King Tut
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Basic Information

Tutankhamun1 was a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. He was part of the 18th Dynasty of the New Kingdom era, having reigned from 1332 BC to 1323 BC. He was the son of Akhenaten and one of Akhenaten's sisters. (This royal incest was quite typical for the era.)

Tutankhamun was also variously known as Tutankhaten, Tutenkhamon Hekaiunushema, Amen-tut-ankh, Nebkheperure and possibly even Rathotis and Nibhurrereya. All of which amounts to our page being titled by the informal King Tut, which most people can actually spell and remember.

The reasons for the name confusion are largely religious (though, in general, Egyptian royalty of the period did have multiple names and titles). King Tut's father instituted some controversial policies, changing the official state religion of Egypt from the full pantheon of Egyptian Mythology to a form of monotheistic sun worship celebrating the god Aten. Following Akhenaten's death, the nation quickly reverted to its prior pantheistic beliefs. So, as a young prince he was Tutankhaten after the sun god, but later changed his name to Tutankhamun when Amun and the rest of the Egyptian gods returned to prominence.

King Tut didn't revert to the old ways immediately, though. He was only 10 when he became pharaoh, and restored the religion in the third year of his nine-year reign. Since he was so young, it's likely that his advisors and ministers actually ran the country for him, and that they either influenced or forced his hand on the religious issue.

He died at the young age of 19 without an heir (his two daughters were both stillborn). The exact cause of death is unknown, but he had malaria germs in his system as well as an infection from a broken leg that didn't heal correctly. It's possible that temporal lobe epilepsy caused the fall that broke his leg. There's also been speculation that he may have been assassinated.

When he died, his advisors finished the work of restoring the previous priesthood, and then began the work of removing King Tut and his father from the public record. All that Aten business didn't go over so well, and those who succeeded him kinda took it out on the kid pharaoh. Statues were destroyed, genealogical records stricken, and tombs buried. All deceased pharaohs were deified in ancient egypt, but none the less King Tut was actively forgotten.

King Tut's Tomb Treasures were packed into a much smaller burial site than was customary. That site was broken into twice in the months immediately following his burial, but all the major items were either saved or recovered. Eventually, his tomb in the Valley of the Kings was lost beneath the sands and forgotten, which allowed it to survive intact until its rediscovery by Howard Carter in 1922. It also appears that his embalming and other aspects of the burial were rushed - possibly as an attempt to get rid of him quickly, possibly due to succession disputes, and (in the case of the burial at least) because the arrangements were not complete given the pharaoh's youth.

Ironically, the well-hidden nature of the tomb led to King Tut being now the most famous Egyptian Pharaoh, exactly the opposite of what those who buried him wanted. The tomb being untouched in millennia meant that it was still stuffed with treasures, and thus became media sensation when it was discovered.

The Curse of the Pharaohs is the belief that bad fate will befall you if you disturb the burial site of a mummy from Ancient Egypt. Four of the 58 people involved in the dig died within a year of the discovery, which fed wild rumors (popularized by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) of a more specific King Tut's Curse.


1. Museum Exhibit: This arcanist saw the traveling exhibit of King Tut's treasures when it was at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle in late 2012

Game and Story Use

  • King Tut may serve as a model for Boy King or other embattled ruler in your game. He's young and inexperienced, and surrounded by advisors who wish to undo his legacy or usurp his throne.
  • The transition from pantheon to monotheism and back has some interesting dramatic ground. Even if you're using it in a setting where there is no magic or divine intervention, there'll at least be all sorts of political squabbles and cultural upheavals as one cult rises to prominence and the priests of another religion are stripped of their power.
  • King Tut's Curse may befall PCs (or NPC Grave Robbers) who disrespect the sanctity of a tomb. A little mummy rot can go a long way.
  • Such a curse may instead serve as a smoke screen for the murderous villain who eliminates his rivals at a dig site one by one (until the PCs and their dog look into it).
  • The King Tut's Tomb Treasures page covers what you might find in a similar burial site, were another forgotten tomb to be found by your PCs.
  • In Egyptian religion, the True Name was considered part of the soul, and damnatio memoriae one of the more thorough forms of Final Death. What happens when someone who was forgotten suddenly becomes the most famous person of his culture? Is he still meaningfully the same person?
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