Nearly a century after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, archaeologists are once again crowding into the crypt of the boy pharaoh.
Recent scans of the tomb reveal that it might have yet another secret within its walls—hidden chambers, including one which might have been the final resting place for Queen Nefertiti.
Why would two of ancient Egypt's most famous rulers share the same tomb? The answer might lie in the story of Tut’s life and death. His premature demise in about 1322 B.C. likely shocked his subjects—and left them deeply apprehensive about their future.The young pharaoh ruled at the end of the 18th Dynasty, at a time when Egypt had become fabulously rich and powerful. The country had prospered for more than a thousand years, keeping traditions that had arisen even before the now famous pyramids at Giza were built. By Tut's time, Egypt had gained access to the legendary gold mines of Nubia to the south, and had conquered territory along the Mediterranean coast to the northeast.
But Egypt was in turmoil when Tut took the throne. A pharaoh named Akhenaten, possibly Tut's father or half brother, had turned traditions upside down by ordering everyone to worship the sun god Aten, closing the old temples, and smashing all the statues of Amun, a popular god with powerful priests.
The heretic pharaoh also moved the country's capital to the western desert, far from the life-giving waters of the Nile. He called the place Akhetaten, now the archaeological site of Amarna, and forced more than 20,000 people to do the backbreaking work of building an entire city from scratch.
It's unclear who became pharaoh right after Akhenaten died, but Tut soon rose to the throne. His full name was Tutankhamun Nebkheperure, quite a mouthful for a small boy. Tut was only eight years old or so, which must have set his subjects to worrying all over again. A boy king? How could he rule a whole country? And how could he ever hope to protect Egypt from its enemies?
His top officials, though, appear to have offered him good advice and worked diligently to set Egypt right. For starters, that meant moving the capital back to the banks of the Nile, where the city of Luxor is now located. During his decade-long reign, Tut became a symbol of this restoration, a return to ma'at, the proper order of things.