This week: Tutankhamun

The funerary mask of Tutankhamun, 18th-dynasty Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh. Image: Wikimedia Commons/Roland Unger

He died while still in his teens, and his tomb was the smallest of any pharaoh in the Valley of the Kings. Yet Tutankhamun remains without doubt the most celebrated figure to emerge from ancient Egypt, and arguably one of the most famous people in all human history.

One hundred years ago this month, Howard Carter’s discovery of his body – encased in a nest of golden coffins and surrounded by thousands of precious grave goods – inspired a wave of Egyptomania around the world, causing great excitement amongst newspaper editors, and influencing art, architecture, fashion and design.

But although he has been the subject of countless studies, exhibitions, and books, there is much that remains mysterious about the ‘boy pharaoh’ a century on – with expert opinion still divided even over such fundamental matters as how he came to die so young.

As we discover this week on The Past, the impending opening of Cairo’s new Grand Egyptian Museum – designed at an estimated cost of $1bn to house the complete Tutankhamun collection – has allowed conservators finally to inspect large numbers of artefacts from his tomb using modern X-ray and CT scanning techniques.

In the latest issue of our brand new sister magazine Ancient Egypt, Bob Brier explains how this new evidence is challenging many of our perceptions about Tutankhamun, replacing the widely held image of a fragile monarch, whose physical infirmity caused his early death, with that of a warrior leader, who commanded authority and even led his troops in battle.

Elsewhere this week, to welcome Ancient Egypt into Current Publishing’s unique portfolio of accessible specialist magazines, we are serving up a feast of Tutankhamun-related features from the new issue: Aidan Dodson investigates some of the strange early theories concerning a royal individual about whom little was known; Carl Graves looks at how Howard Carter’s training as an artist informed his work in the Valley of the Kings; and J Peter Phillips reveals how Carter’s long search was finally rewarded.

We have also been delving into the archives for even more about Tutankhamun: we looked at how the finding of an embalming cache paved the way for an archaeological breakthrough; we visited an exhibition which offered fresh insights into the greatest Egyptological discovery of all time; and we examined the glittering collection of objects assembled to ease the youthful pharaoh’s passage into the next world.

And finally, if all that simply whets your appetite, don’t forget to have a go at our latest Quiz, which this week is also themed around Tutankhamun. Good luck, and we hope you enjoy The Past!

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