Golden boy: Jo Marchant uncovers a mixed hoard in a history of Tutankhamun and the discovery of his tomb
Archaeological finds don't come much more impressive than the contents of Tutankhamun's tomb. When Howard Carter glimpsed those "wonderful things" in 1922, his discovery captivated the world--inspiring everything from jewellery and music to a proposal to name an extension to the London Underground Tootancamden, because it would pass through Tooting and Camden Town. Tutmania resurfaced in the 1970s, when a record-breaking touring exhibition of the burial goods radically changed the museum business.
Joyce Tyldesley's Tutankhamen rides a more recent wave of interest, including two major scientific studies of Tutankhamun's mummy, a new museum tour and a string of high-profile documentaries. Tyldesley, an Egyptologist, has written not a biography of the boy king, but a broad history of the discovery.
Tyldesley divides her book into two sections. The first, and meatiest, is concerned with what we know of the king himself--including the research on his remains. The second section addresses the cultural construct that has sprung up around him since the discovery, from archaeological conspiracies to the infamous curse.
Today, Tutankhamun is ancient Egypt's best-known ruler, his golden funerary mask recognized around the world. But in his lifetime, Tyldesley tells us, he was a minor king who came to the throne as a child and ruled for a decade at most, dying at around the age of...