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Tutankhamun: An intimate life of the boy who became king by Garry J. Shaw

25 November 2022

Nicholas Cranfield finds an ideal introduction to Egyptian archaeology

GARRY SHAW is a British archaeologist and journalist who studied archaeology and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, and moved to Egypt to teach for the American University in Cairo.

This biography of the “boy king”, the pharaoh Tutankhamun (c.1341-c.1323 BC), is published to coincide with the centenary of the discovery of a more or less undisturbed tomb by the artist and amateur archaeologist Howard Carter (1874-1939).

Yale University honoured Carter with a doctorate in 1924, and, fittingly, this book celebrates his success in the field. The publishers also have an eye on an audience that knows Highclere Castle, near Newbury, as the set for a popular TV series. That was the home of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon (1866-1923), who bankrolled Carter’s often trivial expeditions from 1909 onwards.

Shaw, using much recent scholarship and many of the surviving artefacts, explains the life and times of the boy king and his wife, who was also his half-sister, Ankhesenamun. The premature neo-natal deaths of two daughters, and Tutankhamun’s failure to have an heir, ended the royal line of the Eighteenth Dynasty. He had already been deified in his own lifetime, and his real cult has spread since 1922.

Born during the reign of Akhenaten (who is now thought to have been his father), Tutankhamun, at his own death, was just 19; but by then he had restored the ancient Egyptian religion (abandoned by his father) and returned the capital of the kingdom to Thebes from Amarna.

The author has written widely on Egyptian archaeology, and here provides a readable and in-depth study, generously illustrated by the publisher, making it an ideal introduction for those new to the field, and a comprehensive survey for those who have been fortunate to see many of the tomb treasures since they have been exhibited internationally from 1962 onwards.

Canon Nicholas Cranfield is the Vicar of All Saints’, Blackheath, in south London.


Tutankhamun: An intimate life of the boy who became king
Garry J. Shaw
Yale £16.99
Church Times Bookshop £15.29

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