King Tut: an expert examines the grave of his mummified daughter
It’s been almost 100 years since British archaeologists made history and discovered the lost tomb of the great King Tutankhamun. By excavating the Valley of the Kings – where great Egyptian pharaohs were buried – Howard Carter solved the age-old question of where the little king of ancient society lay and earned himself a place in the history books. But he didn’t do it alone, with the help of countless local experts and skilled Egyptian workers, all of whom received no credit.
That has since changed, with a new exhibit at Oxford University highlighting dozens of Egyptian men who helped Carter, set to mark the centenary in November.
Since the initial discovery, several breakthroughs in research on Tutankhamun have been made, including some major discoveries made in his tomb.
Opening Tut’s grave, Cater discovered the mummified remains of two small humans – children, but at the time DNA identification technology did not exist, so the remains were safely stored.
They were called 317a and 317b, and each had an individual set of inner and outer mummy-shaped coffins, almost identical in design but varying in size.
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The remains were explored during the Smithsonian Channel documentary, “Secrets: Tut’s last mission.”
Later DNA analysis stunned the researchers as it was discerned that they were daughters and most likely the daughters of Tutankhamun.
Both were stillborn, one at about four months, the other almost full term.
Professor Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, said: “There was such a high mortality rate for infants and children in the ancient world that it is not surprising.
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“But it’s extraordinary to have them carefully mummified, wrapped, cocooned, put in these coffins and placed in their father’s grave.”
As the documentary’s narrator noted, “The tiny mummies are an incredibly rare find.”
Although there is no certain way to explain why the girls were buried alongside Tut, Egyptologist Dr Joyce Tyldesley has claimed there may be a simple way to look at it, suggesting that the girls were an insurance policy.
The ancient Egyptians were too keen on making sure they made it into the afterlife and didn’t rely on a single thing to protect them on their journey.
After all, Tutankhamun was found buried with some 5,000 objects, all intended to accompany him to the afterlife, each containing a purpose or function.
If one thing didn’t take them through the afterlife in their battles against “demons” and “dark souls”, another would.
Dr Tyldesley explained: “Tutankhamun was very wealthy, he could have dug a grave for his daughters whenever he wanted.
“So the fact that their bodies were saved and buried with him suggests that maybe it’s not just a practical reason, but there’s also a ritual reason for them to be there.”
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Mummies: the girls were tiny, stillborn, and each had their own coffin
Salima Ikram: the Egyptologist photographed looking over the coffins of the girls
In ancient Egyptian art and culture, women were often portrayed as the “protectors” and stood alongside their fathers as guardian figures.
For Dr. Joyce, burying the girls meant more than being lucky charms, but active participants in their father’s journey into the underworld.
She added, “By either being physically in the boat with Tutankhamun or just having their spirits supporting him while he’s in the boat, Tutankhamun will be protected by these two girls.”
While King Tutankhamun is perhaps the most famous of all pharaohs, it wasn’t always so.
He had been largely forgotten over time, his grave relatively untouched by grave robbers due to his uninviting nature.
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Considering he was king, his resting place was small and relatively mundane.
What is even more surprising about this is that Tutankhamun would have been revered as a god in his day due to his many visible disabilities.
Disabilities, likely inherited from inbreeding in one’s family, were seen as a divine gift in ancient Egyptian society, with people taught from an early age to respect anyone who came with them.
Dr Sofia Aziz, a leading Egyptologist, writer and researcher on ancient Egyptian medicine, speaking on the Channel 5 documentary, ‘Tutankhamun: Waking the Dead’, said: “The ancient Egyptians were very enlightened, for them disability was a divine attribute.
“So Tutankhamun wouldn’t have been stigmatized if he had a club foot, he would actually have been considered special.
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“I actually found wisdom texts, which are actually written for children.
“And in those wisdom texts, they say don’t make fun of the dwarves.
“Don’t tease the blind and treat people with disabilities with respect and dignity.”
Some of Tut’s physical abnormalities included an exaggerated overbite, cleft palate, and curved spine.