Tutankhamun was an Eighteenth Dynasty pharaoh whose legacy extends to the present, and currently one of the best-known ancient Egyptians of all-time. The “Boy King” inherited the throne at the age of nine, his reign lasting only ten years before his sudden unexpected death. The traditional burial customs and funeral processions were carried out upon him, but the tomb he was laid to rest in was unique from the typical Eighteenth Dynasty tombs characterised by their lavish style and large scale. This uniqueness has been evidenced in a variety of archaeological and written sources, which express the tomb’s historical significance.
Discovered in the Valley of the Kings by Howard Carter and his sponsor Lord Carnarvon in 1922, Tutankhamun’s tomb was presumably intended for use by a nobleman and then promptly modified for the pharaoh’s use after his unexpected death. The tomb differs from the customary Eighteenth Dynasty tombs in size, decoration, structure and location. When compared to typical royal tombs of the time it is evidently unique as it is of extremely smaller scale and contradicts the design of other Eighteenth Dynasty pharaonic burials. The tomb consists of descending steps, a descending passage, antechamber, annex, burial chamber and treasury. This is in sharp contrast to traditional royal tombs, many of which additionally consisted of multiple lengthy corridors, chambers of large dimensions and sizable storerooms. It was imperative for the body to be stored in the tomb promptly, in the interest of preservation and success in the afterlife, and consequently a smaller tomb representing a typical Eighteenth Dynasty tomb was utilised. The fact that Tutankhamun was a relatively minor king with a short reign likely contributed to the small scale of his tomb. The tomb’s location was also not usually associated with royal burials.
The decoration of Tutankhamun’s tomb is unique as only the burial chamber was decorated when usually all Pharaoh tomb walls are finely painted with scenes from the Book of the Dead. The burial chamber walls have a golden background and depict scenes of the king appearing before Hathor, Tutankhamun being welcoming into the underworld, and Tutankhamun’s mummy being pulled on a sledge during the funeral procession, among others. Due to the smaller size of the tomb, the 3500 materials objects predestined for Tutankhamun’s use in the afterlife were arranged in a crowded and irregular manner.
Tutankhamun’s name was removed from historical documentation in the years following his death. His existence and legacy was almost condemned to obscurity, and this unawareness meant his tomb was not greatly well known and searched for. The tomb’s location was forgotten and the entrance was built over, resulting in a principally untouched tomb that was largely intact upon discovery. It was the first royal Egyptian tomb to be discovered with the contents predominantly unaltered. Although raided by tomb robbers in ancient times, evident by the large amounts of furnishings left in heaps in the two outer chambers and visible damage, a vast quantity of treasure remained in the tomb. This includes the sarcophagus and its surrounding gilt shrines, and the priceless gold coffins within. The King’s remains were uniquely still contained in the tomb and the invaluable jewels adorning his mummy were left in unchanged position.
Howard Carter’s excavation diary outlines some of the unique and precious contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb: “Our sensations and astonishment are difficult to describe as the better light revealed to us the marvelous collection of treasures: two strange ebony-black effigies of a King, gold-sandaled, bearing staff and mace, loomed out from the cloak of darkness; gilded couches in strange forms, lion-headed, Hathor-headed, and beast infernal; exquisitely painted, inlaid, and ornamental...