King Tutankhamen, Thebes, Egypt, 1323 BCE

One of the most famous figures is the mummified King Tutankhamen (reigned 1333 to 1323 BCE). King Tutankhamen, or “King Tut”, for short, is believed to be the son of Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton (reigned 1353 to 1335 BCE), most likely by one of his minor wives. King Akhenaton started a new style of art known as the Amarna style. Its key features included genderless figures (that is, statues were most often depicted with both female and male characteristics) because Akhenaton insisted that the Egyptian people worship a sexless sun god. To see a statue of King Akhenaton in the Amarna style, click here.

King Tut was not a very historically significant pharaoh, given that he only ruled for about a decade because he died at the age of eighteen. Many people suspect that some kind of corruption caused his death (however, in 2005, upon inspecting the mummy, murder was ruled out as a possible cause of his death). Because he was so young, he is often nicknamed the “boy-king”. Although King Tut was not an important figure in the history of Egypt, he rose to fame in 1922 when Howard Carter, a British archeologist, uncovered his lavish tomb which completely captivated the public.

Inside the tomb, there were jewelry, sculptures, furniture, and many other treasures. The most famous item in King Tut’s tomb is his coffin.

The coffin is comprised of three different coffins. King Tut’s mummified body lays in the third innermost coffin. The third layer is one pictured above. It is clearly very lavishly decorated and it was the most luxurious coffins of the three. The coffin is made of about a quarter ton of beaten gold. Precious stones, such as lapis lazuli, carnelian, and turquoise were inlaid and serve to mark and detail the features of the mummy (eyes, headdress, etc.). The portrait mask, which is meant to cover the King’s head, is also made with gold and precious stones. King Tut wears the traditional royal headdress and clothes, including the nemes headdress and the false beard (both of which were very common in depictions of Egyptian pharaohs).

I am so amazed by the level of detail and intricacy displayed in King Tut’s coffin and I think that they really attest to the skills, abilities, and talents of the sculptors. I think that the materials used in this coffin really reflect the importance and veneration of pharaohs in the eyes of laymen. Overall, I am very impressed. Like Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, I think that “the general effects of the mask and the tomb treasures as a whole are of grandeur and richness expressive of Egyptian power, pride, and affluence.”

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