One of the most fascinating tools aiding in the discovery of Ancient Egyptian society was the tomb of King Tutankhamen. Discovered in the early twentieth century, King Tutankhamen's tomb provided the world with an intake of Egyptian lifestyles. By observing and analyzing the intact, pictorial artifacts, archaeologists were able to form conclusions of what the ancient world was like. The artifacts within the tomb not only told of the lifestyles of the Ancient Egyptians, but also revealed the routines and duties of the ruler, Tutankhamen. By learning about King Tutankhamen's life, one is really learning about the other rulers and their common practices. Through a remarkable discovery of the well-kept tomb of Tutankhamen, the Ancient worlds of Tutankhamen as well as Egypt were finally unmasked.
Tutankhamen's tomb was not discovered until 1922 partly because Tutankhamen's name, along with that of other pharaohs of his dynasty, was removed from the royal lists during the 19th dynasty. In the 20th dynasty, when the tomb of Ramses VI was carved immediately above Tutankhamen's, rubble covered his burial place. The burial chamber was not entered until found in 1922 by British Egyptologist Howard Carter after years of searching.
While excavating in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt in January of 1908, Theodore Davis found artifacts, each with Tutankhamen's name inscribed on it. After concluding that the site was merely a reburial site of Tutankhamen and not the actual tomb, Davis opened the door for Howard Carter to continue investigating the area within the next twenty years. Much to Davis's dismay, Howard Carter would be the one cited for the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb. After obtaining permission to investigate the area, Carter, along with Lord Carnarvon, discovered and entered the tomb of King Tutankhamen despite the desire to give up at first. "We had almost made up our minds to leave The Valley and try our luck elsewhere; and then-hardly had we set hoe to ground in our last despairing effort than we made a discovery that far exceeded our wildest dreams," says Howard Carter in 1922 of the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb. Contrary to the belief that the discovery was purely accidental, Carter and Carnarvon knew exactly what they were doing as they were working from a detailed map and spent many years of methodical work. Despite an eery curse said to impair those who disturb Tutankhamen's slumber, Carter and his workers infiltrated and explored the tomb.
Cleverness of the Ancient Egyptians is an attribute predominant in King Tutankhamen's tomb as well as in the other tombs found throughout the Valley of the Kings. Although most tombs were robbed completely of their valuables, King Tutankhamen's tomb was barely victimized as the Egyptians responsible for the tomb of Tutankhamen were very clever in their architecture and location for the building of Tutankhamen's tomb. The great jewels and treasures were kept in the Jewel Room, which was very hard to get into. The engineers responsible for the building and decorating Tutankhamen's tomb were also clever in their formation of a so-called curse located near the entrance of the tomb.
The tomb of Tutankhamen is very small compared to some in the Valley of the Kings reflecting the haste by which it must have been completed after the boy-king's early death. It consisted of four rooms; the antechamber, the annex, the burial chamber, and the treasury. The rockcut tomb was dug deep into one of the cliffsides of the Valley of the Kings in an effort to conceal the resting places of the royal mummies. Inside the tomb, there were long descending passageways, stairs, and chambers, which were also decorated in relief and painting with scenes to protect and aid the spirit in the next life.
When peering into the tomb of Tutankhamen, one will primarily notice the fabulous works of art surrounding the boy king. On first entering the tomb, Carter states "At first I could see nothing . . . but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold- everywhere the glint of gold." More than three thousand treasures were placed in the tomb to help Tutankhamen in his afterlife, not including the surrounding walls painted with scenes of Tutankhamen's voyage to the afterworld. Tutankhamen's mummy rested in the innermost coffin, which is made of solid gold, while his body was wrapped in linen with an exquisite gold mask placed over his head. The two outer ones of gold hammered over wooden frames. On the king's head was a magnificent golden portrait mask, and numerous pieces of jewelry and amulets lay upon the mummy and in its wrappings. Spectacular alabaster sculptures presided along the perimeter of one of the chambers. There was furniture of all kinds, and even games, which were assumed to be present as Tutankhamen was a young man when he met his premature death. All of the beautiful golden items found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen suggest an ancient society where gold was considered divine and honorable, accurately compared to modern day's society. By observing the tomb of Tutankhamen, it is not an uncommon conclusion that the Ancient Egyptians were highly skilled in artistic fields.
A natural treasure found within the tomb of King Tutankhamen is the actual skeletal remains of the boy prince. These remains found in King Tutankhamen's tomb not only suggest a religious society concerned with the notion of an afterlife, but rather a politically corrupt society as well. King Tutankhamen died when he was approximately 17, ostensibly of natural causes. However, it has recently been suggested through X-ray analyses that Tutankhamen passed away as a result from a sharp blow to the back of his skull. This scientific evidence suggests an assassination, as his skull was hit and fractured in a manner highly improbable without human assistance. One common belief is that the assassin was Aye, the successor to Tutankhamen, as there is a mural painted in the tomb of Tutankhamen depicting the "opening of the mouth" ceremony held right after Tutankhamen's death. This painting shows Aye wearing the crown of the pharaoh and since Tutankhamen did not have a child to succeed him, it appears that Aye decided to seize the crown and declare himself King of Egypt. Tutankhamen was, however, not the only one to be assassinated in ancient times, as many other political figures had mysterious deaths. The probable assassination of King Tutankhamen suggests a corrupt society within Ancient Egypt where a quick way to obtain political power through assassination is not uncommon.
The treasures found at King Tutankhamen's tomb also suggest a religious and spiritual society of the Ancient Egyptian peoples. In the examination of King Tutankhamen's tomb, the preservation of life and the afterlife seemed to be very important to the Ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians believed that the next life had to be provided for in every detail and, as a result, tombs were decorated with depictions of the deceased at his funerary meal, activities of the estate and countryside, and the abundant offerings necessary to sustain the spirit. Lavished in gold jewelry and treasures, Tutankhamen's body was treated with care and hopes of preservation. He was not merely thrown into the ground and covered with dirt, instead placed delicately and decorated with care as though he was only sleeping and would soon wake up. Among the treasures, 415 statues of soldiers were found within the tomb holding baskets and tools. Despite the king's death, the servants were carved to ensure that the afterlife of the king would go on and chores would still be performed. The Treasury, adjacent to the Burial Chamber, was home to much of the supporting material for Tutankhamen's afterlife. Along with boats and gilded figures, a canopic chest was located there, containing internal organs belonging to the ancient king. Around this chest of organs were four beautifully crafted goddesses in specific stances to protect the king. Murals depicting afterlife scenes were carved and painted upon the walls surrounding this sleeping prince, one including a picture of Tutankhamen entering the underworld accompanied by his spirit and greeted by Osiris, God of the Underworld. The belief in the afterlife proved to be existent in Ancient Egypt by observation of the numerous guardians and statuettes within the confines of King Tutankhamen's tomb. This suggests a very spiritually motivated society of the past who strongly believed in the existence of the afterlife.
Tutankhamen's treasure provides modern day society with a first hand view of the past, as this treasure speaks of historical events and sociological structure. The only part of the complex that contains wall paintings is the Burial Chamber. In this chamber, the famous "opening of the mouth" ceremony can be pictured. Through this picture, an ancient ceremony which allows the dead to breathe again in the next world is revealed to the world. On the King's ceremonial stool, he is portrayed as stepping on human figures, which are portrayed as prisoners, lying with their arms behind their backs. They represent the enemies of Egypt, including Asian, Indo-European, and African races. A painted chest was found in the tomb which shows the destruction of the Asians. Inside of the tomb, there are also many pictures of royalty and their clothing, which is an indication of what the clothes were made of in Ancient Egypt. By analyzing the treasure found at King Tutankhamen's burial site, one is able to form conclusions about Egyptian history as well as the lifestyles of the Egyptian people.
King Tutankhamen's tomb not only educates outsiders about Ancient Egyptian daily life, but it also declares a young king's life. Despite modern day society's recognition and knowledge of Tutankhamen for only his treasure, King Tutankhamen was a king in a time of great triumph for the Ancient Egyptians with an unfortunate, untimely death. Though Tutankhamen made few great contributions to society during his short reign, his treasures and tomb as well as the knowledge obtained about him help create the setting for what political ruling was like in Ancient Egypt.
Tutankhamen contributed to society with his divine tomb as well as with his change in Ancient Egyptian religion. As Tutankhamen's supposed father, Amenhotep III ( later changed to Akhenaten) conducted a significant ruling which included a dramatic change from the polytheistic practices of common man to a monotheistic lifestyle, administered by the sun god Aten. This sudden change in lifestyle did not please the Egyptians who had been practicing a polytheistic religion. Akhenaten's changes, loathed by the common people, provided an unstable ground for the new King Tutankhamen. Therefore, Tutankhamen quickly agreed to restore polytheism, and restored peace within the community. Tutankhamen was probably pressured by members of the government into turning against his fathers wishes as he was a young, inexperienced ruler under the advisement of elder, more experienced statesmen. Tutankhamen's sudden change of religious policy also demonstrates the higher class's desire for overall approval of the lesser, more populated commoners to prevent revolts. Because of Tutankhamen's reversal of religion, the priests of Amon were very grateful and contributed greatly to the treasure found in Tutankhamen's tomb.
The discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb in its entirety stands as a milestone in archaeology and can be viewed as a critical turning point in history, as it has been the only tomb that was found in the Valley of the Kings. Tutankhamen's tomb is also significant to the field of archaeology as it is the most intact tomb of all time. What makes this particular find important is that the contents were untouched by robbers, unlike all of the previously discovered tombs in Egypt. These unfortunate tombs had had their valuables been stolen by robbers who were able to enter the tombs despite excellent secrecy of the whereabouts of the treasure-filled chambers. Tutankhamen's tomb stood in November of 1922 as well as today as the most intact tomb of all time, and is greatly acknowledged and respected as that.
The actual discovery of his tomb is probably the most important impact of King Tutankhamen's tomb in modern society. Against all odds, a beautifully intact tomb was found revealing the ancient secrets of the past told through shimmering gold and treasure. The Egyptian culture which had been bottled up for so long was able to be explored. The architecture and other art found within and part of the tomb created a significant impression on the artistic world. The art would be admired and copied in today's society, with many paintings and sculptures crafted like those found in Tutankhamen's tomb as well as copied architecture. The discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb provides hope for struggling archaeologists, as at one point there was no hope for the discovery of the tomb with constant failures. However, against the popular belief, the tomb was found and was able to be explored. The discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen also played a role in media development. During the discovery of the hidden and sealed tomb, media arts was taking off as well. The discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb was one of the first major events to be explored in depth and photographed constantly by the media. This event was revealed first hand to the people of the world, with photographs and printed journal entries. The discovery of the tomb also brought on a strong interest in the Ancient Egyptians, especially for their mythological attributes. A common fear of mummies, sacred scarabs, and curses were rampant throughout the world. The media developed numerous movies and stories exploring the "dark side" of Ancient Egypt. The popularity of Tutankhamen's tomb allowed media to develop the myths of Ancient Egypt. More important, the popularity of Tutankhamen's tomb enabled the world with more information of Egypt's historical background. As the interest for knowledge of Ancient Egypt grows, the sacred culture of Egypt will be able to be preserved and incorporated into other cultures.
Ironically, King Tutankhamen is probably the most well-known pharaoh of Ancient Egypt because of the valuable treasures found within his tomb, instead of noted for a significant rule. With the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb, the concealed past of Ancient Egypt was finally able to be explored. By observing the artifacts, architecture, and paintings, professionals were able to obtain information about the ancient society. Unfortunately, Tutankhamen's tomb is slowly being destroyed by man, as cameras and the constant flow of man destroys the artifacts. Though precautions are in effect, such as the prohibition of cameras, the ancient tomb has lost a lot of its natural beauty.
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