Tutankhamen: The Life and Death of the Boy-King

Christine El Mahdy, Author
Christine El Mahdy, Author St. Martin's Press $25.95 (341p) ISBN 978-0-312-26241-9
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-0-7472-2187-6
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4668-6325-5
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When British archeologist Howard Carter first opened King Tutankhamen's tomb in November 1922, his patron, Lord Carnarvon, standing behind him, impatiently asked if he saw anything. In one of the great moments in archeological history, Carter, dumbstruck, could only utter, ""Yes, wonderful things."" Briskly written by Egyptologist El Mahdy, this book is also a wonderful thing. El Mahdy seeks to shift attention away from the headline-grabbing elements of the tomb and toward the historical figure of Tutankhamen himself. Despite immense interest in his tomb, our knowledge of Tutankhamen's life, including who his parents were and how he died, is sparse. In fact, El Mahdy maintains, the accepted story of Tutankhamen is marred by inaccuracies and misperceptions. By scrutinizing the evidence from his tomb (which was full of intriguing anomalies), she reconstructs a spate of long-hidden details about his life and death. Examining Tut's mummy, El Mahdy argues that he was not murdered, but died suddenly of natural causes, probably a tumor. This is significant because his sudden death could easily have led to a power struggle and political crises in Egypt. Instead, it led to a cover-up: Tutankhamen was secretly buried by his successor, the author argues, in order to ensure order in Egypt. Accessible and informative and full of the author's enthusiasm for her subject, El Mahdy's book provides some long-absent historical context to the life of the famous king. Although at times she overextends herself--as when she posits that homosexuality did not exist in ancient Egypt--El Mahdy has, generally speaking, produced a concise and lively account of life in ancient Egypt and a balanced historical discussion of Carter's discovery. (Aug.)
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