Ankhesenamun Biography

Ankhesenamun, the lesser-known sister and wife of the famous boy king Tutankhamun, remains a mysterious figure in ancient Egyptian history. Married off at the tender age of 13 to Tut, who was just 10 years old himself, Ankhesenamun went on to be wedded to several pharaoh rulers, most of whom were her close relatives. Incestuous marriages were a common practice in the royal family, as they believed in maintaining their bloodline’s purity as descendants of the gods. Despite the lack of written records, paintings and relics on the walls provide glimpses into Ankhesenamun’s life. After Tutankhamun’s untimely death at 18, she seemingly vanished from historical accounts, but historians suggest that she was later married to Ay, who ascended the Egyptian throne. The discovery of Tut’s tomb, where he was depicted with two children, is believed to be evidence of his union with Ankhesenamun.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Ankhesenpaaten
  • Died At Age: -26
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Akhenaten, Ay, Tutankhamun
    • Father: Akhenaten
    • Mother: Nefertiti
    • Siblings: Tutankhamun
  • Empresses & Queens
  • Egyptian Female
  • Died on: 1322
  • Place of death: Memphis, Egypt

Childhood & Early Life

Ankhesenamun, originally named Ankhesenpaaten, was born to royal Egyptian parents Akhenaten and Nefertiti. She was believed to be one of the six daughters of the famous couple. The first three daughters, Meritaten, Meketaten, and Ankhesenpaaten, held a higher status within the family and appeared more frequently in paintings. Ankhesenamun was the half-sister of Tutankhamun, her brother from a different mother. She was born in the city of Thebes around 1348 BC. Her father later founded a new city called Akhetaten in honor of his God, Aten. Ankhesenamun grew up in this new city and enjoyed a rich and royal upbringing.

Marriages

Ankhesenamun had a close relationship with her siblings, and it is said that her father, Akhenaten, married her for a time after his wife’s death. Before Ankhesenamun, he had married his first daughter, Meritaten. Some historians speculate that Meritaten may have had children with her father as well. Ankhesenamun was also married to Smenkhkare, who succeeded Akhenaten as pharaoh. Smenkhkare was appointed co-regent by her father, a common practice in ancient Egyptian society. After the deaths of Akhenaten and Meritaten, Ankhesenamun was required to marry Smenkhkare. Her other sisters are not well-documented in history, and their existence has been questioned. Smenkhkare was much older than Ankhesenamun and treated her poorly. After about three years of reign, Smenkhkare also died, and the throne passed to Tutankhamun.

According to Egyptian customs, Ankhesenamun was now required to marry her half-brother, Tutankhamun. They were married in approximately 1334 BC when Ankhesenamun was 13 years old and Tutankhamun was a few months shy of 10. The couple initially resided in the city of Amarna, which their father had established, and later moved to the capital city of Thebes. In Thebes, they added “Amun” to their names to honor the god worshipped in the city. Despite their happy marriage, Ankhesenamun and Tutankhamun were unable to have children together. The chances of a normal delivery were low in the royal family due to the risks associated with interbreeding. They had two daughters who died in infancy, and DNA testing revealed that they suffered from birth deformities caused by interbreeding.

Later Life & Legacy

After reigning for approximately 10 years, Tutankhamun died at the age of 18. The cause of his death is still debated, with some suggesting assassination. Following Tutankhamun’s death, Ankhesenamun entered a mourning period of 70 days, as was customary in Egypt. There are indications that Tutankhamun’s burial was hastily performed, leading to speculation of foul play. A letter found during exploration, believed to be written by Ankhesenamun, hinted at the turmoil in Egypt and her fear for her safety. In the letter, she requested the Hittite king’s son as her husband. However, the Hittite king sent his son, who was subsequently murdered upon entering Egypt.

Ay, Ankhesenamun’s maternal grandfather and Tutankhamun’s advisor, is suspected of being behind the possible assassinations. Ay ascended the throne and married Ankhesenamun, becoming the new pharaoh ruler of Egypt. He was over 61 years old at the time of their marriage. Ankhesenamun’s later life is largely unknown, and attempts to locate her grave have been unsuccessful.

Ankhesenamun has been referenced in various forms of media, including movies, books, and TV programs. She is extensively mentioned in the novel “Tutankhamun and the daughter of Ra” and portrayed as a vengeful wife in the Belgian series “Het Huis Anubis.” Judith Tarr also wrote a novel, “Pillar of Fire,” which explores Ankhesenamun’s life.

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