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Originally known as TUTANKHATEN, Tutankhamen probably became king after the deaths of Akhenaton and his coregent. He was also married to Akhenaton's third daughter who is thought to be the eldest surviving princess of the royal family and solidified his claim to the throne. Because at his accession he was still young, his vizier and regent, Ay, who had ties with the royal family, and the general of the armies, Horemheb, became his chief advisers.

While under their tutelage, Tutankhaten moved his residence to Memphis. At this capital, he restored his father's Theban palace. He also changed his name, to Tutankhamen during the fourth year of his reign. Tutankhamen issued the restoration of temples, images, personnel, and privileges of the old gods and also admitted the errors of Akhenaton's course.

During his ninth year, possibly under Horemheb, the Egyptians marched into Syria to assist their old ally, the Mitannian kingdom of northern Syria. The Mitannian were in disarray with hostilities with vassals of the Hittites. As reinforcements sent by the Hittite king rushed to aid his vassals, Tutankhamen unexpectedly died at the age of about 18. Because none of his children survived, Ay succeeded him, perhaps marrying his widow.

Some time after his death, Tutankhamen's tomb in western Thebes was entered twice by robbers. They however, were caught after doing only minor damage. The burial chamber was not entered and remained intact until it was discovered by Howard Carter, the English Egyptologist who excavated the tomb, in 1922 . When in the 19th dynasty, Tutankhamen, along with the Amarna kings (Akhenaton, Smenkhkare, and Ay) were stricken from the royal lists and publicly condemned. The location of Tutankhamen's tomb was then forgotten. Tutankhamen’s few monuments were seized by his former general, Horemheb, who later became pharaoh. In the 20th dynasty, when the tomb of Ramses VI was cut immediately above that of Tutankhamen, the stone rubble dumped down the side of the valley covered the young king's tomb with a deep layer of chips. The workers of the 20th dynasty came close to Tutankhamen's tomb and clearly had no knowledge of it. The tomb escaped the great series of robberies at the end of the 20th dynasty and was preserved until a systematic search of the Valley of the Kings revealed its location.

But for his tomb, Tutankhamen had little claim to fame. However, he is perhaps better known than any of his longer lived and better documented predecessors and successors.