It has been 100 years since Howard Carter found the boy king’s tomb, tucked away in an unlikely spot within the Valley of the Kings.
Before Carter and his team of local Egyptians pried open the place of rest and found Tutankhamun inside, little if anything was known about him.
His tomb was unprepossessing, and experts believe that his true burial chamber was at some point swapped with another pharaoh.
In the years after the discovery, Tutankhamun became one of the most famous pharaohs ever to have graced ancient Egypt.
This was in part down to the mystery surrounding his reign, but also a result of what was found inside his tomb, relics that hinted he was loved and revered by many. Some items perplexed researchers, including the mummified remains of two small objects, believed to be humans.
When Carter found the remains, DNA identification technology did not exist, so the mummies were locked away for future inspection.
They were called 317a and 317b, and each had an individual set of inner and outer mummy-shaped coffins, and were explored during the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, ‘Secrets: Tut’s last mission’.
With the advent of DNA analysis, researchers were able to test the remains, and Egyptologists discovered that they belonged to two girls, most likely Tutankhamun’s daughters.
They had both been stillborn, one at around four months old, the other nearly full-term.
Professor Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, said: “There was such a high mortality rate for infants and children in the ancient world that it’s not surprising. But it is extraordinary to have them carefully mummified, wrapped up, cocooned, put in these coffins and placed in their father’s tomb.”
“The tiny mummies are an incredibly rare discovery,” the documentary’s narrator noted.
It is impossible to say for certain why they were buried next to Tutankhamun, but Egyptologist Dr Joyce Tyldesley claimed they may have acted as an insurance policy.
A policy not for any outstanding payment Tut may have owed, but to ensure he passed on through to the next life without trouble.
The ancient Egyptians relied on a number of objects to protect them on their journey to the afterlife. Tutankhamun himself was found buried with 5,000 items each with its own purpose.
If one thing failed to get him through the afterlife in his battles against “demons” and “dark souls”, a separate object would.
Dr Tyldesley explained: “Tutankhamun was very wealthy, he could have dug a grave for his daughters anytime he wanted to.
“So the fact that their bodies have been saved and buried with him suggests that it perhaps is not just a practical reason, but there’s a ritual reason for them being there as well.”
Females were often cast as protectors in ancient Egyptian art and culture and would stand alongside their fathers as guards.
Because of this, Dr Joyce believes the two girls were more active participants in their father’s journey into the underworld rather than lucky charms.
“By being either physically in the boat with Tutankhamun or just having their spirits supporting him while he’s in the boat, Tutankhamun will be protected by these two daughters,” she said.