“King Tut”

Birth name:      Tutankhaten, later changed to Tutankhamun

Throne name:  Nebkheperura (Nebkheprure, Nebkheperure)


Tutankhamun, pharaoh of Egypt during the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt, is well-known for the discovery of his tomb in 1922 and its riches, 3000 years after being hidden in the Valley of the Kings.



Names of Egyptian Kings and King Tut

Egyptian kings were given multiple names from the beginning of ancient times.  Starting in the Middle Kingdom, Kings were given a personal name at birth and a throne name at the time they assumed kingship.  When the language of Egyptian hieroglyphics is translated into English, multiple interpretations exist, due to the punctuation and pronunciation.  Although Tutankhamun is a common translation of his personal name— Tutankhamen, Tutankhamon, Tut-ank-Amen and other variants are used.  Translating the full pronunciation is problematic because hieroglyphics indicated the consonant sounds, but not the vowels.  Common translations of his throne name are Nebkheperura, Nebkheprure and Nebkheperure.  King Tut is a nickname for Tutankhamun. 


Tutankhamen’s personal name at birth was Tutankhaten, and he changed it during his life to Tutankhamun to reflect Egypt’s return to worship of Amun as the great god— reversal of a previous king’s mandate that Aten be recognized as the only god.  Tutankhaten means “Living image of the Aten” and Tutankhamun means “Living image of Amun.”


Ancient Egyptians would presumably like their names repeated and spoken by us today because they believed in an afterlife that was made more real through their name being used after their death, and this assessment and respect for the accomplishment of the ancient Egyptians is the inspiration for this Website.


In ancient Egypt a king would be distinguished by his throne name, also known as the prenomen or nisu-bity name.  Modern historians refer to a king by his birth name, adding a Roman numeral to the name to indicate the order of kings with the same personal name.  From the middle kingdom onward kings were most commonly called by their nisu-bity on their inscriptions (on building, boats, etc. named after the king) and king lists.


The throne (nisu-bity) name was also known as the “Lord of Two Lands.”


Dualism of the Two Lands of Egypt

Ancient Egyptians often interpreted the world about them in contrasts for which an attribute was distinguished from its complement or opposite.  This pairing is represented in the dualism of Upper and Lower Egypt for which the unification of the lands at the beginning of the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom brought forth centrally organized culture, society, economy, government, military and resulting empire.


Complementary Aspect

Upper Egypt

Lower Egypt





Sedge plant



Nekbet (Nekhbet) (vulture)

Wadget (Wadjet) (cobra, snake) (sometimes shown with the head of a lioness


King Tut’s Birth Name and Throne Name

The prenomen and nomen names, written in hieroglyphics were inscribed in a representation of an oval created by rope, iscalled a shenu or cartouche.  The prenomen and nomen were the names most commonly used, and are the “cartouche names.”  Only the nomen was given to a king at birth.  The kings had up to five names, comprising the royal titulary, not fully established until the Middle Kingdom.  The royal titulary was comprised of the Horus name, the Golden Horus name, the Two Ladies name (nebty), nomen and pre nomen (nesu-bit).


Birth name = nomen =

Son-of-Ra (sa-Ra) name

Throne name = prenomen = nisu-bity (nesu-bit) = “Lord of Two Lands Name” (literally, he of the sedge and bee, meaning the individual mortal king and the eternal kingship)


(changed from Tutankhaten)

Nebkheperura, Nebkheprure, Nebkheperure


King Tut’s Place in History

King Tut is known as one of the Amarna Kings.  Prior to King Tut, Amenophis IV (and then Smenkhkare) ruled Egypt and during Amenophis IV’s reign he changed his name to Akhenaten, calling himself after the sun-disk god, Aten, and declaring that Aten was the only god and himself the prophet.  He created a new city, called Akhetaten, now called el-Amarna or el-Amarna.  The change to a nearly-pure form of monotheism was generally not well-received and when Tutankhamun, perhaps the son-in-law of Akhenaten, assumed the throne the discord continued.  The existing priesthood, which officiated rituals for the may Egyptian gods that were declared unworthy of worship by King Akhenaten, had their power and influence reduced.  The heretical thinking was generally not accepted or embodied by the Egyptians. 


Some Egyptologists believe King Tut was murdered with a strike to the head, while others do not, thinking he died shortly after a broken leg produced gangrene or that the died of tuberculosis.  Tutankhamun died at the age of 18 or 19 after assuming the throne at about the age of eight.  He was married to Ankhesenamun at the age of 11.


Amarna Kings

“Tutankhamun saw the time before his accession as the one when the gods and goddesses of Egypt remained aloof, did not respond to any prayer and ‘destroyed what was created’.”  [CGAE, p. 165]  The Amarna Kings are:

Note: dates of reign may overlap due to co regency (an arrangement whereby the king shares power with another individual, such as the planned successor) [OHAE, p. 481]


“Following the example of his father, Akhenaten elevated two of his daughters to the queenship.  Toward the end of his reign, the king must have sensed the failure of his revolution, which was to outlive him only briefly.  Smenkhkare had a mortuary temple, which was also dedicated to Amun, built at Thebes, thus beginning a transition period of about five years during which Amun and Aten were worshiped next to each other at Thebes and el-Amarna.  Radical persecution had not been able to exterminate the old deities of the land, and their worship had been kept up even by Akhenaton’s officials; now, one could once again pray to Amun and Osiris without fear of the royal spies.  Shortly thereafter, at the beginning of 1336 BC, Akhenaten died, and Smenkhkare also passed away after a brief reign.  Their successor was Tutankhaten (1333 to 1323 BC) who was perhaps a brother of the coregent and also a son-in-law of Akhenaten.”  [HAE, p. 103]


“Tutankhamun issued his Restoration Decree, definitively ending the brief but eventful episode of Amarna.  Aten was no longer invoked, but neither was he persecuted; his memory just faded away.”  [HAE, p. 104]


“When Tutankhamun, who was barely and adult, died in the winter of 1323-1322 BC, the actual regent, Aya, made a claim to the throne.”  “He [Aya] appropriated the royal tomb that had been prepared, along with its associated mortuary temple, and he had the mummy of Tutankhamun buried in a tomb that had probably been intended for the use of someone else and could barely contain the quantities of goods customary in a royal burial.  Accident preserved this improvised burial almost intact to an astounded posterity.” [HAE, p. 106]


King Tut’s Tomb

King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings was opened in the afternoon of November 26, 1922 by Howard Carter.  “Carter described what happened that fateful afternoon:  ‘I inserted the candle and peered in, Lord Carnarvon, Lady Evelyn and Callender standing anxiously beside me to hear the verdict..  At first I could see nothing, the hot air escaping from the chamber causing the candle flame to flicker, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues and gold—everywhere the glint of gold.  For the moment—an eternity it must have been to the others standing by—I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, “Can you see anything?” it was all I could do to get out the words, “Yes, wonderful things.”  Then, widening the hole a little further so that both could see, we inserted an electric torch [flashlight].’”  [TUS, p. 87]


After much of the riches were catalogued and removed from the bomb the sarcophagus (stone container, a granite box and lid within which the coffin and mummy were placed) was opened.  Inside was the mummy case.  Howard Carter describes the event of opening the granite sarcophagus.  “… sarcophagus itself.  Carter relived the moment:  ‘The lid was raised, disclosing a colossal mummy case of heavily gilded wood, carved in the likeness of the monarch.  The hands were crossed upon the chest, the right holding the emblematic flail and the left the crooked scepter, both of gold and faience.  The face, a remarkable portrait, was formed of solid gold with eyes of crystal, and on the forehand was the sacred serpent [Wadjet] and a vulture [Nekbet] of gold and faience, while on each side was the figure of a goddess with arms and wings outstretched.’”  [TUS, p. 329]  (Nekbet and Wadget together are the royal protectresses.) 


Egyptian Gods

In the Archaic Period (3000 to 2686 BC) of ancient Egyptian history (3000 to 32 BC), which predates the Old Kingdom (2686 to 2160 BC) [note that the dates for the span of the Old Kingdom varies up to 15 years among the experts], two gods dominated the thinking about divine powers:  Horus and Re.  Horus is the falcon god that ruled the world in the form of the reigning king.  Re (or Ra, depending on pronunciation) is the sun god that illuminates the world with renewed sunlight, daily.  In the Archaic Period the kings were thought to be incarnations of Horus, until King Peribsen put Seth, the mighty animal god of the desert, above his name. 


Over thousands of years the number of Egyptian gods grew to about 100, with about 20 of the gods considered to be significant, or great gods, assessed to be “mighty” or have special “power” to the Egyptians.  The colossal Temple of Karnak, built during reigns of kings spanning 1000 years, was principally for worshiping the great god Amun.  The power and divineness of the Egyptian gods are aspects of the gods themselves, “embodied” from the action manifested by those gods.  “… it seems to be this special emanation, which can be perceived by humans, that makes human beings, animals, or sacred objects into ‘divine’ entities.  Divine-ness is therefore not a matter of a definition that is fixed by an abstract statement of dogma, but an emanation that can be perceived directly and is produced not only by the gods but also by their images and manifestations.”  “This divine-ness or state of belonging to god is a quality that is always attributed to personal divine forces and their emanations; it never becomes an abstract idea or a personified concept behind, above or in addition to the gods.  For the Egyptians there was nothing that was simply ‘divine’ separate from the figures of specific gods.”  [CGAE, p. 64]


Thus the gods were natural, real an a part of life amongst the Egyptians.  Therefore the gods were not abstract and not representative of elements or the stars and planets.  “Like the waterways, the elements fire, earth, air and water were never personified in Egypt, and I doubt very much whether there was in ancient Egypt a doctrine of the four elements similar to that of the Greeks.  There are of course large numbers of ‘fiery’ deities, such as snakes who spit fire, but there is no god of fire or of water.  Air and earth are also shared among several deities.”  “The Egyptians conceived of only a few of the most important stars and constellations as deities.  Apart from the sun and the moon, only Sothis, the brightest fixed star Sirius, acquired a cult as the herald of the inundation [the period of the year in which the Nile flood brought rich silt from Africa to the banks of the Nile Valley, renewing the fertile soil for the subsequent planting season].”  [CGAE, p. 80]


The complexity of the gods is revealed in Egyptian syncretism.  (Syncretism is a complex form of combining, fusion, incorporating of different beliefs or systems, producing a deepening understanding.)  “’inhabiting’ is seldom lasting; rather it is transitory, and the link can be dissolved at any time.  The syncretistic formula Amon-Re ‘simply observes that Re is in Amun’—the degree of intimacy and the duration of the combination vary from case to case.”  [CGAE, p. 91] “The Egyptians place the tensions and contradictions of the world beside one another and then live with them.  Amon-Re is not the synthesis between Amun and Re but a new form that exists along with the older gods.  In this case one could, if necessary, provide arguments for an ‘equalization’ required by religious politics—however questionable such a method may be—but what could the purpose of ‘equalizing’ Horus and Sothis or Harmachis, Khepry, Re, and Atum?  In the last example, the three daily forms of the sun god are evidently present in the Great Sphinx (Harmachis):  the sun is Khephry in the morning, Re or Harakhte in the middle of the day, and Atum in the evening.  The deity’s human partner—not jus the pries, but believers in genera—recognizes in the divine image of the Great Sphinx both the sun god in his threefold form, in the universality of his daily journey across the world, and the Sphinx, which is itself a manifestation of the sun god.  Together the tetrad of names and forms produces a single new partner for the worship and cult service of mankind; for the cult, too, something new arises from the syncretistic combination.” [CGAE, p. 97]


Divine Aroma of the Gods

“When the god Amun approaches the sleeping Queen Ahmose in order to beget the later Queen Hatshepsut by her, ‘the palace is flooded with divine aroma.’  The aroma wakes the queen and indicates to her that the god is present, even before he let here see his true ‘form of a god.’  We are not given any more details, but this much is clear, that the manifestation of the god produces a pervasive aroma ‘like that of the (incense land) Punt.’  The divine aroma is well attested elsewhere, among Christian martyrs, for example, and it is the ‘ozone of a god’ that Dr. Riemer in Thomas Mann’s Lotte in Weimar senses around the great price of poets, Goethe.  Already in the early dynastic period an unguent has the name “aroma of Horus,’ and in the Ptolemaic temple of Horus at Edfu we still read the throat breathes from your aroma.’  In the great Eighteen’s Dynasty hymn to Amun in the Cairo Museum the god is the one ‘whose aroma the gods love when he comes from Punt,’ while the deceased, too, as ‘Osiris’ or as ‘god,’ achieves a divine fragrance.”  [CGAE, p. 133]


Characteristics of Egyptian Gods

“Among the characteristics common to all gods there stands out a group that renders the deities disconcertingly transitory and subject to the march of time.  Egyptian gods have a beginning and an end in time.  They are born or created, they change with time, they grow old and die, and one day they will exist no more.  These characteristics contrast sharply with our accepted notions of what and how a god should be….”  [CGAE, p. 143]


The idea that gods are born is perfectly consistent with our normal conceptions.  The myths of all peoples tell of the natural or supernatural origins of the gods.  The great gods of Greece are immortal but they are not unbegotten, even though their birth may be accomplished in some supernatural way.  Magic surrounds the emergence of Aprhrodite Anadyomene….”  [CGAE, p. 143]


“The finest and riches Egyptian myth of the birth and youth of a god concerns the child Horus.  It associates Horus with Osiris; since it subordinates the older sky god in hawk form to the later anthropomorphic Osiris, the myth cannot be among the oldest in the Nile valley, but it is recognizable from many allusions as early as the Pyramid Texts.”  [CGAE, p. 143]  Isis  conceives Horus after the death of her brother and husband Osiris, hovering over the corpse of the murdered god in the form of a kite.  Horus is protected by the gods while he is still in his mother’s womb, until he comes into the world in Chemmis in the delta and is brought up ‘in solitude, one knows not where he was,’ well hidden in the marshy thickets of the Nile delta.  The magical prowess of his mother Isis protects him from the persecution of his opponent Seth and saves him from wild animals; Nephthys and the crown goddesses Wadjet and Nekhbet care for him as nurses and servants.  When he has grown up he goes out into the world in order to wage the struggle for his father’s inheritance, until, after many battles, he finally triumphs over Seth, his eternal adversary…”  [CGAE, p. 144]


The reigning king addresses the gods as his ‘fathers’ and the goddesses as his ‘mothers’; only after his death may he greet them as his ‘siblings.’  Over and above all of them there is a primeval., universal ‘father of the gods,’ who created all living beings.  But even this primeval father has a genesis; he has not been present for all eternity but arose at creation, as the idea is formulated in a text in the Ptolemaic temple of Edfu.” [CGAE, p. 148]


There can be a time without gods no only at the end of the world but also, as an interregnum, in the midst of historical time.  According to Queen Hatshepsut, the hated Hyksos ruled ‘without Re’ and hence illegally, and Tutankhamun saw the time before his accession as the one when the gods and goddesses of Egypt remained aloof, did not respond to any prayer and ‘destroyed what was created.”  [CGAE, p. 165]


“This fundamental characteristic of everything that exists—this diversity—renders it impossible to credit the gods with absolute qualities or absolute existence.”  [CGAE, p. 170]  The large number of the gods is itself an aspect of their diversity.  The essence of the primeval god is that at first he is one and the, with creation and the diversity it brings, he is many.  In the New Kingdom ‘the one, who made himself into millions’ is a common epithet of the creator which renders this characteristic explicit.  ‘Millions’—enormous and unfathomable but not infinite multiplicity—are the reality of the world of creation, of all that exists.”  [CGAE, p. 170] 


“The Egyptians felt there was no contradiction in logic when in one case Amun and in another Ptah manifested himself in the ‘millions.’  Nor is ‘pantheism’ at work here, but rather the insight that the world is necessarily diverse and multiform and owes this state to the creator god.  In addition to diversity in time, space, and form, there is the difference of sex.  Like all beings, a deity is male or female; fusion of the two sexes is largely restricted to the primeval god, the one, and is thus characteristic of the undifferentiated unity before creation.  The creator is androgynous, male-female, ‘father of the fathers and mother of the mothers.’”  [CGAE, p. 171]


“For the Egyptians even death itself cannot call into question or abrogate living existence more than temporarily.  It always brings with it a very great danger that existence may be extinguished, and this danger must be countered with extraordinary precautions; in this light Egyptian expenditure on mummification, burial and grave goods becomes comprehensible.  But from another point of view, as we have already seen in some detail, death means rejuvenation, renewal of all that exists, and the gateway to an enhanced life in the next world.”  [CGAE, p. 182]


“… no trace of mysticism can be found in ancient Egypt.  The Egyptians never succumbed to the temptation to find in the transcendence of the existent release from all imperfection, dissolution of the self, or immersion in and union with the universe.  They remained active and often, to us, startlingly matter-of-fact; any sort of ecstasy appears quite alien to their attitudes.  For them the nonexistent is the inexhaustible, unrealized primal matter, the pleroma [place of spirit, the higher perfect order of non-material reality that permeates all existence] from which they take strength and which challenges them to create somewhat exists without qualification or hindrance.”  [CGAE, p. 182]


Ancient Egyptians were Realistic & Pragmatic

The Egyptians did not create an abstract intellectual structure, but retained a pragmatic attitude to their ontology [study of the nature and attributes of being, reality, and substance—with a defined vocabulary and use of words to describe entities, relationships, events, situations and actions within a specified domain of discussion; and the language and distinctions are used to state declarations, assertions, claims and assessments], using concepts they were able to live with, which sustained their own lives.  Scarcely any other civilization has integrated the nonexistent and its creative potential so perfectly into its way of life, acknowledging the nonexistent without falling prey to it.  Perhaps this is the source of Egyptian creativity, of the balance and sense of the measure of things which we encounter in all manifestations of Egyptian culture, and which are striking especially in comparison with other Near Eastern cultures of time.  The seriousness of the ‘brothers in Egypt’ which Holderlin praised, and the rigidity that seems to characterize all Egyptian artistic forms, cannot disguise the fact that the Egyptians lived a full life whose energies overflowed at festivals, even though (or presumably because) the remained constantly aware of the horizon that limits this earthly existence.  They were aware of the rule that a living, humane order can be maintained only if it includes within itself an appropriate component of disorder and acknowledges the nonexistent within and around us.”  [CGAE, p. 184]

“The Egyptians never constructed a closed theological system or produced a normative definition of the nature of a deity—except in the Amarna period.  Anything that is dogmatically fixed becomes estranged from the existent and must end by conflicting with realty.”  [CGAE, p. 184]


Divine & Human Action:  Reciprocity

Human beings live in a world in which the gods are invisibly but powerfully active.  Every morning, when an Egyptian priest opens the sealed shrines in a temple sanctuary, the god’s awesomeness and majesty take possession of him; in the daily ritual for Amon-Re, the king of the gods, he says ‘Your awesomeness is in my body and your majesty pervades my limbs.’”  [CGAE, p. 197]  “The Egyptian gods desire that mankind should respond to their presence and their actions.  They do not require to receive a cult and do not have to have material offerings, but they rejoice over the echoes that their creative word produces, and they are happy to receive both tangible and intangible gifts from mankind.  The most important thing is the dialogue that is manifest in this form.  To ‘enter’ into a god’s presence is to ‘make direct contact,’ and the king, as the representative of mankind, does not wish to come empty-handed into the god’s presence.  The offering he brings is not a tribute demanded from him and he does not seek to compel  a return; it is a gift, and contains something of the freedom that the gods dispense to mankind with the creator’s breath.”  [CGAE, p. 203]


The gods, who already possess everything, can always accept more, and the extend of their being, which is great but not limitless, can always be increased.  We have seen this constant tendency to extension in the name and forms of the gods; it is also present in the cult.  Corresponding to the epithets ‘rich in names’ and ‘rich in manifestations’ there is the—much rarer—epithet ‘rich in festivals.’  Like all epithets, this one is not an ornament without significant, but reflects reality on earth.  The large number of festivals referred to betokens the intensity of human response whose climax comes in festal rejoicing and an increase echo from the world of creation, and this signifies an enhanced existence for the gods.”  [CGAE, p. 204]


“The Egyptians believed that by performing the cult and presenting themselves before the god they were at least increasing his existence and presence, while also keeping his negative, dangerous side at a distance.  Cult actions do not coerce but they do encourage the gods to show their gracious side—for the converse of a god’s love of mankind is his violent aspect., which is always present beneath the surface and must be assuaged by means of appropriate cult services.”  [CGAE, p. 205]  “There is scarcely an Egyptian temple that does not include along its many representations of cult scenes the ‘offering of maat.’  The king, who when in the presence of the gods is the representative of the entire world of humanity, holds up and presents a figure of maat, this is shown as a squatting goddess with the hieroglyph of an ostrich feather on her head.  As demonstrated in the daily temple ritual, every material thing that is presented in the cult, such as bread, beer, incense, and so forth, can be identified with maat.  The ‘offering of maat’ therefore summarizes tin a highly charged image everything that cult, offering, and response to the gods’ actions signify.  The officiant’s restrained gesture of holding up maat in visible for to the gods constitutes a sign that the world of mankind, and all the constantly endangered and fragile relationships an connections on which it depends, are in order, just as they were at the time of creation.  This is in response to the gods need, and it brings full circle our analysis, which took the gods’ actions as its starting point.  The gods do not need any material gifts, but they do need human response to their existence;  they want to be experienced in the hearts of men, for only then does their work of creation acquire its lasting significance.  Lack of response and silence are characteristics of the nonexistent; within the existent world there is the lively, uninterrupted dialogue between god and man, which is contained within the polarity of love and fear.  Maat, which came from the gods at creation, returns to them from the hands of men; it symbolizes the partnership of god and man which is brought to fruition in Egyptian religion.  This partnership, this action and response, is the key to the otherwise inexplicable mixture we find of free will and predestination.  Through creation gods and men acquire a common task:  to maintain their existence, which has an end, against the unending nonexistent and together to build a living order that allow space for creative breath and does not become atrophied.”  [CGAE, p. 214-216]


The Egyptian Gods are Unfinished

“In their constantly changing nature and manifestations, the Egyptian gods resemble the country’s temples, which were never finished and complete, but always ‘under construction.’  The axial form of temples in Egypt is clearly ordered and articulated, and yet never excludes the possibility of continual extension and alteration; every king can add new cult chambers, halls courtyards, and pylons without affecting the underlying form of the temple.  In this Egypt differs markedly from Greece, where both the temples and gods are relatively finished and complete.”  [CGAE, p. 256]


The Material Depiction of “Mixed Form” is Only One of Many Statements About the Gods

“The Egyptians are not concerned to give them [the gods] as pleasing a form as possible, but to show what they wish to express.  The ‘mixed form,’ [such as depicting an animal head on a human body] which aroused such antipathy in antiquity and more recently, is one of many possible combinations; is not the god, but makes a statement about him.  We may feel that the mixture of the animal and the human is grotesque, but we should recall the saying of Christian Morgenstern: ‘The material manifestation of God is necessarily grotesque.’  In this matter the Egyptians were aesthetes enough not to overstep the limit and produce monstrosities.”  [CGAE, p. 257]


References/ Credits for Excerpts/ Recommended Reading/ Acknowledgements

References/ Credits for Excerpts

CGAE:  Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt; The One and the Many by Erik Hornung © 1971, 1982

CP:  Curse of the Pharaohs; My Adventures with Mummies by Zahi Hawass © 2004

HAE:  History of Ancient Egypt, by Erik Hornung © 1978, 1999

HTAE:  Hidden Treasures of Ancient Egypt by Zahi Hawass

OHAE:   The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt by Ian Shaw © 2000

TUS:  Tutankhamun; the Untold Story by Thomas Hoving © 1978


Recommended Reading About Egypt


Information on Ontology for Commitment, Action and Performance

For life and taking care one’s concerns there is an ontology for holding commitments, taking action and producing results.  The Egyptians held an ontology that enabled their civilization, way of life and accomplishments.  An ontology is for study of the nature and attributes of being, reality, and substance—with a defined vocabulary and use of words to describe entities, relationships, events, situations and actions within a specified domain of discussion.  The language and distinctions are used to state declarations, assertions, claims and assessments, ultimately for producing results personally and for career. 


An effort to use authoritative references is used to maintain accuracy for this site.  Comments and questions are welcome.  Should you see an error, please report any corrections (with documented references) to:

Howard_L_Henred AT hotmail DOT com



The site is dedicated to my wonderful wife, Kate, and my super daughter, Liza.


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