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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tut, Tut

The other day, while perusing I came across an article by Katie Drummond which detailed some recent discoveries on King Tutankhamen made possible through DNA research. “The most famous of all pharaohs was a frail and sickly king who walked with a cane and suffered from a painful bone disease and a club foot,” stated the article, which further went on to reveal speculations that malaria may have been what finished the nineteen-year-old ruler, that he had been the product of inbreeding and had produced two inbred still-born children who had been buried with him. I found this new insight fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time. The King Tut of my childhood history classes had been a regal ruler, tall and handsome in my minds eye and sporting only the biggest and best ancient bling. It pains me a little to think that my children may not get the same impression of him, despite the advantage of a more accurate historical account.

Drummond’s article interested me so much that I decided to share it with others via my Facebook page, invoking an equally interesting response from a high school friend. He responded that, while the article was no doubt intriguing, who cares what happened in 1324 B.C. and why couldn’t archaeologists just leave the poor guy’s body alone, especially given the high death rate of the time and malaria being a common cause? I had to agree with him on some level that the privacy of the poor pharaoh had been long since tossed aside in the name of research and historical understanding. But, at the same time, I marveled at what technology has been able to uncover and was excited at the prospect of future generations having an even better knowledge of history than our own. My friend was irritated by what he deemed to be the pointless repeated intrusion of researchers, and in reflecting upon his reaction I’m not sure myself why it’s necessary to know such intimate details of the young pharaoh’s life. Why is it not enough to simply know that he lived, that he ruled, that he was buried within a world wonder?

It is no secret that today’s society is borderline obsessed with celebrity, wanting to peer into every aspect of the lives of the better-off, the better-dressed and the better-looking so, when you think about it, King Tut isn’t much different. He may not be making appearances on “The Fabulous Life Of…” but he’s definitely an ancient equivalent to those who are. In his time Tutankhamen was rich, powerful, lived in a palace, was dressed in the finest clothing, threw lavish parties, and generally lived the good life of antiquity. Given the near-matching description of today’s celebrities, it’s really no wonder that we find Tut’s life so intriguing, but does it give us the right to so thoroughly invade the peace of his eternal rest? As fascinating as I may find the history of ancient Egypt and its leadership, in adhering to my Tut-as-modern-celebrity theory I do not condone the invasion of privacy in the lives of today’s celebrities and therefore cannot seem to justify how far we have gone in regard to the life of King Tut. Don’t get me wrong, I highly regard scientific research and the work of archaeologists and I cannot claim that I wish them to cease all exploration for the sake of ancient privacy, but perhaps we might exhibit a bit more sensitivity in dealing with such matters. Despite his being a decomposing king and a key to the past, we are still dealing in the realm of human life and that in itself demands the utmost respect.

-Heather Maupin


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