Tutankhamen: The Search for an Egyptian King

Tutankhamen: The Search for an Egyptian King

by Joyce Tyldesley
     
 

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The discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 was perhaps the world’s most important archaeological find.  The only near-intact royal tomb to be preserved in the Valley of the Kings, it has supplied an astonishing wealth of artifacts, spurred a global fascination with ancient Egypt, and inspired folklore that continues to evolve today. 

Overview

The discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 was perhaps the world’s most important archaeological find.  The only near-intact royal tomb to be preserved in the Valley of the Kings, it has supplied an astonishing wealth of artifacts, spurred a global fascination with ancient Egypt, and inspired folklore that continues to evolve today.  Despite the tomb’s prominence, however, precious little has been revealed about Tutankhamen himself.  In Tutankhamen, acclaimed Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley unshrouds the enigmatic king.  She explores his life and legacy as never before, and offers a compelling new window onto the world in which he lived.

Tutankhamen ascended to the throne at approximately eight years of age and ruled for only ten years.  Although his reign was brief and many of his accomplishments are now lost to us, it is clear that he was an important and influential king ruling in challenging times.  His greatest achievement was to reverse a slew of radical and unpopular theological reforms instituted by his father and return Egypt to the traditional pantheon of gods.  A meticulous examination of the evidence preserved both within his tomb and outside it allows Tyldesley to investigate Tutankhamen’s family history and to explore the origins of the pervasive legends surrounding Tutankhamen’s tomb.  These legends include Tutankhamen’s “curse”—an enduring myth that reaffirms the appeal of ancient magic in our modern world

A remarkably vivid portrait of this fascinating and often misunderstood ruler, Tutankhamen sheds new light on the young king and the astonishing archeological discovery that earned him an eternal place in popular imagination.

Editorial Reviews

John Noble Wilford
In Tutankhamen: The Search for an Egyptian King, Tyldesley has written a crisp, well-researched account of emerging insights into both the life and times of the young king and the modern response, nonsense and all, to his resurrection, as it were, in the modern world.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
British Egyptologist Tyldesley (Daughters of Isis) adds her voice to numerous books and articles illuminating the life, reign, and death of the world’s best-known pharaoh. Tutankhamen was the young 18th Dynasty king who famously rejected the chaotic and unpopular radical religious innovations of his sun-god-worshipping predecessor, Akhenaten, for the certainties of traditional Egyptian polytheism. Reigning for 10 years, 3,000-plus years ago, his untimely death at 18 plunged his country into a succession crisis that caused the 18th Dynasty to fall. Records of the early 19th Dynasty Ramesside kings, X-rays, autopsy evidence, and grave artifacts indicate that, contrary to popular belief, Tutankhamen probably wasn’t a great or victorious general, didn’t die of tuberculosis, and wasn’t murdered by his successor, but likely died by accident, perhaps while engaging in the dangerous royal sport of ostrich hunting. While still a child, Tutankhamen married the third-born daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, and Tyldesley presents the DNA analysis pointing to the likelihood that his wife was his older half-sister, guiding readers through the maze of complex royal family relationships and issues of identification of mummies. His mother was one of Akhenaten’s secondary harem queens and his elderly successor, Ay, was possibly King Tut’s great-grandfather. This is an authoritative, well-documented addition to a much-trodden field of inquiry. Photos, maps. Agent: George Lucas, Inkwell Management. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

Kirkus Reviews
“[An] engaging reconstruction of [King Tutankhamen’s] tomb discovery, family and life. Fluent in her subject, Tyldesley gives her own spin to the story in order to get beyond the sensational nonsense.... Tyldesley does an admirable detective job of reconstructing the boy king’s narrative.”

Publishers Weekly
“An authoritative, well-documented addition to a much-trodden field of inquiry.”

Sunday Times (London)
“[An] authoritative book.... If Tyldesley finds the curse stories empty nourishment, the core of her book reveals Egyptian history to be full of more satisfying riches. Sifting through the findings from Tutankhamen’s tomb, and the arguments of Egyptologists since, she aims to resurrect the man behind the mask. She succeeds: Tutankhamen emerges as a credible figure, a ruler presiding over a turning point in history, when his father Akhenaten’s heresies were abandoned and the polytheistic traditions revived.... That has always been Tutankhamen’s power: ...to charm all who encounter him. As Tyldesley confesses, he kindled her schoolgirl fixation with ancient Egypt. She calls this ‘my own personal version of Tutankhamen’s curse’, but if it inspires books like this, the rest of us may consider it a kind of blessing.”

Booklist
“[An] absorbing overview of the sensational discovery of Tutankhamen in 1922.... Writing with signal clarity, Tyldesley taps into the ever-popular fascination with ancient Egypt.”

The Guardian (London)
“Solidly researched and accessibly written. The range of topics covered is impressive.”

Nature
“Tyldesley’s account of [Howard] Carter’s momentous find and the clearance of the tomb is brought to life with contemporary quotes and colourful details.... [Tyldesley is] a gifted storyteller.... Her writing is crystal-clear and charmingly irreverent.... She puts what little we know about Tutankhamun into context, giving a fascinating discussion of the discovery’s social history.”

Library Journal
“In this well-researched study for the general reader, Tyldesley acknowledges the fragile nature of her biographical reconstructions, presenting conflicting theories and drawing careful conclusions. Highly recommended for all Egyptophiles.”

The Star-Ledger
“Tyldesley successfully evokes the intense excitement engendered by the discovery [of Tutankhamen’s tomb], not only within the archaeological community but among the general public as well. Her descriptive powers allow the reader to be present as the tomb’s subterranean entry is unearthed from rubble heaped by ancient and modern floods, its various chambers filled with grave goods entered and assessed, and King Tutankhamen’s triple-layered coffin opened to reveal his mummified remains.”

Financial Times
“Egyptology is in good hands, and so is the reader.... The prolific writer Joyce Tyldesley…has turned her storytelling abilities to [Tutankhamen], and the result is entertaining and highly readable.... Written with humour and enthusiasm.”

New York Times Book Review
“In Tutankhamen: The Search for an Egyptian King, Tyldesley has written a crisp, well-researched account of emerging insights into both the life and times of the young king and the modern response, nonsense and all, to his resurrection, as it were, in the modern world.”

The New Republic
“[Tyldesley] pays out her gripping story in meticulous but always fascinating detail, clarifies and analyzes the conflicting interpretations of the evidence, and altogether avoids the sort of simplification which she deplores in television ‘documentaries.’ Her entertaining and demystifying discussion of the supposed ‘curse’ on those who disturbed Tutankhamen’s tomb occupies only a single chapter.... No one who reads this absorbing book will be likely to disagree, for it makes clear what her subtitle implies, that we have by no means come to the end of our discoveries of the life and times of this shadowy celebrity, whose least interesting aspect is that old Gothic fantasy of the mummy’s curse.”

Library Journal
Sources on the life of Tutankhamen are mainly fragmentary, e.g., inscriptions, decorative temple reliefs, tomb paintings, funerary equipment, and 14th-century B.C.E. mummies. The paucity of evidence has permitted rather speculative publications such as Christine El Mahdy's Tutankhamen: The Life and Death of the Boy-King. Tyldesley (Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, Univ. of Manchester, UK; Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt) tries to stick to the available facts. In Part I, "Tutankhamen: Life and Death," she explores sources, in particular the excavation and clearance of the young king's tomb by Howard Carter and the latest DNA analysis. She presents various scenarios for Tutankhamen's parentage on both sides but finally opts for his being the son of Akhenaten and Kiya, a secondary wife in the royal harem. In the shorter Part 2, "Tutankhamen: Life After Death," the author assesses the impact of Tutankhamen's legacy on Western culture, e.g., the legendary "curse" and the waves of Tutmania that influenced art, fashion, and fiction during the 20th century and beyond. VERDICT In this well-researched study for the general reader, Tyldesley acknowledges the fragile nature of her biographical reconstructions, presenting the conflicting theories and drawing careful conclusions. Highly recommended for all Egyptophiles.—Edward K., Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Pierce, FL
Kirkus Reviews
A catch-all study by a British Egyptologist of the most famous boy king of the 18th Dynasty. The search for the probable "truth" behind King Tutankhamen's short reign (1336–1327 BCE) continues in this engaging reconstruction of his tomb discovery, family and life. Fluent in her subject, Tyldesley (Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt, 2011, etc.) gives her own spin to the story in order to get beyond the sensational nonsense. She first looks at Howard Carter's remarkable pinpointing of the tomb named KV 62 in the Valley of the Kings. The 18th Dynasty kings had broken with the earlier tradition of building enormous pyramids in the deserts of northern Egypt and chose instead the remote west-bank valley, clustered around the temple of the ascendant deity of the time, Amen. Bankrolled by George Herbert, aka Lord Carnarvon, Carter discovered in 1922 a tomb improbably crammed with royal objects inscribed with the names of the various 18th Dynasty kings and queens, as well as intact seals of the residing king, Tutankhamen, and his untouched burial chamber. The tomb had apparently been protected and hidden from sight by a flood shortly after burial, then forgotten; moreover, evidence suggested that Tut's successor, Ay, inheriting the throne as an elderly man, had swapped Tut's original, large tomb for the one intended for him. Deceptions and lies abound, not only in Carter's discovery (removal and rearrangement of objects), but in the ensuing autopsies (a missing penis, two mysterious female fetuses). The handling of the artifacts strikes us now as shockingly casual, while the supposed curse of the mummy is merely silly. Tyldesley does an admirable detective job of reconstructing the boy king's narrative. Proves that there is no end to the fascination, and speculation, around this subject.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465029358
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
03/06/2012
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
907,896
File size:
4 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author


Dr. Joyce Tyldesley holds a first class honors degree in archaeology from Liverpool University, and a doctorate from Oxford University. She is currently a lecturer in Egyptology at the KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology, Fellow of the Manchester Museum and Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University. She has acted as consultant on several television projects and has excavated extensively in Egypt and Europe. Her previous books include a sequence of popular biographies of Egyptian pharaohs, with particular emphasis on the lives of prominent Egyptian women. She lives in Bolton, England.

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