Monday, November 05, 2007

A Boy King's Face Revealed

What must it be like to be a nineteen year old boy, and a king? A young man, just entering your prime, raised from birth to know that you are the last in a line of kings stretching back over centuries?

What must it be like to then fall ill, and die, knowing your family's royal dynasty ends with you?

Maybe I'm strange (ok, I'm strange), but I find those types of questions fascinating. King Tutankhamun, boy king, entombed with riches beyond imagining: precious collars, inlaid necklaces and bracelets, rings, amulets, a ceremonial apron, sandals, sheaths for his fingers and toes, his coffin and death mask of pure gold. Seven coffins, actually - four nested boxes, or shrines, of gilded wood, then three mummy-shaped coffins—two gilded and one of solid gold—all inside a red quartzite sarcophagus. What must his life have been like all those centuries ago, when he was a living, breathing boy/king? The walls of his tomb are filled with heiroglyphs that tell his tale, so we know he was a hunter, a warrior, a young husband. Now they've even done a CT scan of his face, and come up with what he actually looked like. Exotic, with almond-shaped eyes and an elegantly shaped skull that marked him as the last surviving member of a a family who had ruled Egypt for generations.

Look at him... doesn't putting a face on him make you curious about what kind of person he was? Was he kind? Was he cruel? Did he love his young wife or was it a marriage of convenience? (History always excites me, because it makes my imagination come alive - I often wish I'd gone into archeology. Except for the heat, the sand, the often difficult working conditions, and the bugs.) :)

Anyway, I think Tutanhkhamun was very much loved, and very much mourned. He was buried with such great wealth, such great care that he still exists, in a way, thousands of years after he died. I also like to think it was his young wife who left him a winecup engraved with, "May you, who love Thebes, spend millions of years with your face to the north wind, and may your eyes see joy."

You can read all about him in this great article from National Geographic.

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