Still a child, Tutankhamun ascended the throne at Amarna. But soon afterwards – perhaps as early as his first year of regency or shortly afterwards – he abandoned the city founded by Akhenaten.
People continued to live in Akhetaten for some time, but the court moved back to Memphis, the traditional seat of government.
The old cults were restored and Thebes once more became the religious centre of the country. The King's name was changed to Tutankhamun and the epithet 'Ruler of Southern Heliopolis' was added to it, as a deliberate reference to Karnak as the centre of the cult of the Sun-god Amun-Re. The name of his great royal wife, Ankhesenpaaten, was likewise altered to Ankhesenamun.
As the King ascended the throne as a child, a senior military official with no blood links with the royal family, the Commander-in-Chief of the army, Horemheb, played the role of regent.
The titles of Horemheb as regent indicate that he gained the right to succeed Tutankhamun if he were to die. Horemheb would in fact become the king himself, and in his Coronation text (which gives an account of his rise to power, a text carved on the back of a statue of him now in the Museum of Turin) it seems that it was he who advised the King to abandon Amarna 'when chaos had broken out in the palace'. The most important document of Tutankhamun's reign is the so-called Restoration Stela, which presents an extremely negative description of the state in which Akhenaten's reforms had left the country. The temples of the gods had become ruins, their cults abolished. The gods therefore abandoned Egypt, and no longer answered any prayers.
There is a possibility that early in Tutankhamun's reign, Horemheb must have been engaged in military confrontations with the Hittites.
In Egypt itself, a major campaign was launched to restore the traditional temples and to reorganize the administration of the country. This was led by the chief of Tutankhamun's treasury, Maya, who was sent on a major mission to temples from the Delta to Elephantine in order to impose taxes on their revenues, which had previously been diverted to the Aten temples. Maya was also responsible for the gradual demolishing of the temples and palaces of Akhenaten, first at Thebes, but later at Amarna as well. Most of the talatat found their way into the foundations and pylons of new construction works in Luxor and Karnak. As overseer of works in the Valley of the Kings, Maya must have organized the transfer of Akhenaten's mortal remains to a small undecorated tomb in the valley (assuming that the body found in KV 55 is indeed Akhenaten's body). Later, he was responsible for the burials of Tutankhamun and his successor Ay and for the reorganization of the Workmen's Village at Deir el-Medineh when work began on the Tomb of Horemheb.
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