The temples of the gods and goddesses ... were in ruins. Their shrines were deserted and overgrown. Their sanctuaries were as non-existent and their courts were used as roads ... the gods turned their backs upon this land ... If anyone made a prayer to a god for advice he would never respond.
In 1915, George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, the financial backer of the search for and the excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, employed English archaeologist Howard Carter to explore it. After a systematic search, Carter discovered the actual tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62) in November 1922.
The discoveries in the tomb were prominent news in the 1920s. Tutankhamen came to be called by a modern neologism, "King Tut". Ancient Egyptian references became Common in popular culture, including Tin Pan Alley songs; the most popular of the latter was "Old King Tut" by Harry Von Tilzer from 1923, which was recorded by such prominent artists of the time as Jones & Hare and Sophie Tucker. "King Tut" became the name of products, businesses, and even the pet dog of U.S. President Herbert Hoover.
The 1922 discovery by Howard Carter of Tutankhamun's nearly intact tomb, funded by Lord Carnarvon, received worldwide press coverage. It sparked a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt, for which Tutankhamun's mask, now in the Egyptian Museum, remains the popular symbol. Exhibits of artifacts from his tomb have toured the world. In February 2010, the results of DNA tests confirmed that he was the son of the mummy found in the tomb KV55, believed by some to be Akhenaten. His mother was his father's sister and wife, whose name is unknown but whose remains are positively identified as "The Younger Lady" mummy found in KV35. The "mysterious" deaths of a few of those who excavated Tutankhamun's tomb has been popularly attributed to the curse of the pharaohs.
For many years, rumors of a "curse of the pharaohs" (probably fueled by newspapers seeking sales at the time of the discovery) persisted, emphasizing the early death of some of those who had entered the tomb. A study showed that of the 58 people who were present when the tomb and sarcophagus were opened, only eight died within a dozen years. All the others were still alive, including Howard Carter, who died of lymphoma in 1939 at the age of 64. The last survivors included Lady Evelyn Herbert, Lord Carnarvon's daughter who was among the first people to enter the tomb after its discovery in November 1922, who lived for a further 57 years and died in 1980, and American archaeologist J.O. Kinnaman who died in 1961, 39 years after the event.
The exhibition included 80 exhibits from the reigns of Tutankhamun's immediate predecessors in the Eighteenth dynasty, such as Hatshepsut, whose trade policies greatly increased the wealth of that dynasty and enabled the lavish wealth of Tutankhamun's burial artifacts, as well as 50 from Tutankhamun's tomb. The exhibition does not include the gold mask that was a feature of the 1972–1979 tour, as the Egyptian government has decided that damage which occurred to previous artifacts on tours precludes this one from joining them.
If Tutankhamun is the world's best known pharaoh, it is largely because his tomb is among the best preserved, and his image and associated artifacts the most-exhibited. As Jon Manchip White writes, in his foreword to the 1977 edition of Carter's The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun, "The pharaoh who in life was one of the least esteemed of Egypt's Pharoahs has become in death the most renowned."
In 2004, the tour of Tutankhamun funerary objects entitled Tutankhamen: The Golden Hereafter, consisting of fifty artifacts from Tutankhamun's tomb and seventy funerary goods from other 18th Dynasty tombs, began in Basel, Switzerland and went on to Bonn, Germany, on the second leg of the tour. This European tour was organised by the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), and the Egyptian Museum in cooperation with the Antikenmuseum Basel and Sammlung Ludwig. Deutsche Telekom sponsored the Bonn exhibition.
In 2005, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, in partnership with Arts and Exhibitions International and the National Geographic Society, launched a tour of Tutankhamun treasures and other 18th Dynasty funerary objects, this time called Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. It featured the same exhibits as Tutankhamen: The Golden Hereafter in a slightly different format. It was expected to draw more than three million people.
King Tutankhamun's mummy still rests in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. On 4 November 2007, 85 years to the day after Carter's discovery, the 19-year-old pharaoh went on display in his underground tomb at Luxor, when the linen-wrapped mummy was removed from its golden sarcophagus to a climate-controlled glass box. The case was designed to prevent the heightened rate of decomposition caused by the humidity and warmth from tourists visiting the tomb.
A separate exhibition called Tutankhamun and the World of the Pharaohs began at the Ethnological Museum in Vienna from 9 March to 28 September 2008, showing a further 140 treasures. Renamed Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs, the exhibition toured the US and Canada from November 2008 to 6 January 2013.
In June 2010, German Scientists said they believed there was evidence that he had died of sickle cell disease. Other experts, however, rejected the hypothesis of homozygous sickle cell disease based on survival beyond the age of 5 and the location of the osteonecrosis, which is characteristic of Freiberg-Kohler syndrome rather than sickle-cell disease. Research conducted in 2005 by archaeologists, radiologists, and geneticists, who performed CT scans on the mummy, found that he was not killed by a blow to the head, as previously thought. New CT images discovered congenital flaws, which are more Common among the children of Incest. Siblings are more likely to pass on twin copies of deleterious alleles, which is why children of Incest more commonly manifest genetic defects. It is suspected he also had a partially cleft palate, another congenital defect.
In 2011, the exhibition visited Australia for the first time, opening at the Melbourne Museum in April for its only Australian stop before Egypt's treasures returned to Cairo in December 2011.
In late 2013, Egyptologist Dr. Chris Naunton and Scientists from the Cranfield Institute performed a "virtual autopsy" of Tutankhamun, revealing a pattern of injuries down one side of his body. Car-crash investigators then created computer simulations of chariot accidents. Naunton concluded that Tutankhamun was killed in a chariot crash: a chariot smashed into him while he was on his knees, shattering his ribs and pelvis. Naunton also referenced Howard Carter's records of the body having been burnt. Working with Anthropologist Dr. Robert Connolly and forensic archaeologist Dr. Matthew Ponting, Naunton produced evidence that Tutankhamun's body was burnt while sealed inside his coffin. Embalming oils combined with oxygen and linen had caused a chemical reaction, creating temperatures of more than . Naunton said, "The charring and possibility that a botched mummification led to the body spontaneously combusting shortly after burial was entirely unexpected." 200 °C
This development implies that either Neferneferuaten (likely Nefertiti if she assumed the throne after Akhenaten's death) was deposed in a struggle for power, possibly deprived of a royal burial—and buried as a Queen—or that she was buried with a different set of king's funerary equipment—possibly Akhenaten's own funerary equipment by Tutankhamun's officials since Tutankhamun succeeded her as king. Neferneferuaten was likely succeeded by Tutankhamun based on the presence of her funerary goods in his tomb.
According to Nicholas Reeves, almost 80% of Tutankhamun's burial equipment originated from the female pharaoh Neferneferuaten's funerary goods including his famous gold mask, middle coffin, canopic coffinettes, several of the gilded shrine panels, the shabti-figures, the boxes and chests, the royal jewelry, etc. In 2015, Reeves published evidence showing that an earlier cartouche on Tutankhamun's famous gold mask read "Ankheperure mery-Neferkheperure" or (Ankheperure beloved of Akhenaten); therefore, the mask was originally made for Nefertiti, Akhenaten's chief queen, who used the royal name Ankheperure when she most likely assumed the throne after her husband's death.