interesting twist to the story is that Tutankhamen’s widow was later overthrown, too. She was going to marry a prince from another country after Tutankhamen’s death. The prince, however, never made it to the wedding! He was killed along the way by some Egyptians. After that, a whole new dynasty ruled the throne of Egypt under Ay. Sounds suspicious to me!
If you ever make it to Cairo, the treasures of Tutankhamen can be found in a museum there. His body and part of his coffin, however, were reverently returned to their original tomb, which was along the Nile River.
Maybe one day more of the mystery of “King Tut’s” death will be solved. But, for now, hopefully, you will have more puzzle pieces to answer the question “Who was King Tut?” Tell me, what is your favorite thing about him?
Who Was King Tut? Activities for All Ages!
Younger Students—Life-Sized Mummy
Materials: Butcher paper the length of your body; pencil; bold markers; objects such as gems, coins, pendants, rings, insects, plants, etc. to use as “amulets”
Lie flat on butcher paper. Cross your hands over your chest and lie still while a helper traces the shape of your body in pencil. Pretend this is an outer coffin of a life-size mummy (your size, of course). Use bold markers to outline the body and decorate the coffin as the Egyptians did. Draw jewels, ornaments, and headpieces in gold, blue, and red. Add hieroglyphics, ribbons, and amulets. (Amulets are objects thought to protect someone from trouble. Similar to good luck charms, these can be gems, coins, pendants, rings, insects, plants, etc. Egyptians used them inside and outside of coffins.) Hang this life-size mummy in your classroom.
Middle Students—Headline News!
Information about the treasures and mysteries of King Tut abounds at the library and on the internet. Using these resources (with parental approval), make a list of all the different kinds of things found in the tomb. Pretend to be a news reporter at the time of the discovery. Make a startling headline for a newspaper and go on to list the items found. Carter’s discovery is still considered one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time.
Older Students—Modern Forensics
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, forensics is “the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems.” With parental approval, access one or both of the following websites to learn how modern forensics is impacting the case of King Tut’s death!