Sunday, July 30, 2006

King Tutankhamun: A History for the Amataur Scholar

This history is dedicated to those who cannot remember dates, names, places, statistics, or even general concepts. It is inspired by the glorious history which Jane Austen penned in her youth.

Once upon a time, there was a kid. He had a father, but no one knows who he was. And I bet he had a mother. But nobody knows anything about her either. But we all can say with a good deal of certainty that whoever his parents were, they were probably a king and a queen. But they died.

So the kid walked into some kind of temple, some priests waved a stick, said some words, handed him a different stick with a hook on it and then a whip, and he was king. Also, the kid was named Tutankaten. But he also was named Tutankamun and Nebkheprure, and four more different names which no one really cares about.

And he got married. But he was about eight, so nothing important happened. In fact, nothing important really ever happened, because Tut kicked it too early. Then his wife did too. So no one needs to know about her. Except that she was nice to him. At least in the pictures she was, and that's all anyone cares about.

But Tut had a problem.

See, his great-something, Akhenaton, or Akhenamun, was weird. He looked freaky, and had a new religion. And since the guy was king, everybody had to listen to him, and they did. He changed the whole religion, and ended up making some people mad, and other people madder. Some were so mad that they chisled his name off statues. Others just messed with his tomb and sold off the loot.

Tut changed it all back to the old way, since change is bad and everything was much better in the old way, since there was no rioting or anything back then. Also, Tut could then tell everyone he was Horus, who was a god, and therefore really cool.

Also, Akhen-something was married to Nefertiti. And to some girl named Tiye, who some people say was his daughter. But if you tried that today, you'd get arrested. But there were other wives too, which smart people call polygamy, and that gets you put in jail too. Or called a Mormon.

So King Tut was probably pretty inbred, which was bad, but they didn't know it.

But one day, after all this stuff had happened, Tut and his impacted wisdom teeth, which nobody knew how to fix, kicked it, and he was buried by some guy who helped him run the country in that guy's tomb, since he was old and already had one. That was why Tut's tomb was dumpy, for a king. But since it was done in such a hurry, things weren't as fancy as they would have been. There were no books or scrolls or fun graffitti on the walls. And then the old guy became king, or regent, or something, and took the tomb that would have been Tut's, so they switched. And Tut got the raw end of that deal, but he didn't care, since he was already dead. He probably didn't even know what was going on, and if he did, that's really creepy. And then old guy married somebody some time, but I don't remember her name or when it happened, so it probably wasn't that important.

And there was some kind of robbery, but they didn't take any of the really cool stuff, because they couldn't get very far in.

And then in 1922 some grave robber who had a certificate and some money that said he was actually a historian or scientist, took more money from an old rich guy in England, and dug a hole in the desert.

At the bottom of the hole, he found Tut, the dead guy who had been that king from the beginning of the story, But Tut had been dead for a while, so he didn't look the same. He did a little, though, because some people had ripped out his guts and his brain and put the guts in jars and the brain was given to cats or thrown out, because no one really used their heads back then.

But most people say know that there was nothing important in the hole. No people with big brains and expensive diplomas can tell you anything new about Egypt that they couldn't tell you before.

So why do we like Tut?

Because we like shiny things, especially when they are really shiny and pretty rare almost everywhere, so the people who want to be rich or like rich-person-things have a King Tut fetish. Also, people really really liked shiny things back in the twenties, when all anyone ever did was dress for dinner and drink lots of alcohol, even though it was illegal. The alcohol, not the dressing for dinner. But the dinner thing probably made the servants have to do tons more laundry than they should have, so it should have been illegal too, maybe.

But one bad thing happened right away, because the guy who gave the guy with the shovel money kicked off, and people said it was a curse. But now we're pretty sure it wasn't, or at least we can't prove it was. And the tomb was looted and it was all taken to England, because they had an Empire, and later it went back to Egypt to live in Cairo, which is some kind of town on a river. It is on a river because Egypt is a desert, and try as you might, you just can't live without water, even if crocadiles do live in it, and hippos with bad breath.

And now we think the dead guy had a broken leg which was infected, because no one knew what antibiotics were, even if they did eat lots of bread, some moldy even. But life just got harder for Tut, because the digger guy broke off some ribs and his whats-it. But he didn't need it anymore. And he had resin in his brain, which would have killed him, but he was already dead, but this was why people thought he was murdered, which he probably wasn't and that is good for him, if not as interesting for us. And he went to lots of places where people stared at his corpse and mispronounced his name lots of times, or at least he did until someone dropped his mask and screwed it up. I bet that guy was fired for that. But anyway, now none of the coffin stuff can come to the US or anywhere else. It has to stay in the museum in that city over there in the desert.

But his stuff can travel, and people can spend hundreds of dollars stepping on each other's feet and not wearing deoderant while looking at it all. Also, a replia of his necklace costs five thousand dollars. Which is more than my car is worth. But cars take people places, which is better than just being too gaudy to leave your tomb in.

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