In the scheme of Egyptian history, Tutankhamun — aka King Tut — was not an important pharaoh. His rule was no more than ten years. Even so, he is the most famous pharaoh of the northern African nation because his tomb, hidden from raiders in the Valley of the Kings and not discovered until 1922, was the most intact one ever unearthed.
By the time British archaeologist Howard Carter uncovered it, historians understood the importance of preserving ancient artifacts, resulting in the burial chamber being protected from raiders, who had stripped so many other tombs of their wealth.
Starting on Sunday, July 19th, the mysteries of King Tut will be brought to life when Spike TV begins airing Tut, a three-night, six-hour limited series about the boy king.
"My job as an actor is to try and figure out how do I make this honorable to history and believable," says Twisted star Avan Jogia, who plays Tut. "My idea was that will is the centerpiece of the story — the will to conquer greatness, the will to claim your right to the throne. He has so much will that I think my whole thrust was that he would fight through his injuries, his handicaps. He wasn't a trained warrior. As a character, Tut is not a fighter, but he must fight. That was my through line for the character."
Because Tut was only 9 when he ascended to the throne of Egypt, he required an advisor — in his case Vizier Ay, and a military man, General Horemheb — to oversee the army and protect Egypt from its enemies as he grew into manhood. In the Spike TV series, they are played by Sir Ben Kingsley and Nonso Anozie, respectively.
"Our story picks up after the fall of [Tut's father] Akhenaten, who was violent, brutal, and didn't really have a love for his people, and goes through Tut getting to see how his people are treated; how his people are subjugated by institutionalized religion, and the priests are consolidating land and wealth," Jogia says. "Our story is basically about this boy who starts to see what his kingdom really is and becomes a man by taking the reins and, hopefully, giving it back to the people."
So how much of Tut will be fact and how much fiction? Executive producer/writer Michael Vickerman tells Bio, "As far as the balance between history and fact, I have always maintained that it would be impossible to do a dramatic retelling of Tut based on absolute fact. Number one: There's too much we don't know. Number two: It just wouldn't be dramatic enough for a movie. However, we have always tried to stay 'historically accurate' within the world we created. No machine guns or iPads!"
Science has improved a great deal in the almost hundred years since the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, so a great deal more knowledge has been acquired in that time. Following are 10 of the latest details on the boy king:
No. 1: Tut was the son of the pharaoh Akhenaten, also known as Amenhotep IV, and one of Akhenaten's sisters. Her mummy has been discovered and identified as such by DNA evidence, but which of Akhenaten's sisters she was still remains a mystery.
No. 2: The boy king became pharaoh at age 9 and ruled for nine or 10 years until his death. The maturity of his skeleton and the presence of wisdom teeth helped determine his age to be 19.
No. 3: During his reign, Tut's father Akhenaten had tried to turn Egypt into a monotheistic society, worshipping only Aten, the sun disk, and moved the religious capital from Thebes to the new city of Akhetaten [today an archeological site known as Amarna]. During Tut's reign, the old gods were restored. Tut had originally been named Tutankhaten which means "the living image of Aten," but changed his name in honor of the restored god Amun.
No. 4: As was the custom, Tutankhamun married his half-sister: the third daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. His wife's birth name was Ankhesenpaaten. She, too, later changed her name in honor of Amun to Ankhesenamun.
No. 5: Having died without producing an heir, Tutankhamun was the last of his line. He was followed on the throne by Ay and then General Horemheb, which marked the end of Egypt's 18th dynasty. Horemheb selected Vizier Ramesses I as his successor and Ramesses founded the 19th dynasty.
No. 6: The death of Tut was initially thought to have been murder, the result of a 1968 X-ray of his head, which revealed a bone fragment in his skull. It was then posited that he had been killed by a blow to the back of his head. But a CT scan, done in 2005, put a rest to those rumors. It is now suspected that the damage to his skull was done at the time of his embalming, and that he may have died of malaria.
"His death is a widely debated and unanswerable thing," says Jogia, sourcing information he obtained from the research he did into the role. "He had so many things that could have [caused it]. He had malaria, he had genetic problems to begin with, and all these different things that could have resulted in his death. What we did with the show is the best thing that you can do with entertainment: try to mix entertainment with authenticity."
No. 7: The CT scan also indicated that Tutankhamun was about 5-feet 6-inches, slightly built, had no cavities, and appeared to be in excellent health. A slight curvature of the spine is attributed to being misaligned during the embalming process, not to a genetic defect.
No. 8: Another finding of the CT scan was the fact that King Tut had a club foot, which forced him to walk with the aid of a cane, several of which were found buried with him. But there is another theory that Tutankhamun died as the result of injuries from a chariot crash. This is still being debated because if his club foot was serious enough, he couldn't have ridden in a chariot or taken part in battles.
According to Tut's producer Vickerman, the Egyptologists that were consulted during the writing of the mini-series indicated that the pharaoh actually did participate in some battles, as depicted on the show. A painted, wooden box discovered in the real pharaoh's tomb, showed him defending Egypt from its enemies, encouraging this latter point of view. "[The research] suggests he fought in what is now modern-day Syria, which at the time was inhabited by the Mitanni, hence them being our enemy in Tut," Vickerman says.
No. 9: As previously mentioned, Tutankhamun's short reign makes him a pharaoh of not much historical importance, but he did begin to repair the damage done by his father to the temples of gods other than Aten. He also finished the second of a pair of red granite lions at the great temple at Soleb. [Today, the temple is Sudan's grandest Egyptian ruin].
No. 10: Following Tut's death, which happened while the army was fighting the Hittites at Amqa, Ay had him buried in a lesser tomb in the Valley of the Kings than one befitting a pharaoh. It is for that reason that his tomb was not discovered and raided prior to 1922.
'Tut,' airing Sunday, July 19th to Tuesday, July 21st at 9 p.m. on Spike TV, also stars Sibylla Deen as Ankhe and Kylie Bunbury as Suhad.