Egypt’s King Tutankhamun was buried in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings without a heart (or a replacement artifact known as a heart scarab); his penis was mummified erect; and his mummy and coffins were covered in a thick layer of black liquid that appear to have resulted in the boy-king catching fire.
The mummified erect penis and other burial anomalies were not accidents during embalming, Ikram suggests, but rather deliberate attempts to make the king appear as Osiris, the god of the underworld, in as literal a way as possible.
The erect penis evokes Osiris’ regenerative powers; the black liquid made Tutankhamun’s skin color resemble that of Osiris; and the lost heart recalled the story of the god being cut to pieces by his brother Seth and his heart buried.
When we think of monotheism, we have a tendency to think of it as a neat, somehow inevitable cultural progression – but it’s not.
Aside from the very messy, very back-and-forth conversion to Christianity of pagan Europe that started with the conversion of the Roman Empire Constantine, ancient Egypt also went through its own period of religious strife.
But Akhenaten’s importance is way more than that, for he and his consort Nefertiti were at the heart of an effort to rewrite Egyptian religion from a polytheistic religion to a monotheistic religion centered around The Aten, originally an aspect of Ra but for Akhenaten a singular supra-god.
This was not, shall we say, very popular, and upon Akhenaten’s death and the ascension of his son, Tutankhamun, efforts began to undo Akhenaten’s extensive efforts to eradicate the polytheistic faith of ancient Egypt.