The pharaoh was undoubtedly the most important terrestrial figure in ancient Egypt and played a significant role in the functioning of Egyptian society. Entrusted with governing the realm of Egypt and providing a link between the Egyptian people and the gods, pharaohs were “an essential element in the maintenance of the position of society in the order of creation”. This idea has been substantiated through the various artefacts located in tombs in the Valley of the Kings, particularly that of Tutankhamun.
These finds have shed light on the role and lifestyle of the pharaoh in ancient Egypt. Through the discovery and analysis of these items, historians and archaeologists alike have been able to glean considerable amounts of information in regards to the pharaoh’s role in religion and the afterlife, warfare and leisure activities. The afterlife and religion were integral facets of daily life and the ancient Egyptian culture, and the pharaoh provided a fundamental link between the spiritual deities and the Egyptian people.
This role was exemplified through the various festivals and customs that the pharaoh was involved in with regard to religious practices, as well as the intricate afterlife traditions that centred on the pharaoh’s right to eternal life. The wall paintings in Tutankhamun’s tomb explicate the importance of the afterlife, particularly in relation to the pharaoh himself. Although only his burial room bore murals upon the wall, the spectacular pictures elucidate Tutankhamun’s holy entry into the afterlife and the customary rituals that were performed.
The Opening of the Mouth ceremony is depicted on the north-facing wall of the burial chamber, while the rest of the panel and the opposing wall show Tutankhamun being welcomed to the afterlife by various significant gods, including Osiris and Nut. The pharaoh’s funeral procession is also portrayed on the walls of the tomb, and the culmination of these images effectively demonstrate the supreme importance of the pharaoh and their afterlife, as well as religion in terms of their relationship with the major deities.
This latter point is exceedingly salient, and the prominent featuring of Egyptian gods throughout Tutankhamun’s tomb denotes the considerable cultural significance of religion and the way in which it essentially governed much of ancient Egyptian society. Correspondingly, such artefacts as the Shabti dolls further emphasize the importance of the afterlife, as the minuscule dolls are intended to represent servants for the pharaoh in life after death.
This illustrates that the pharaoh was regarded as a hugely esteemed figure and shows the focus that was placed upon ensuring that the afterlife was a comfortable and hospitable environment for the ruler. Similarly, the pharaoh’s responsibility in warfare and conflict in ancient Egyptian society was significant, and they were seen as an intrinsic guiding force. In contrast to later civilizations, Egyptian pharaohs often joined their forces on the battlefield and became physically involved in the hostilities.
Evidence of this has been sourced in Tutankhamun’s tomb, as a range of the items elucidate that the boy king would have been immersed in the battles fought. The unhinged remnants of six chariots were found in the antechamber of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and are believed to have been used for both ceremonial and wartime purposes. One chariot in particular differs from most of the others, as it has a light frame and simple construction. Analysis of the chariot has indicated that there was a wheel change in ancient times, suggesting that Tutankhamun used the chariot regularly as an efficient travelling vehicle on the battlefield.
Likewise, many weapons have been discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb, ranging from daggers to large ornamental shields, and effectively clarifying that the pharaoh played a considerable role in warfare. One such weapon is a gold and cloisonne dagger that was found in the wrappings of Tutankhamun’s mummy, making it fairly likely that Tutankhamun wielded this instrument in battle. The dagger is also adorned with embossed drawings of various animals attacking, cementing the idea that the dagger was both functional and a symbolic representation of victory in warfare.
As pharaoh of Egypt and in the same way as his predecessors, Tutankhamun was both a commander of troops and intimately involved in the conflict, ensuring that he played a major role in ancient Egypt’s warfare practices. Moreover, the leisure practices of ancient Egyptians are often overlooked, but Tutankhamun’s tomb contained a wealth of artefacts that shed light on the activities that occupied and entertained ancient Egyptians, including the pharaohs themselves.
A range of toys and board games were discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb that illustrated the myriad of pursuits that ancient Egyptians engaged in, such as the board game of Senet. This game operated in a similar way to backgammon, and an interesting characteristic of the game’s importance is that the deceased were depicted playing the game with no opponent, demonstrating its poignance in the afterlife.