The Ancient Egyptians ruled a significant chunk of the world for almost 3,000 years and left behind a rich legacy of art, architecture, and mythology. But Ancient Egypt also left behind a few mysteries that archeologists and scholars still haven’t been able to solve, even thousands of years later.
Here are some of the enduring mysteries of Ancient Egypt.
Death of King Tut
King Tutankhamun was only 19 years old when he died, and nobody knows for sure what happened. A longstanding theory that he died in a chariot crash was seemingly debunked when scans of his mummified body revealed that he had a “partially clubbed foot” that would have made it impossible for him to stand on his own, reported the Independent in 2014.
He also had a fractured skull that, for a long time, was thought by archaeologists to be a sign that he’d been stabbed in the head. Today, it’s believed that his head just got damaged while his body was being embalmed, but the possibility that he was murdered hasn’t been ruled out. He broke his knee shortly before he died.
The new research also revealed, through genetic analysis, that Tutankhamun’s parents were likely brother and sister, and he may have died “as a result of genetic impairments.”
Mummies with mouths agape, looking like they’re screaming, aren’t really a new thing. They’re not even really “screaming” — many mummies had their mouths forced open during special ceremonies meant to make it easier for spirits to eat, drink, and breathe in the afterlife. However, there’s one mummy, in particular, that looks like it actually was screaming. In fact, it looks like it’s in downright agony, and no one knows why for sure.
Discovered in 1886, a mummy with an agonized expression on his face has long since been the object of speculation. This mummy has all his organs intact, which is not customary with mummification. Many interesting theories have arisen, though none have been proven right or wrong.
Bob Brier, the University of Long Island archaeologist, speculated that two parties were responsible for the mummy’s agonized expression. One was the murderer, while the other ensured the full preservation of the body (possibly due to a personal relationship with the victim). Other researchers and archaeologists have come up with theories ranging from cold-blooded murder to poisoning to being buried alive.
A 2008 analysis suggests he might be Prince Pentewere, executed for planning to murder his father, Pharaoh Ramses III. If true, it would explain how he was buried: wrapped in a sheepskin, which meant he had done bad things in his life, according to Zahi Hawass, Secretary-General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. It might also explain why he had no grave marking — that way, he wouldn’t be able to join the afterlife, the worst possible punishment for an ancient Egyptian. It might even explain why his mummification was so unimpressive: he wasn’t dehydrated, his brain was still in his skull, and they poured resin down his throat rather than into his cranium. But this entire theory of who he might’ve been is just that: a theory. Without DNA testing, all we’re left with is a cool story that, for some reason, Hollywood still hasn’t turned into a movie.
The disappearance of Queen Nefertiti
Queen Nefertiti is legendary for being one of the few women to rule over Egypt. She was the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, likely the mother of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, and is believed to have taken over Egypt and ruled in her own right. She was known as the Ruler of the Nile and Daughter of Gods.
In the twelfth year of Akhenaten’s rule, there is nothing about Nefertiti. It’s like she suddenly vanished. Theories about this disappearance range from falling into disgrace – which has since been proven wrong – to ruling under a completely different name, Neferneferuaten. She would have then died after just two years of ruling, only for her stepson, Tutankhamen, to become pharaoh. There hasn’t been any conclusive evidence to support some of the theories of her appearance.
To add to the mystery, Nefertiti’s mummy has never been found.
There was an ancient African kingdom full of gold, ivory, and exotic animals that excited the Egyptians’ imaginations called Punt. Ancient Egyptian writing says it must have been extremely powerful. It was a place that commanded the respect of the Egyptians, a land they had dubbed “God’s Land.”
There’s no question that Punt existed. There are countless mentions of it in ancient writings. There’s even a picture of the queen of Punt in an ancient Egyptian temple. But despite how powerful and important this place must have been, we’ve never found it. The only traces we have of Punt are the artifacts the Egyptians kept.
On the wall of a Hathor temple in Dendera, Egypt, there is a massive relief showing a very strange and weird image. It shows, according to the usual interpretation, a snake in a big ball of fire flying out of a lotus flower while being held up by a pillar with human arms.
This wall in a crypt has a carving which appears to show a light bulb. In actuality, Egyptologists believe it’s really a bunch of symbols from various pieces of Egyptian mythology. It just happens to look exactly like a model of a Crookes tube, a type of the early light bulb invented in the 19th century. In fact, it looks like so much like a light bulb that some people think it just might be a diagram showing how to make one.
Even though the idea of the wall depicting various Egyptian symbols is a lot more realistic than the idea of electricity being around at that time, we can’t help but think how much that looks like a light bulb. These are also ideas, which mean nobody really knows.