A new biography of a very old figure still shrouded in mystery.
Joyce Tyldesley (Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt) takes on the life of King Tutankhamen, examining the many questions still surrounding his life and the archeology of his tomb, whose discovery in 1922 caused a wave of what Tyldesley calls “Tut-mania” across the Western world. As a king, Tutankhamen came to rule very young, yet managed to effect great change during his short reign–but was then removed from written records by his successors, an act with great consequence in ancient Egyptian theology. His tomb is unusual: relatively undisturbed, and as Tyldesley retraces, surrounded by mystery and myth.
The first, larger part of Tutankhamen is devoted to the archeological record and what it tells us about Tutankhamen and some of his relatives. Tyldesley discusses and critiques various theories (for example, regarding his biological parents) and acknowledges that little is known for certain. Next, she examines Tutankhamen’s legacy in our world–most notably, the rampant myths and legends about the curse on his tomb, which spread as quickly as the news of its discovery. Finally, for those interested in a clear storyline, she outlines her best approximation of Tutankhamen’s life story (while noting that it is only a well-educated theory).
Tutankhamen succeeds in making this ancient monarch accessible to the average reader. Beware of developing an appetite for Egyptology upon reading!
This review originally ran in the March 13, 2012 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!