Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tutankhamun, his mum and the curvy king

Why the ever so informal title for something I should be treating academically? 
Because this is a personal story, one of mother and son.

News broke today that King Tutankhamun's mother was the legendary beauty, Queen Nefertiti. Looking at the bust of the queen and the death mask of the king, both share decidedly good facial features with marked symmetry (a hallmark of goodlooking-ness).
Image from i09's article on the subject
What's the evidence?

It's all hard science in the form of DNA analysis, thanks to French archaeologist Marc Gabolde.

So what?
For those that don't know, Tut was the son of the infamous Akhenaten, a man so reviled after his death that his face was blasted from history (iconoclasm). Akhenaten, in his time as pharoah, turned religion on its head for Egyptians. He stated that the old gods no longer mattered and they should be replaced with a singular, monotheistic, system that worshipped the Aten, the Sun god. He moved the capital to a barren wasteland unclaimed for association with any other god, untouched and pure in his eyes (Tell el-Amarna). Workers were moved for an enormous building project to build a new city from scratch. For archaeologists, this is a goldmine for understanding civic building patterns. It is also fascinating to see how the workmen carried on worshipping their old gods in their own homes while building a palace to the new singular god. Worship of the Aten has also fuelled alternative speculation theories on the birth of later monotheism.
Keeping it in the (friendly) family
Akhenaten was not the best looking man, he had a rounded belly, spindley fingers, and a long face. The art he commissioned recorded this purposefully. He likewise wanted to present a more family-friendly image, showing him playing with his children. The Egyptians were very, ahem, family friendly when it came to marriage, but the art conveyed images of a happy family unit. This may have been because of love, but may also have served to support his claims of deity-association linked to the Aten. As odd looking as he was, he bagged himself a goody with Nefertiti, she was reknowned for being a knockout. And while she was his Great Royal Wife and Royal Consort, and first cousin. But it was always thought that one of his other wives/sisters was Tut's mother.
The curvy king
 In reality, does it really matter whether Nefertiti was Tut's mother? Not really, it doesn't tangibly change our understanding of events at the time. The only reason anyone cares is because they were famous, Akenaten for mixing it up with religion and for having a few curves, Nefertiti for being a looker, and Tut for his early death and blinging tomb. The facts and consequences of their reigns remain the same.

Find out more here:
  • http://io9.com/5983662/new-dna-analysis-suggests-nefertiti-was-king-tuts-mom
  • http://www.heritagedaily.com/2013/02/unmasking-tutankhamun-the-figure-behind-the-fame/
  • http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/09/tut-dna/hawass-text/8

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