The religious, social, and philosophical upheaval instituted during the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten was repealed during the reign of the following Pharaoh Tutankhaten. The government abandoned religious center of Tell el-Amarna and Memphis once again became the administrative capital of Ancient Egypt while the royal palace in Thebes was restored. The monotheistic cult of Aten was disbanded and the traditional pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses was restored. Likewise, the pharaoh’s name was changed mid-reign from Tutankhaten to Tutankhamen (after the supreme deity Amon Ra). King Tut, as he is popularly referred to today, ruled Egypt from 1361 to 1352 B.C., reigning from the age of only nine until his death at age eighteen. It is likely that the boy-king wielded little actual power, and that the throne was really controlled by the senior officials and military generals who surrounded him. One official in particular, the vizier Ay, would become the next pharaoh following Tut’s early death.
Today, Tutankhamen is perhaps the most famous of all Egyptian pharaohs; not for what he achieved in life, but for the treasures that were unearthed in his tomb. In 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter uncovered the entrance to this tomb which was hidden beneath another tomb a later pharaoh constructed on top of it. The most remarkable aspect of this find was its relatively untouched state of preservation. It appears that the tomb must have been even more difficult for ancient thieves and tomb robbers to find than it was for the archaeologists. Among the hoard of magnificent treasured discovered within was the iconic golden mummy mask of Tutankhamen which remains as emblematic of the glories of Ancient Egypt as the mighty Pyramids themselves.
While the rulers of the Ancient Near East used cylinder seals to sign their names and seal their documents, their Ancient Egyptians used signet rings. In fact, the earliest existing rings are those unearthed in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs. The finest examples traditionally date from the XVIIIth to the XXth Dynasty. They are formed of pure metal and fairly simple in their design: the names and title of the owner recorded in deeply sunk hieroglyphic characters on an oblong bezel. The ring would have been pressed into wet clay or hot wax to seal official documents. This magnificent bronze ring features the royal cartouche of King Tutankhamen. Considering that this ring was forged of bronze and not gold, it is likely that this ring was not worn by the pharaoh himself, but by one of his high ranking officials, such as the vizier Ay. Thus, with Tutankhamen’s accord, an official could seal a document himself.