19 Ancient Facts About the Real Man Behind the Legend of King Tut

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History buff or not, chances are, you’ve heard of King Tut. Thanks to Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922, you probably also know a few fun facts about the Boy King.

But do you know the man behind the legend? Do you know Tutankhamun?

Don’t feel too bad. No one does. Most of what we’ve learned over the past hundred years of studying King Tut’s tomb is that we don’t actually know all that much. Shrouded in mystery and tragedy, King Tutankhamun’s tomb creates more questions than it answers. So while there’s a lot we don’t know, here are 20 facts we do know about King Tut, the mummy, the man, the legend. First off, King Tut was quite the cultural phenomenon in 70’s. In 1978, Steve Martin debuted a satirical song on SNL’s opening skit, in which Martin addresses the cultural phenomenon taking place since the treasures of King Tut’s tomb began touring the United States just two years prior, in 1976. The song was an instant hit and was released as a single, selling over a million copies and reaching number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Recently, in 2017, students at a liberal arts college in Oregon spoke out in protest against the song, deeming it racist and claiming that it contains cultural appropriation.

Let’s just say that when Howard Carter first discovered the tomb in 1922, King Tut was happy to see him (and no, King Tut did not have a banana in his pocket).

As one would expect, King Tut’s you-know-what was mummified along with the rest of his body. However, the particular presentation of his you-know-what took an unexpected form. Do I literally need to spell it out? King Tut’s penis was mummified to stand erect at a 90˚ angle and had a straw inserted down the center to hold it in position. Ouch. Speaking of ouch, while researching, I was unfortunate enough to come across Urban Dictionary’s definition of “The King Tut Special.” Don’t you just wish you could un-Google some things?

But King Tut’s personal drama was far from over…

His mummified member went missing in 1968. Researchers panicked that this valuable male memorabilia had been stolen. Thankfully, in 2005, CT scans confirmed that it had merely fallen off and was lying nearby in the sand all along.

Apparently, poking, prodding, and measuring the King’s corpse was not enough for researchers.

Researchers also felt the need to note the small size of King Tut’s package and even went as far as to speculate that the King died of a genetic disorder that resulted in underdeveloped genitalia. Just google “King Tut’s penis” and the second article that comes up is titled, “King Tut had a Small Penis.” So not cool, society. If all that King Tut wanted was peace in the afterlife, man oh man, is he disappointed.

King Tut literally walked all over his enemies.

Tutankhamun really knew how to hold a grudge. He made sure to disrespect his enemies with every single step he took. Because he literally had images of his enemies painted onto the soles of his sandals, which were found close to his mummified body upon the discovery of his tomb in 1922. Find out what the Mormons wanted with King Tut on the next page!

The “Pharoah’s Curse” is born.

Shortly after funding Carter’s excavation of King Tut’s and visiting the tomb, George Herbert was infected by a mosquito whose bite proved fatal only four months later when he died of blood poisoning. Or as everyone would call it, the “Mummy’s Curse.” Stories of the mysterious deaths that met those who entered the tomb circulated across the globe faster than a super cute cat video and before long, the tomb was accepted as a real-life Kennedy-esque tragedy machine, bound to curse anyone who dared to step foot on its sacred ground. But, according to History.com, these accounts were merely the result of journalistic fabrications. And if that isn’t enough proof for you, apparently, there’s been a study… In 2002, scientists examined the survival rates of 44 Westerners who had been in Egypt during Carter’s excavation, concluding that they were not at elevated risk of dying early. I don’t know guys.

The Mormons wanted their fair share of King Tut’s DNA.

Of course, they did. I mean, aren’t we all entitled to our piece of the puzzle? Rumor has it that they were out to prove their lineage traces back to ancient Pharaohs and even possibly convert the ancient Egyptians postmortem. Mmmmmmkay. The Mormon’s request for DNA testing was briefly approved before being officially and permanently shut down by Egyptian officials when they became aware of the Mormon’s possible alternative motives. So close, guys. Maybe next mummy.

As an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, King Tut believed that, in order to fulfill his ultimate destiny in the afterlife, his body must be preserved intact. So researchers made sure to break off King Tut’s arms and legs, cut off his head, and scrape his body from his coffin with hot knives.

King Tut’s corpse was covered in a resin-like black liquid thought to contribute to the embalming process. However, researchers never before saw such ample amounts of this liquid in the mummification process as they did when examining the corpse of King Tut. This sticky black goo hardened over centuries, making it impossible to lift King Tut’s mummy out of his tomb (probably what Tut was hoping for). So, instead of respecting the dead, scientists decided to scrape King Tut’s body out of his coffin with searing hot knives, because, you know, science. But before they did that, they made sure to [break] off the mummy’s arms and legs, cut off its head and [saw] the body in two – then scraped out the pieces with hot knives,” according to the Huffington Post.

‘King Tut’ wasn’t Tutankhamun’s only nickname.

King Tut is also commonly referred to as the Boy King because he began his reign over Egypt when he was only 9 years old. Clearly, high expectations were imposed on Tutankhamun from a young age.

Heavy is the crown.

And when you put the crown on when you’re 9 years old, there’s a good chance you won’t live to see 20. Have you ever seen one of those side-by-side shots of Presidents before and after their terms? The toll that stress takes can be quite startling. Tutankhamun died when he was just 18 or 19years old. As to how he died, read researchers’ theories ranging from malaria to death by hippo on the next page!

While it’s clear King Tut died at a young age, how he died continues to be a hot topic of debate.

After testing his DNA, Egyptian researchers concluded that King Tut died ultimately from malaria. However, due to lesions found on King Tut’s bones and toes, German researchers suggest that the young Pharoah actually died of sickle cell disease. British researchers believe that King Tut died from a brutal fall off of his chariot. Their theory points to injuries to King Tut’s body, including a concave chest cavity and broken ribs.

Ostriches, hippos, and incest, Oh my.

A fan made of 42 alternating brown and white ostrich feathers was found placed near King Tut’s corpse, suggesting that perhaps, ostriches played a role in his death. Ostrich hunting was a common pastime in Ancient Egypt and while it may sound like a harmless hobby, it was actually quite dangerous. Considering King Tut’s body was found maimed and damaged, an additional theory exists where King Tut died from injuries he sustained while hunting his feathered foes. And as if this plethora of theories isn’t confusing enough, some believe King Tut died from injuries resulting from a hippo attack. So yeah. While everyone’s got a theory, clearly, no one knows how King Tut actually died. Personally, I’m going with hippo. It just feels right.

The Boy King wanders the afterlife, heartless.

Back in the good ole days of Ancient Egypt, before we knew that gray matter matters, the brain was tossed in the trash after death. But the heart was thought to be the ‘organ of reasoning’ and therefore was thought to be necessary for the afterlife. So the heart was left in place post-passing, and even if it was accidentally removed (oops), the heart was promptly placed back into the body and sewn up. But strangely, King Tut has no heart. Rather, a heart scarab was placed in the body in place of the valued organ. There are many theories out there, but ultimately, no one really knows why King Tut’s heart is nowhere to be found.

King Tut was not just a mummy, nor was he just a King. He was a father and a grieving one at that.

While King Tutankhamun’s tomb may not have contained secret chambers or elaborate wall paintings like other Pharaohs of his time, it did contain two priceless treasures that were more valuable to King Tut than all his gold, combined. The corpses of his two daughters; both stillborn. It is believed that one of his daughters was born prematurely at 5–6 months of pregnancy and the other was born at full-term.

Sadly, the deaths of his daughters may have been a result of relations that were less than virtuous… to put it gently.

While no signs of any congenital abnormalities are visible on his daughter’s corpses, it is very possible that both of their deaths were the result of incest between their father, King Tut, and their mother, Tut’s half-sister, Ankhesenamun. Apparently, Tutankhamun was himself the result of incestuous relations. His father and mother also happened to be, you guessed it, brother and sister. Yikes. But this was the norm during ancient times, as the Egyptians were attempting to maintain their pure bloodlines (man, did they get this one wrong). Instead, they ended up with extremely high rates of congenital defects. Example, you say? King Tut’s cleft palate and club foot. Thankfully, it’s since been formally established that incest is about as gross as gross gets. So yeah, enough said. Let’s talk about gold, instead!

Gold. Gold. And more gold.

Let’s just say, the King appreciated the finer things in life. His coffin, made of solid gold, was surrounded by 5,000 priceless treasures. A golden throne, crown, cobra, pottery, chests, you name it. If it was in King Tut’s tomb, it was probably gold.

Compared to the grand and lofty tombs of other Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, King Tut’s tomb was basically a studio apartment.

King Tut’s tomb was suspiciously small with minimal wall paintings compared to the tombs of other Egyptian Pharaohs of his time. To explain these oddities, some theorize that the tomb of King Tut contained hidden chambers, and possibly even housed Queen Nefertiti’s tomb.

So why the humble housing?

Other theories question whether the tomb was constructed last minute due to King Tut possibly meeting an untimely death. Considering King Tut was only 18 or 19 years old when he passed away, it is thought that the tomb was never finished and may have even been built for someone else, but you guys know how it is… When you need a tomb, you need a tomb.

Yet recent revelations put this theory to rest.

While certain methods used to search for hidden rooms in the tomb ultimately yielded inconclusive results, recent GPR testing yielded conclusive data that eliminates this possibility and officially lays these rumors to rest once and for all.

At the end of the day, what do we really know about King Tut?

Well, we know he carried a great weight of responsibility as a child and died as a young man. We know he liked gold, and we know he had some skeletons in his tomb, too (metaphorically and literally). We know that he reversed the religious reforms instated by his father, restoring Egypt’s religion to its ancient practices. We know he has been mummified, poked, prodded, measured, dissected, decapitated, tested, relocated, put on display, toured, commercialized and satirized and all in the name of either science or as Steve Martin so profoundly said, “He gave his life for tourism.” The man wasn’t perfect but he’s been through a hell of a lot. Take a minute to pay tribute to his contribution to society by sharing this!