by M. Eaton-Krauss
Bloomsbury (2016) p/b 175pp £19.99 (ISBN 9781472575616)
If you were to ask somebody to name an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, there is a strong possibility that they would say ‘Tutankhamun’. His name is universally familiar but the details of his life are not, except that he died at a young age.
The rulers of the XVIIIth dynasty in Egypt (c.1539-1292 BCE) included some noteable figures—Thutmoses III, the great ‘warrior’ pharaoh, Hatshepsut , the female ruler and Akhenaten, the ‘heretic’, whose only god was the sun disc, the Aten. Tuthankamun is now regarded as the son of Akhenaten, but uncertainty still remains as to the identity of his mother. DNA studies carried out in Egypt have not provided certainty, and some people are sceptical about the retrieval of DNA from such ancient bodies. There are also great uncertainties about the sequence of events between the death of Akhenaten and the accession of Tutankhamun, or Tutankhaten as he was originally known. There seems to have been a ‘ruling queen’ somewhere in this period, but which woman it was is again a matter of debate.
E-K looks at Tutankhamun’s life chronologically, from accession through the building projects and finally his death and burial. Why did Tutankhamun die so young? Was it natural causes, an accident, or even an ‘arranged accident’? If the latter, we must ask: what/where/how/who/when/why? And, of course, the famous question cui bono? must also be considered. E-K provides evidence for the apparently hurried and ‘second-hand’ burial of Tutankhamun, but comes to no final conclusion.
Many of the recent studies on the so-called ‘Amarna’ period have been published in journals in either French or German, so that they have not been available to those without the languages. E-K has provided a fine service by gathering together so much information from these publications. She has produced a book that is extremely fascinating for anyone interested in Tutankhamun and at the same time, with copious notes, providing valuable material for professional Egyptologists. She makes clear her own ideas but also includes the contradictory ones.
In spite of this publication, there is still a great deal ‘unknown’ about this young king and, unless further artefacts are found, it will probably remain so.
Olive Hogg—North East Ancient Egypt Society