It may come as a surprise to some of you, but I’m quite an avid armchair Egyptologist. That means I actually watched some television this week, as Channel 5 showed a documentary on the current theory that King Tutankhamen isn’t buried in his own custom built tomb, and may actually be shoved in the corridor of somebody else’s, namely his mother Nefertiti. Or rather, his mother in law, who could easily have been his father’s first cousin. Needless to say all of this is quite controversial to begin with, yet the evidence appears fairly compelling. The screencap typo from the documentary may have sent me scurrying to be a pedant with Blink Films, but the whole thing (made clearly for the National Geographic channel) was surprisingly watchable, except for the narration. I totally ‘get’ why these things are voice-overed the way they are but all I wanted to do is grab the script from the guy reading, shove him away and just read to the important stuff at the end.
Mostly, you can’t just knock a section of wall down in the Valley of Kings and take a look, considering the significance of the spot to begin with. However, should this actually prove to be correct, the collective nerdgasm that would result should not really be underestimated by ANYBODY. One assumes that a small hole could be drilled in the corner of the suggested voids and a camera sent inside, at least to ascertain whether anything exists beyond. Along with the evidence that suggests Tut’s burial mask was actually made for a woman and his Canopic Jars were also designed for a female, there’s a lot of doubt thrown on just what happened to this 19 year old when he died. Then comes his significance in the scheme of Egyptian Dynasties generally: the suggestion that Nefertiti could actually have been elevated from simple Pharaoh’s wife to Pharaoh proper was mentioned in passing by the documentary but now expanded upon in nearly enough detail for me, but it is clear that traditional gender roles are being reassessed in light of a more ‘liberal’ outlook by historians over just about everything.
After all, Vikings had mothers too.
There are those who will say, perhaps with justification, that reassessing history with ‘modern’ sensibilities is not helpful or indeed productive, and that the ‘traditional’ gender roles remained the way they were for good reason simply based on physical strength and ability. Mostly, things were just they way they were, because that’s how life works. The bigger issue, of course, is that education and writing as practical skills weren’t afforded to that many women historically as a default, and so presenting an accurate female-centric view of the World isn’t nearly as likely as a male one. So, looking at this stuff with fresh eyes is all well and good, but it doesn’t escape the fact that society has only evolved to this point in recent times.
There is of course, another theory. Tut’s family paid a bunch of cowboy labourers to do a quick and easy burial because they’d not adequately planned for funeral expenses. If people don’t think ahead now, I see no reason why that couldn’t have happened in ancient times either. That’s the great thing with history, it’s pretty much guesswork for at least part of the time.
Anything is possible with an active enough imagination.