Sunday, February 28, 2010

King Tut Update - Egyptologist and Vice Minister of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawass was in Cairo several weeks ago to reveal in a press conference the results of a two year study an update on the results of research into Tutankhamun and his family. This new data contradicts the images of Tut as a young strong boy-king - which in itself is fascinating in light of increasing Egyptian nationalism.
Tutankhamun’s Health Issues
Tutankhamun was revealed to have had a cleft palate, and clubfoot, and suffered from malaria tropica and avascular bone necrosis which led to weakening or deterioration of the bone in his foot. Some of these ailments in addition to his broken leg appear to have contributed to his early death. These recent scientific discoveries confirm previous hypotheses based on objects found in Tut’s tomb. “Walking impairment and malarial disease sustained by Tutankhamun is supported by the discovery of canes and an afterlife pharmacy in his tomb,” suggest the researchers. Over 100 walking sticks, 10 foot rests and 12 stools were discovered in Tut’s tomb. The de Young’s exhibition features a walking staff that was buried in close proximity to Tut’s mummy in between the walls of the outermost and second shrines in the burial chamber, Staff Bearing the Figure of a King crafted from silver and wood. Also on view are two mobility-related objects from Tut’s tomb: Child’s Chair with Footrest and a Folding Stool in a Fixed Position of ebony, ivory and gold.
Daughters of Tutankhamun
For decades, scientists conjectured about the identities of the mummified fetal remains of two stillborn children buried in Tutankhamun’s tomb. Through the DNA study these children were confirmed to be the daughters of Tut and his wife Ankhesenamun. A small gold and wood nested coffinette, a miniature gold mask and a photograph of one of the mummies are currently on view in the exhibition. This discovery solves the mystery of whether these two girls were the offspring of Tut or innocent souls placed in his tomb to help him symbolically achieve a rebirth in the next world.

Artistic Depiction of Tut
No signs of gynecomastia or Marfan syndrome were found in Tutankhamun in the DNA study. These conditions would yield symptoms of feminized appearance in males that would explain the androgynous depiction of Amarna period pharaohs in sculpture. Instead researchers conclude that the “artistic presentation of persons in the Amarna period is … most probably related to the religious reforms of Akhenaten. Egyptian kings typically had themselves and their families represented in an idealized fashion.” An early statue of Tut, Granite Statue of Tutankhamun, which opens the de Young’s exhibition presents the boy king in the Amarna style with a feminized silhouette including breasts, a narrow waist and slightly bulging belly. These characteristics are even more pronounced in the two gold statues later in the exhibition portraying Tutankhamun as King of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Identification of Tut’s Family Tree
Two previously unidentified royal mummies found in the Valley of Kings were confirmed to be Tiye, grandmother of Tutankhaumn, and the pharaoh Akhenaten, who was identified as the father of Tutankhamun. A third unknown mummy (KV35YL) was discovered to be the mother of Tutankhamun and a sister of Ahkenaten. This contradicts a long held assumption that Tut’s mother was Kiya, a lesser wife of Akhenaten. The exhibition includes a beautifully carved head of Queen Tiye, the imposing Head of a Colossal Statue of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) from the Karnak Temple in Luxor, and a crystalline limestone Balustrade Showing Akhenaten and Family under the Aten which features Akhenaten with the exaggerated feminine features common to the Amarna style.

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