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A Century After King Tut’s Discovery, UNT Historian Sees More to Uncover

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It has been a century since the famed sarcophagus of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, better known as King Tut, was discovered near Luxor, Egypt. This event sparked a global fascination with Ancient Egypt, a phenomenon Walt Roberts, a principal lecturer at the University of North Texas (UNT) Department of History, calls “Tutmania.”

King Tut’s tomb was uncovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter. However, due to bureaucratic delays, the sarcophagus was not opened until January 3, 1924. This discovery significantly altered the world’s understanding of Ancient Egyptian culture and burial practices, as Tut’s tomb was found intact and untouched by thieves, unlike many previously discovered tombs of pharaohs.

Roberts, who teaches a course on Ancient Egypt, noted that King Tut’s significance lies not just in his tomb’s discovery but also in his lineage. Tutankhamun, who became pharaoh as a child, was the son of Akhenaten, a pharaoh known for introducing monotheism to Egyptian society. Akhenaten worshiped Aten, the sun god, as the sole deity.

King Tut ascended to the throne at about eight or nine years old and ruled with regents until he was 16. He died around the age of 18 or 19 in 1323 B.C. His reign, part of the Amarna Period, was nearly erased from history by his successors. However, the discovery of his mummy and sarcophagus brought this era to light once more.

Roberts pointed out that new scholarly perspectives emerged following Tut’s tomb discovery. Traditional interpretations of mummification were challenged, suggesting that King Tut’s burial was not just for ensuring a transition to the afterlife but was also an attempt to deify him.

Advancements in technology, such as DNA analysis and advanced imaging techniques, have allowed modern archaeologists and historians to gain deeper insights into King Tut’s life and the broader scope of Ancient Egyptian history. This ongoing research is revealing more hidden tombs and artifacts.

Roberts, also a faculty fellow in UNT’s Military History Center and Jewish Studies Program, continuously updates his course curriculum with new findings. He believes that the enduring interest in Ancient Egypt is driven by the civilization’s vast written records, enduring artifacts, and the mysteries surrounding their achievements and decline. The question of who claims their legacy remains a compelling aspect of their study.

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