The story of the young king, his household, and the discovery of his tomb.
It’s a tale that’s been done to death (so to speak), but Cleveland-Peck inserts homely details and forensic evidence that wrap Tutankhamun’s brief life and sudden demise in layers of sympathy. For one thing, the cause of death remains unclear, as a bone chip in the royal skull is now known not to be the result, as once thought, of a blow to the head. For another, the tomb shows signs of being hastily finished and may have been prepared for someone else. Forging quickly on to the 20th century, the author trots in Howard Carter and details some of the “wonderful things” found in each successive chamber of the tomb, including, tragically, the mummified remains of two stillborn royal daughters. Greenberg’s ancient Egyptian–style cartoon portraits flesh out the account with large-eyed, dark brown figures. These give way in ensuing chapters to views of Carter and his equally light-skinned patrons supervising the tomb’s excavation. A chart labeled “The Hieroglyphic Alphabet” misleads, as hieroglyphics were only in part alphabetic, and there’s little on the Egyptian gods. Still, it’s a handsome presentation, and readers will be able to pull out a few new historical and cultural tidbits to go with the requisite treatment of ritual mummification and the legendary curse.
Ill-fated and hastily buried he may have been, but his legacy remains one of archaeology’s greatest hits. (Nonfiction. 8-12)