TUTANKHAMEN- “His Mysterious Death”

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Egyptian civilization is one of the oldest and greatest of all. The country had seen various dynasties and was known as “The Land of Pharaohs. The Egyptians called their kings Pharaohs, and they believed in an afterlife. The pyramids contain mummified bodies with their jewels and other commodities.

One such pharaoh from the 18th Dynasty, also known as “The New Kingdom,” died 1000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. His name was TUTANKHAMUN, which means “living image of Amun.” His original name was TUTANKHATEN, which means “Living Image of Aten.” In 1922, Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon discovered his body in the Valleys of the King, along with 5,000 treasures. The question of how tomb no. 62, or KV62, has remained untouched for so long arises. The discovery of the mummy gained worldwide attention. The late discovery has a geographical basis.

Stephen Cross- an Egyptologist and Geologist

He explained that the flesh flood that occurred in the King’s Valley had sealed the tomb of Tut and also prevented extensive robbing. This could be the reason the mummy has remained hidden for 3000 years.

Prof. Tom Coulthard – Professor of Physical Geography, University of Hull

He said that the flesh flood acted as camouflage and hence prevented the archaeologists from finding the body.

Belief Related To Mummification 

In the mummification process, embalming oils, Natro, and resins were used to keep the body in good condition for the afterlife.

The journey to the afterlife begins with the setting sun. Pharaohs take the round of the sun as it passes down into the underworld and, meanwhile, face a lake of fire and a giant serpent. Most of them know that their hearts weigh against the truth. When he reaches the underworld, the parade of gods welcome him to the afterlife, and at last he transforms into the sun god.

In the same way, the body of Tut was preserved, and when excavated, it reveals shocking discoveries.

Dr. Chris Naunton- Egyptologist, Director of the Egypt Exploration Society

He found an unusual aspect to his burial, like a cut-out section of the wall, a small room, and very few hieroglyphs. It appears that his tomb was unfinished. It was believed that he was buried in a hurry.

His body under gone for C.T scanning and the benefit of Computed Tomography is that, it goes inside the body and provides detail information of bones and soft tissues.

Pharaoh’s body underwent scanning for about half an hour, and around 1700 3-D images were taken. Hence the virtual autopsy reports reveal that the King was about 18–20 years old and 180 cm tall.

This means that his death was sudden and that’s why hastily completed tomb was found and the presence of dark spot in the coffin is due to the moisture of the paint, mummified body, food as the walls were painted so fast.

Professor Ralph Mitchell- the Gordon McKay Research Professor of Applied Biology at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

He said that the presence of malic acid on the walls of the tomb clearly reveals the growth of the microbes and that they were engulfing the tomb.

“King Tutankhamen died young, and we think that the tomb was prepared in a hurry,” said Mitchell. “We are guessing that the painted wall was not dry when the tomb was sealed.”

Dr. Melinda Hartwig – Egyptologist, Georgia State University

She said that someone had made to hurriedly burying the body.

What led to the sudden death of the Pharoah?

The circumstances surrounding the death had become the subject of heated debate.There have been many theories related to his death- It can be the murder, malaria, Epilepsy, sickle cell-anemia and maybe he died after a fall from his chariot.

“We found the mummy was in a critical stage of preservation,”  said Dr. Ashraf Selim (Professor of Radiology, University of Cairo). “The body was cut into several parts with some missing pieces.”

The X-ray report of 1968 shows the loose bone in the cranial cavity. This was considered that may be it was the murder.

In 2005, Dr. Selim said that they found no evidence of skull fractures. It was due to the mishap during the mummification, and even the damage may have been caused by Howard Carter.

Dr. Robert Conolly – Anatomist, University of Liverpool

He said there were many broken ribs on the left side and the heart was not found.

Dr. Anna William – Forensic Anthropologist, Cranfield University, England

She explained that the ribs were damaged but the skull and left clavicle bone were not damaged and the ilium (the largest pelvic bone) was missing. The heart was badly damaged, which was the hypothesis.

Dr. Salima Ikram – Pakistani professor of Egyptology, American University at Cairo

She said that the heart was important for Egyptians. They need heart in the afterlife. But it is peculiar in the case of Tut that the heart is missing.

Car crash Investigators made a computer simulation of the accident that broke the king’s ribs, crushed his heart, and broke his pelvis.

Mike Brown (an accident reconstruction expert) found out that the chariot accident led to the crushing of ribs and other parts.

Dr. Peter Zioupo (a biomechanics expert at Cranfield University) and Dr. Ian Horsfall (an impact trauma expert) found out that the ribs were compressed and even the heart was affected badly.

This concluded that the accident was the cause of the broken ribs and missing heart, as it was severely damaged.

Carter’s records show that the body had been burned.

Dr. Connolly scanned his tissues and found that carbon and oxygen were more abundant than other elements in the tissue.

He was working with forensic archaeologist Dr. Matthew when, through an electron microscope, he found that the body had been burned.

The reason was discovered to be that the embalming oils, oxygen, and linen together caused the chemical reaction, or in simple words, combustion, which cooked the King’s body at 200 degrees Celsius.

Through his experiments, David Crowder, a senior fire investigator, discovered that the air reacting with the oil caused combustion or burning, which resulted in the blackening of the mummy.

Dr. Howard Markel- Medical Historian, University of Michigan

He said that the first evidence of malaria was found in ancient Egypt. Even so, it was found in several other members. King Tut was suffering from malaria that had weakened his immunity.

He said that the virtual autopsy revealed that he had club foot and cleft palate, hence, suffering from the  avascular necrosis of bone called Kohler disease ( the blood supply to the bone get restricted which cause weakening of that area).

In 2005, Egyptian archaeologists Zahi Hawass performed a CT scan to determine the cause of the boy pharaoh’s death. He had broken his thigh bone, called the femur (the strongest bone), which ultimately meant that he had difficulty walking. He said that this man had 130 walking sticks. He told the documentary maker, “This fracture is an accident that happened to Tutankhamen one day before he died.”

Dr. Matthew Ponting is a senior Lecturer in Archaematerials at the University of Liverpool’s Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology.

He said that the Pharaoh was killed in a chariot accident.

“It was important to look at his ability to ride on a chariot and we concluded it would not be possible for him, especially with his partially clubbed foot, as he was unable to stand unaided,”  said Prof. Albert Zink, head of Italy’s Institute for Mummies and Icemen.

As a result, the Chariot accident is the most widely accepted theory, as his inability to walk properly (due to the clubbed foot and fractured thigh bone) contributed to his death and also reveals that he had a difficult life.

It was also believed that the king suffered from Marfan syndrome as he had many feminine features, but detailed anthological, radiological  and genetic studies confirm no signs of gynecomastia or Marfan syndrome.

Hutun Ashrafian –A surgeon at Imperial College London.

He claimed that the pharaohs’ family had suffered from a brain disorder known as “temporal lobe epilepsy,” in which people suffer epileptic seizures and experience hallucinations and religious visions, and that this is why Tut’s father had a different religious ideology, switching from polytheistic to monotheistic.

Even the feminine characteristics in Tut are due to hormonal imbalances because of the temporal lobe epilepsy, and even his chariot accident occurred due to the seizure.

But his theory was denied by the neurologist; Orrin Devinsky of New York University thinks that the theory is based on assumptions.

Howard Markel demonstrated that his theory that there is no definite genetic test for epilepsy is nearly impossible to prove.

A genetic analysis of the Tutankhamen family also reveals that his parents were probably his siblings, Zink says.

That’s why he had many hereditary disorders because of the incestuous marriage. This increases the chances of various genetic disorders due to the small gene pool.

Egyptians believed in incestuous wedding in order to keep royal blood and even for the political reasons.

So, the question arises: who is the father of Tut?

The DNA samples were taken from the tomb KV55. First,  the Y chromosome was compared, and the results show the similarities, and second, DNA fingerprinting was done that clearly confirms the father-son relationship. So, the tomb was his father, whose name was Akhenaten.

The new technique of PCR has made it easier as it makes several copies of DNA quickly from a small fragment of DNA.

In the same way a genetic test was done for his mother, KV35, known as “The Younger Lady,”

In the year 2010, the result of a DNA test confirmed his parents and also revealed that his parents were siblings.

The DNA test of the two foetuses found in his tomb confirmed that they were his progeny; both were stillborn daughters.

A Swiss genealogy company named IGENEA claims that Tut belongs to a haplogroup, which means he belongs to the parents who show common ancestry.

But the discovery of Tutankhamen’s parents and his cause of death face lots of criticism. There were two groups: sceptics and believers.

Sceptics believe that genetic materials could not have possibly survived after a thousand years in the deserts of Egypt.

Tom Gilbert, a scientist at the Center for GeoGenetics, said that they should first find ways to avoid contamination.

Zink and Push say that the mummification process protected the DNA, and the samples were taken from that part where the contamination didn’t reach.

Eske Willerslev said that genetic fingerprinting is rarely used for ancient-DNA studies because that requires sequencing of DNA in order to avoid contamination.


After all those criticisms, the theory was accepted and achieved worldwide attention. Tutankhamen was made king at the age of 9 years because of the death of his father, and according to Egyptian tradition, he had married his half-sister, Ankhesenamun. But unfortunately, he left with no heir, and this marked the end of the 18th Dynasty. He ruled for about 9 years and died unexpectedly. He was mummified, and discovery reveals that he was found in the third gold coffin with various essential commodities for the afterlife.


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