TUTANKHAMUN’S LEGACY

Since I got introduced to basic or what you may call amateur Egyptology many years ago, I have become very fascinated with it. Like many people I know, my story with Egypt started with the story of Moses in the Bible book of Exodus, that is besides Egypt’s football prowess at the African Cup of Nations where they routinely made Nigeria’s dream of claiming the coveted trophy a nightmare, alongside Cameroon and other great footballing African nations. I ventured further however to find that even the very intriguing story of Moses (believable or not) was just a tip of the iceberg of what stories, myths, legends and even history, Egypt has to offer.

Hollywood and fiction novels provided the bulk of the information I have on ancient Egypt, while the rest came from School, especially the General African Studies, GAS (101, if memory serves right) and history books and encyclopedia. Egyptology is a wide subject, that continues to be dynamic, with new discoveries and understanding becoming more available, much thanks in large part to the ROSETTA STONE (a granodiorite pillar inscribed with a decree

THE ROSETTA STONE
THE ROSETTA STONE

which appears in three scripts: the upper text in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek, issued at Memphis, Egypt, in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V), which provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs as it presents essentially the same text (with some minor differences among them) in all three scripts.

I was particularly drawn to stories about mummies, and how many of them were discovered and later put on display in museums, some of them outside of Egypt. The curses and deaths that followed many of those discoveries and exhumations, some of which sounded coincidental, and sometimes believable. The tomb raiders and thieves who stole large quantities of ornamental materials in gold and other precious metals and pearls buried mostly with pharaohs (and other high ranking officials and priests) that once ruled ancient Egypt, and was meant to ensure that they continued living their life of luxury and affluence in the afterlife. However, none of those intrigued me like the mystery surrounding the tomb of the young Pharaoh TUTANKHAMUN.

My interest for this post has to do with “cause and effect”, or better still is associated with the case of an outcome towing a different path from intention (usually out of the control of the subject in question), and what we can learn from that. Before I go any further though, I will like to state that I intend to go about this without slanting too heavily on every bit and piece of history, as books by great historians and archeologists, including wikipedia via Google remain formidable aids to consult for that, hence I will keep this as layman as possible and straight to the point I wish to make. Tutankhamun succeeded his father AKHENATEN at a very young age and is thought to have died at the age of seventeen, under circumstances considered by many archeologists to be controversial, either during war or freak accident, without ruling out a conspiracy by those close to him to relieve him of his position (even considering killing the pharaoh as an option), besides the fact that he may have had a bad leg or limped while he lived.

His father had a long running battle with priests and nobility of the time because of his proscription of other gods for the One-God, “ATEN” becoming history’s first known MONOTHEIST. In fact, Tutankhamun’s name was TUTANKHATEN until his father died, leaving him little a choice at his tender age than to play to satiate the entrenched powers by returning to the old religious order.

HEAD OF A LIFESIZE MANNEQUIN OF TUTANKHAMUN FOUND IN HIS TOMB.
HEAD OF A LIFESIZE MANNEQUIN OF TUTANKHAMUN FOUND IN HIS TOMB.

There are many stories associated with how Tutankhamun lived and the things he did, from myth to documented history but one thing everyone seem to be in agreement with, is the fact that he lived an interestingly short life. The manner of his burial though showing no sign of disrespect, suggest that there was an effort by his successor to “reduce” or silence his legacy, seeing that his burial chamber was located rather in an obscure site (where British archaeologist HOWARD CARTER discovered it in 1922) and not in the usual very elaborate burial places where other Pharaohs whose successors had no qualms immortalizing, were buried though it wasn’t devoid of the usual accoutrements relating to a royal burial chamber.

GOLD DEATH MASK OF PHARAOH TUTANKHAMUN.
GOLD DEATH MASK OF PHARAOH TUTANKHAMUN.

If the thought of Tutankhamun’s successor was to confine him to the dregs of history in order to rubbish his legacy, that aim now appears not to have been met, even though it took a long while for the tide to turn in the formers’ favour in terms of assured legacy, following the chance discovery of his tomb/burial place and subsequent rehabilitation into his rightful place in the annals of history.

Interestingly, this attempt to rubbish the legacy and memory of Tutankhamun ended up preserving it even in pristine state compared to others in the same condition, before and after his time. Some of the other Pharaohs who may have enjoyed palatial and more opulent burial places, ended up having their mummified remains suffer indignities at the hands of tomb raiders, who in their quest for gold desecrated such tombs, while the one (Tutankhamun) whose mummified remains was interred with “subtle” disgrace survived those perilous times to provide for our generation a glimpse into ancient Egypt, not only in regards to how the dead, howbeit Royal, were treated but in fact how they lived, as inscriptions in the tomb and other ornaments in the burial chamber portrayed.

Many may argue that the remains of “King Tut” as it is also fondly referred to should have been allowed to continue to eternally rest “in peace”, but its handling by very qualified personnel has contributed in no small measure to the illumination of the darkness that used to be ancient Egypt, as have other mummies and findings of antiquity related to ancient Egypt. So, it came to pass, that the light that was once committed to the obscure painstakingly, was also painstakingly uncovered at a time its discovery would be better managed than those before it, and to some extent those after it, to the benefit of history loving mankind and archeologists.

Sometimes adversity preserves us. Though you might not literally apply that to Tutankhamun, but you may still apply it to his legacy, and if that doesn’t work for you, think about the now late former President of South Africa, and anti-apartheid activist and Icon, Nelson Mandela whom I feel may not have survived alive all of those twenty-seven rough years had he been outside prison like Steve Biko who was murdered by the police, or Oliver Tambo who died of Natural Causes, in the very oppressive years of white minority rule over the black majority.

Even in archeology there are still areas for inspiration and I hope you find this one about Pharaoh Tut, though morbid inspiring. One of the reason Osama Bin Laden was buried at sea, and Muammar Ghaddafi and Saddam Hussein were buried in unmarked graves in the desert was such that there will be no grave to serve as a shrine for their followers, supporters, fans and the likes. Such was meant to be the fate of Tutankhamun, though because he was thought also to be divine, been a pharaoh, just enough was done to give him something decent, and that bit was just all he needed to embody a shrine, not only to Egyptians who may not even appreciate his worth to and in antiquity but to the whole wide world of historians, archeologists, Egyptologists and a layman like me. I draw strength to continue through the struggles of life and not to give up from this, knowing full well that even in death, it is still not over.

‘kovich

PICTURE CREDITS:
1. http://www.commons.wikimedia.com
2. http://www.telegraph.com

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