Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt – Tutankhamen’s Murder Mystery

Here we are to chat about the second Tutankhamen lecture from Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. You were expecting this earlier, I know. As I mentioned over at SEP, between my job, my family commitments, and starting a Master’s program, my free time has plummeted. I’m moving forward with the listen-through. While through the week, I’m pretty much busted by the time my kids are in bed, I have time on the weekend to do some writing after I finish my course work (calling it homework makes me think of being in high school).

This second Tutankhamen lecture is called “A Murder Theory,” and it has very little about the boy pharaoh, and a lot more about the discovery of his tomb and the excavation. Even when Dr. Brier does turn to the history, we learn much more about Tutankhamen’s sister and wife (man, that is one thing I will never get used to in regards to Egyptian history), Ankhesenamen.

You see, Tutankhamen didn’t last long once he became an adult, and an X-ray examination of the body indicated he had received “a blow to the back of the head” which could have led to his death. More, his widow wrote to the Hittite king asking him to send a son whom she would marry and make king of Egypt. In her letter, she makes reference to being afraid and refusing to marry a servant.

As Dr. Brier relates it, Ankhesenamen was likely afraid of the Vizier, Aye, who is believed to have been the guardian of the children after the death of Akhenaten – the heretic pharaoh – and who became the next pharaoh. Dr. Brier also relates that a ring found in the 1930s included the cartouches – or royal symbols – of Aye and Ankhesenamen. His theory is that Aye murdered Tutankhamen and forced Ankhesenamen to marry him, becoming the next pharaoh. In fact, at the time of Ankhesenamen’s letter to the Hittite king, Aye may have already taken the trappings of a pharaoh as he is depicted in Tutankhamen’s tomb as both high priest and pharaoh.

Ankhesenamen disappeared from history. If Aye had murdered the last pharaoh and usurped the throne, getting rid of the wife wouldn’t be a stretch. It sounds very Richard III – at least Shakespeare’s portrayal of him. It’s also great fodder for a game.

Maybe Ankhesenamen wasn’t murdered. Maybe she married Aye, buying time while she planned her escape. She escapes then spends the rest of her life opposing Aye from a secret location, blaming him for the death of her brother. The Hittite prince sent to marry her was murdered in transit, possibly at Aye’s orders. Maybe he survived, or his loyal bodyguard or general. Ankhesenamen might take on a new identity, remaining in Thebes, working against Aye and his henchmen, along with her Hittite ally and other cool characters.

Sounds like a story ripe for Nefertiti Overdrive (hitting stores 19 Oct).

And apropos of nothing, every time I heard Dr. Brier mention Ankhesenamen, I couldn’t help but think of the the Mummy’s lover from the 1999 film, the Mummy – Anck-Su-Namun. Maybe that name was a bad transcription of Tutankhamen’s widow’s name.



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