Tutankhamen: The Life and Death of the Boy-King

Written by Christine El Mahdy
Review by Elizabeth Garner

Christine El Mahdy, an Egyptologist at Liverpool University, has written a chatty, engaging, and well-researched account covering the few known facts about Tutankhamen and examining the times, culture, and land he lived in.

Historians have many unanswered questions about Tutankhamen and the two pharaohs who preceded him: Akhenaten and Smenkhkara, a shadowy figure who reigned only briefly. Was Akhenaten the brother or father of Tutankhamen? Was Smenkhkara the brother of Tutankhamen or was “he” really Queen Nefertiti, the beautiful wife of Akhenaten? Was the Aten religion of Akhenaten a sweeping revolution forced by a king on all his unwilling subjects or just his own personal beliefs that affected only his family and court? Was Tutankhamen murdered and, if so, by whom?

The author extensively discusses these questions and many others, and then answers them. If there is a flaw in this book, it is that she presents her deductions as absolute fact, as the definitive answers to the major questions about King Tut, when in reality other scholars continue to hold opposing views deduced from the same “evidence.”

The book is well written and nicely illustrated with several photos and colored plates. Anyone who is interested in ancient Egypt, especially its fascinating Eighteenth Dynasty, the period when Tutankhamen was the teen-aged King of Egypt, will enjoy this account.