Grand Vizir Ay and General Horemheb, who are the real masters of Egypt, have a general amnisty promulgated.  The prisons, which Akhenaton had filled with what could be called “religious” prisoners, are emptied.  Religious peace returns to the country.  And Horemheb, whose power continues to spread, to the point that he is seen as a co-regent, establishes the task to which Tutankhamun must devote his life.  The child-king must repair the evil done by his predecessor.  From Heliopolis, on the Nile Delta, to Abu Simbel, at the foot of the second cataract, there remains no temple that hasn’t been mutilated, soiled, abandoned.  Weeds are growing on monument walls, herds graze in the middle of sanctuaries…  Egypt risks the anger of the gods for this impiety.  Her armies have just been defeated, on the empire’s steps, in the mountains of Syria that they were trying to conquer.  Abandoned by Egypt, the gods are abandoning her in turn;  they are no longer listening to the prayers of the Egyptians.

Tutankhamun has returned to live in Akhet-Aten, near Nefertiti.  Horemheb had no objection, on the contrary:  Installed in Thebes, he is the one who is really governing the kingdom.  The young pharaoh is left to consecrate himself to the pious work assigned to him.  He fashions, himself, in fine gold incrusted with precious stones, a gigantic effigy of Amun;  he raises another statue to him near Memphis.  The sanctuaries are rebuilt one by one, religious communities installed everywhere.   A propitiatory text reports:

“Tutankhamun installed priests and prophets […] all the temple goods were doubled, tripled, quadrupled by donations in gold, silver, lapis-lazuli and turquoises […] the sanctuaries’ service was financed by the palace…”

Tutankhamun also creates troupes of dancers and singers whose job is to spend their whole lives celebrating the glory of the god.

The programme fixed by Horemheb is carried out.  In the re-established order, Egypt enters into a new period of prosperity.  Sure that the heresy is really dead and that the social revolution begun by Akhenaton is snuffed out, Horemheb orders Tutankhamun to leave Akhet-Aten and come definitively to Thebes.  Not for long:  death awaits the young pharaoh at the dawn of his twentieth year.

***

Like his life, Tutankhamun’s death is mysterious.  The scholars who examined his mummy thought that they could see marks of blows on the right side of his face.  Was he assassinated?  It’s possible.  Those who believe in the curse of the pharaohs have even stated that these marks are those of an insect sting similar to that which led to the death of Lord Carnavon…

However, certain documents lead egyptologists to question whether Tutankhamun had really totally renounced the cult of Aton.  In this hypothesis, the priests might have had something to do with his disappearance.

The young pharaoh’s funeral was carried out normally, with all the rites which should assure him immortality, as witnessed by the objects found in his tomb, the inscriptions, like those that figured on the bandelettes of his mummy:

“Your immortality will remain in the mouth of all the living, oh Osiris, King Tutankhamun…”

At his death, Tutankhamun was therefore treated like all the other pharaohs, his memory was supposed to remain in the minds of men, the traces of his work were not supposed to be effaced.

It is the “Divine Father”, Ay, who succeeds him.  But, at the death of Ay, after four years of reign, General Horemheb manages to have himself proclaimed pharaoh.  The XVIIIth Dynasty dies with Ay.  Horemheb founds the XIXth, which will count the pharaohs Ramses I and Ramses II among its rulers.

***

In the same way that, at the death of Amenophis III, his son Akhenaton had given free rein to his passion against everything which could recall the cult of Amun, Horemheb goes wild against all that can still subsist of the Aton heresy.  The first thing that he does is to have the town of Akhet-Aten erased from existence.  Doubtless prodded by the priests, he devotes himself to destroying anything that can still remain of Akhenaton’s reign.  Then he starts on his descendance, on that Tutankhamun whom he has, deep down inside, always hated.  The artisans are sent back to the temples with their hammers and chisels.  They must efface the names and the seals of those who have preceded him and engrave those of Horemheb in their place.  The effigies of Tutankhamun must disappear.  Certain egyptologists say that Horemheb even went as far as ordering his servants to clandestinely enter the tomb to steal the balms and symbols which were supposed to assure survival after death.

***

Paradoxically, far from encouraging the amateur American archaeologist, Theodore Davis, to persevere in his search, his findings remove all hope from him.  He is sure that he has found all that remains of Tutankhamun’s burial, no doubt a minor pharaoh, buried without great pomp and probably also a victim of pillagers.  He declares to Professor Gaston Maspero, Director of the Cairo museum:

“I am afraid that we have exhausted all the resources of the Valley of the Kings.”

Lord Carnavon

Carter refuses to abandon.  In 1908, he succeeds in persuading Lord Carnavon to concentrate all his efforts on Tutankhamun.  He needs funds:  Carnavon will be his banker, his sponsor.  He needs the authorisation of the Egyptian Government:  Carter obtains it.  With difficulty.   At first, with Carnavon, he comes up against the scepticism of Pr Maspero.  But, five days after this interview, he finds a message from Maspero in his message-box at the Continental Hotel:

“Come back to see me at the museum.”

Maspero proposes Theodore Davis’ concession to Carter.  It would allow him to dig in the Valley of the Kings until 1922.  Davis has abandoned it.

To Maspero’s great surprise, Carnavon is no longer very enthusiastic.

To be continued.

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