Egyptian Death Rituals

.. ign, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamen and that of his wife to Ankhesenamen (Reeves 25). This may have been done because of personal preference but more probably was done to placate the priests of Amen-Re; It was undoubtedly a signal that Amen-Re had returned to favor. The first question about the death of Tutankhamen that needs to be answered is that of the nature of his death. The two examinations of Tutankhamen’s mummy found evidence that may answer this question for us.

The first examination, conducted in 1925 when the mummy was unwrapped, found a dark coloroed lesion on the left cheek. It is slightly depressed from the rest of the skin, and looks somewhat like a scab (Carter 228). They also found that the king was betwe en 18 and 19 years of age when he died. In the Thutmosid line of kings, of which Tutankhamen was a member, the average lifespan was approximately 40 years based upon the length of their reigns (See The Pharaohs of the Eighteenth Dynasty chart). In 1968 armed with X-ray technology, an expedition found conclusive evidence for the cause of the king’s death. Radiographs of the king’s vertebra prove that the king did not die of tuberculosis, which was a popular opinion held by many at the time. Even more substantial is a fragment of bone inside the skull of the mummy (Reeves 118).

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Along with the cheek lesion, the bone fragment would be consistent with damage caused by a blow to the head. If Tutankhamen was killed by an injury to his head, then how did it happen? The most plausible theory is that he was killed by someone close to him. As the last male heir to the dynasty, he would have been under close protection by his advisers. He was probably watched over his entire life by the vizier Ay and Queen Nefertiti. As such, an accidend or being killed by someone whom he did not know is improbable. Who then killed Pharaoh Nebkheperure? Our evidence after 3,000 years does not exactly have a smoking gun, but the evidence does lean in one direction; it is my belief that King Tutankhamen was murdered by the man who would become Pharaoh Zeserkheperure-Setepenre: the General Horemheb. General Horemheb was a very ambitious man of low birth who had risen fast to become one of Akhenaten’s and Tutankhamen’s closest advisors (Breasted, Records III 13).

Of all the men who history has passed down to us, he was the person with the most to lose by Tutankhamen’s contitued reign. We know Horemheb was one king removed from being the successor to Tutankhamen. During the reign of Tutankhamen he was the commander in chief of Tutankhamen’s armies. He was probably the second most trused of Tutankhamen’s advisors. But Tutankhamen growing up and out of the grasp of his advisors would be a bad omen for Horemheb.

His power was built upon his proximity to the throne. Also, the Pharaohs of Egypt were warrior kings, always fighting at the front, leading their armies onward. Were Tutankhamen to assert his royal power, Horemheb would lose not only his power close the the throne but power in his base, the armies of Imperia l Egypt. One of the most interesting things about the tomb of Tutankhamen is the number of items inscribed with the names of previous kings and courtiers. Some of the most charming pieces from the tomb have inscriptions from his advisers to the well-being of Tutankhamen in his afterlife (Carter 186-187). Of all the people whom history has passed down to us as being present in the court of Tutankhamen at the time of his death, all are reperesented in some form in the tomb execpet for General Horemheb.

In a culture where a person’s death was more important than their life, placing a memento for the dead king in his tomb would be the greated form of respect. To not do so would have been the greatest form of disrespect. Our next piece of evidence is in the acts of King Horemheb. He ordered his artisans to travel throughout the land destroying any references anywhere in the land to the Aten. The artisans were also sent with another order: any item with the names of Tutank hamen or Ay upon it would either be reinscribed with Horemheb’s name upon it or be destroyed. He also had Akhenaten, Tutankhamen and Ay removed from the royal lists of Pharaohs.

The destruction of the memory of Akhenated is understandable for an individual devoted to Amen-Re; the priesthood probably ordered it. But the destruction of the memories of Tutankhamen and Ay are quite suspicious. They were kings who had restored Amen-Re to favor. The priesthood had no ill will towards them. Horemheb must have had some personal reason for eradicating them from the record (Desroches-Noblecourt 283-284).

The final piece of evidence is a letter sent by an Egyptian Queen to the king of the Hittites. ..their master, Bibhuria [Nebkheprure, i.e. Tutankhamen] had just died and the widowed queen of Egypt sent an ambassador to my father and wrote to him in these terms: My husband is dead and I have no son. People say that you have many sons [or that your sons are adult]. If you send me one of your sons he will become my husband for it is repugnant to me to take one of my servants [subjects] to husband (Desroches-Noble court 275). This passage gives somewhat of an idea what the political situation was like in Egypt at the time. Desroches-Noblecourt believes that the servant mentioned in the passage refers to Horemheb (see note 4).

Horemheb probably killed Tutankhamen and went on a power grab with the backing of the army, hoping to gain the throne. We know that the embalming of Tutankhamen would take at least 70 days, a time for which he would still be Pharaoh (Carter 136-139). When no prince arrived, Ankhesenamen named her grandfather Ay co-regent (see note 5), and it is Ay whom we see performing t he opening of the mouth ceremony (see note 6) on the mummy of Tutankhamen in a painting in Tutankhamen’s burial chamber. With the availiable evidence, and a little imagination we can theorize the events surrounding the death of Tutankhamen. Bibliography some Egyptian webpage History Essays.