It has often been said that King Tut’s tomb was fabricated at the last minute due to the size of the tomb and the minimal wall paintings within the inside structure. This was a time after all, when most pharaohs spent a lifetime creating the perfect tomb that would house and protect their mummies into the afterlife. To illustrate the obsession for great tomb structures by pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, some were built over many years and incorporated a lot of manpower to complete; some took 20 years or more. The labor force, comprised of skilled artisans and builders, had to be astronomical and most probably worked around the clock to create and complete these super structures. It also took an abundant amount of Egypt’s wealth to get these finished.
Some more modern tombs during the New Kingdom show elaborate chambers that were dug beneath the ground into the Valley of the Kings. Just as the pyramids, these tombs also took a lifetime to create and were just as grand. Yet, King Tut’s tomb was merely comprised of four small chambers: the antechamber, the annex, the burial chamber, and the treasury room. Modest as it was in comparison to the more noted pharaohs such as Seti I, Ramses II or Khufu, it still produced one of the greatest treasures found and continues to give modern man a great insight into the actual world of the pharaohs. But, the lack of construction for this particular tomb in comparison to other pharaohs still leaves many unanswered questions.
King Tut was a child when he was given the throne and died around 18 or 19 years of age. His death was unexpected; or at least it appears to be so by his quickly devised tomb structure. Due to the Ancient Egyptian’s belief system, it was important the body be mummified and protected. This was done so the pharaoh’s spirit would be able to recognize his body. King Tut’s tomb, like all royal tombs, held items the king would need in his journey in the afterlife. This included items such as furniture, food, clothing, games, and jewelry. The amount of preparation work needed for a perfect tomb took a great deal of time and planning but it appears that, although a substantial amount of items were found, it does not compare to some of the other pharaohs of Ancient Egypt.
Due to the sudden death of Tutankhamun (King Tut), it was believed that probably not enough time was available to properly finish King Tut’s tomb. Instead, it was believed that the tomb that was appointed to him was that of his vizier Ay (Aye). This was made apparent through the tomb’s size as most kings had larger and more elaborate tombs compared to King Tut. Not only was the tomb considered to be on the smaller side, but the burial chamber was the only room that had been painted within the structure. This conceivable late-planning tactic was further reaffirmed as the tomb only had a few large figures painted on the walls. These paintings showcased the pharaoh with his subjects performing the opening of the mouth ceremony. Finding just these few paintings along the inside walls of a pharaoh’s tomb is unheard of as most tombs belonging to the elite and the pharaoh class usually displayed finely detailed murals covering the inside of the tomb and ceiling. If the artisans had had more time to decorate the tomb’s walls, the tomb of Tutankhamun may have been dressed up with magical spells, achievements, and godly depictions. But it wasn’t. Instead, the paintings were painted large due to a possible intention to cover the walls quickly.
The lack of art within the tomb is not the only sign that the burial may have been rushed, but the objects found within the tomb reveal a lot as well. For example, King Tut’s coffins have been a source of ongoing debate over the years. The second coffin used for the pharaoh has a face that looks different than the first and third coffin faces. In fact, many Egyptologists believe this coffin might have been for Smenkhkare, a mysterious pharaoh who ruled before King Tut.
To add further to this theory, many of the treasures within the tomb were believed to be for other people. Some experts insist some of the figures of King Tut look quite feminine and this has led some to believe that some of the statues might be for Nefertiti (step mother), Kiya (birth mother), Ankhesenamun (sister and wife), or some of King Tut’s half sisters. Though this might be highly unlikely, it is still a viable theory due to the sudden death of the young pharaoh and maybe a rushed burial.
The final evidence of a last-minute job can be seen in his sarcophagus. It is now believed the sarcophagus was made for another person but was quickly altered to accommodate the young pharaoh. Firstly, the lid and body of the sarcophagus are made from two different types of stones. Secondly, the lid was found with a crack in the middle and it appears that King Tut’s name may have been replaced with another. The haphazard way the tomb was put together does not point to the standard of a pharaoh’s tomb from Ancient Egypt, and especially because rulers were given god-like status.
Though all pharaohs went to great lengths to ensure their tombs would be protected, most failed due to tomb robbers and thieves. It is believed that many of the artisans and officials who looked after the tombs were also the major culprits in robbing them. But how did King Tut’s tomb escape this fate? The answer is most likely because it was overshadowed by larger tombs, such as Ramses VI, and was small in comparison to pharaohs of that time. This most likely helped secure the tomb until it was discovered.
The tomb probably remained hidden as King Tut had such a short reign and it could very well be that it was forgotten and was thought to be insignificant when compared to other pharaohs of that time. He never expanded Egypt’s boarders or led any major campaigns; therefore, his presence was not as impressive as other pharaohs before or after him.
It is, however, a great achievement that King Tut’s tomb remained hidden as now we have a better insight into how a pharaoh of Egypt may have lived. We can only image what the more powerful pharaohs had buried within their tombs—especially Ramses II and Seti I.