The Search for Immortality


Many thanks to Dr Joyce Tyldesley, prominent Egyptologist and author for her advice and corroboration.
My interpretation of Tutankhamen appears in Dr Tyldesley’s book, ‘Tutankhamen’s Curse: The developing history of an Egyptian king’ published in the UK and USA and available on Amazon, February 2012.

My thanks also, for the inspiration provided by their work of
Dr Caroline Wilkinson , Senior Lecturer in Forensic Anthropology, Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee

The theme of this project was Time.

A people who were obsessed with the ultimate time, or lack of it, were the Ancient Egyptians. They believed that by embalming, the mummy would be assured a place in the after-life. To ensure that the departed would have everything they needed, items were entombed with them. These items could be actual or symbolic, as in the case of the young pharaoh Tutankhamen who suffered from ill health all through his life. In his tomb archaeologists found medicines included in his tomb goods, in the belief that this would ensure him good health in the after-life.

At Last Immortal:

Tutankhamen has more importance in these times than even shortly after his death. Most of the tombs discovered up until the Tutankhamen discovery had been opened and pillaged by grave robbers. Because King Tut had to be buried quickly – only 70 days were allowed for internment – and as there was no time to complete a tomb fit for a pharaoh, the mummy was placed in the only tomb of acceptable size available at the time, but its position was quickly forgotten, buried under rubble from the building of other tombs. Workmen’s huts were even placed above it at one point, no one being aware of the rich source of archaeological information and treasures waiting beneath.

Many of the mummies found were either already damaged, or suffered damage at the hands of museums and collectors. Eventually, because of the wish to preserve what was left, mummies were no longer removed from their wrappings. With the invention of the CT scanner, it became possible to create forensic reconstruction, whilst leaving the mummy intact. Now, combined with medical DNA sampling it was possible to discover what the person had looked like in life, his health and his family line. Questions could be answered.

It had been thought that King ‘Tut’ had been murdered, but scientists were able to discover that the basic cause of his death was congenital weakness due to in-breeding. His father and mother were brother and sister. He, himself, was married to his half-sister who bore him two still born daughters. The walking cane in the tomb was explained. He had extreme curvature of the spine. He suffered from several bouts of severe malaria and, it is thought that, in a weakened state after breaking his leg, he suffered yet another bout of malaria with which his body could not cope. The elongated skull is not as a result of any physical attack or damage, but has been found to be also be a congenital trait. (The statues of two princesses on display in the Neue Museum in Berlin, have been sculpted to show a greater exaggeration of this. However, the museum holds that this is merely an artistic affectation rather than having any basis in fact.)

I have drawn this work in pastels on A3 pastel paper. It is informed by a CT scanned, digital reconstruction. The image is not true to the scan as I have attempted to incorporate into his expression and facial construction, some of the suffering, illness and pain he experienced until his death at only nineteen years of age. It must also be remembered, and I hope I have captured some of this in his expression, that he had lost two daughters and his father had been recently murdered. Hewas most likely being controlled by the newly reinstated religious leaders, who were ultimately responsible for his father’s death. His life was not likely to improve.

Tutankhamen was relatively unimportant in his own time, quickly forgotten. He fought no great battles, and the writings on his tomb can only say that he fashioned many gods, (reinstating the religion that existed before his father’s religious changes). Perhaps, however, it was this very lack of importance that caused his tomb to be lost and forgotten, and so preserved his mummy and a treasure trove of artifacts, that has turned him into one of the most well known pharaohs of ancient Egypt. He has achieved a degree of immortality beyond that which he would have imagined.


Harwa was an artisan from about the same period. He must have either been very successful or had come from a reasonably wealthy family to have been afforded successful embalming. He had problems with his teeth and died at forty years of age.

This forensic reconstruction was done using a different method. From the CT scan, a plastic skull was formed. Using the muscle fixing points and formula which give the depth of muscle etc at certain points, the face was built up using clay. Although this image is physically 3D rather than a digital image. No attempt has been made to imbue the sculpture with life. It is rather reminiscent of the wax death masks of Madame Tussaud. It is for this reason I have chosen to portray the image as white on black. Chalk on A2 black paper.


Nefertiti was the Great Wife of Akhenaten, Tutankhamen’s father. His mother was one of Akhenaten’s sisters. Nefertiti bore Akhenaten only daughters and it was one of these daughters who became Tutankhamen’s wife.

Akhenaten commissioned the great sculptor Tuthmose to create a sculpture of his wife. Nefertiti, her name meaning ‘the beautiful one has come’, was known to be a great beauty and Tuthmose depicts her as a perfect and elegant woman. The statue is in the Neue Museum in Berlin. In the first image, I depict this with a minimal image, an image of a woman with no flaws. Pen and graphite on A2 white paper.

It has been found however, that Nefertiti had wrinkles around the mouth area and a ridge on her nose. In the second image, I have been less flattering than Tuthmose, by portraying her complete with flaws.

Which of these images, therefore, are offering immortality – an image that is perfect, but not the true woman, or a less flattering image which may be nearer the truth?

There is some controversy surrounding the Nefertiti bust as it is thought by some to be a fake dating from 1912. Henri Stierlin, Swiss author of numerous books on Ancient Egypt and the Middle East, who has studied the bust for some 25 years, believes the bust of the famous ancient Egyptian beauty is a gypsum copy. “It seems increasingly improbable that the bust is an original," he said. He believes the it was made on the orders of German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt, the man who ‘found’ the bust.

However, Prof Dr Dietrich Wildung of the Staatliche Museen of Berlin dismissed the claims as a publicity stunt. Computer tomography and material analysis have proved its authenticity. Also, pigments used on the bust have been matched to those used by ancient Egyptian artisans. According to Science News,the 2006 CT scan discovering the "hidden face” of Nefertiti has also proven that the bust is genuine.

Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs at that time, said “Stierlin is not a historian. He is delirious.” Although Stierlin had argued “Egyptians cut shoulders horizontally” – Nefertiti had vertical shoulders, Hawass said that the new style seen in the Nefertiti bust is part of changes introduced by Akhenaten, the husband of Nefertiti. The bust’s missing eye is also part of the controversy, as this would have been seen as an insult, however, Hawass has also claimed that the sculptor Thutmose had created the eye, but it was later destroyed.

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