Occasionally, cutting-edge scientific inquiry can help solve historical riddles, even ancient ones. When it comes to the life and times of King Tut, the “boy pharaoh,” advanced radiological and genetic techniques are doing just that. Egypt’s most famous ancient ruler has been the object of much investigation already. Historians had long suspected foul play in his death at age 19. Now a team of researchers from Egypt, Germany, and Italy, led by Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, has made some astounding discoveries with CSI-like precision.
The tomb of King Tut (short for Tutankhamen, sometimes spelled Tutankhamun) was famously discovered by the British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. Tut had died and been mummified in the 1300s B.C. New DNA evidence reveals he suffered a severe case of malaria combined with bone disease made worse by a leg fracture. By genetically “fingerprinting” 10 mummies from King Tut’s lineage, investigators also determined that his father, Amenhotep III (later called Akhenaten), and mother were most likely siblings.
King Tut’s condition would have caused him extreme pain when walking. This helps explain why in ancient drawings he is depicted shooting arrows while sitting, not standing, in a chariot. It also accounts for the 100-odd walking sticks, or crutches, found among the artifacts in Tut’s tomb. The new findings not only dispel the legend that palace intrigues did in the boy king; they also help prove that royalty’s power and wealth could not make them immune to poor health and physical impairment. Some scientists hope, too, that such discoveries about the past can improve current understandings of threatening diseases.
- Malaria Is a Likely Killer in King Tut’s Post-Mortem
This New York Times article discusses the new findings that point to malaria as the cause of the mysterious death of the “boy pharaoh.”
(Source: New York Times, February 16, 2010)
- Discovery Channel: King Tut Unwrapped
The Discovery Channel’s two-part program, titled “King Tut Unwrapped,” about the cutting-edge medical research on King Tut’s mummy aired on February 21–22; 11 fascinating video segments from the program can be viewed online.
(Source: www.discoverychannel.com; accessed February 26, 2010)
- Malaria, Genetic Diseases Plagued King Tut
This CNN article presents mainstream media coverage of the new evidence of young King Tutu’s poor health; includes videos of Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN medical correspondent, and Zahi Hawass, the chief Egyptologist involved.
(Source: CNN, February 17, 2010)
- King Tut and the Golden Age of Pharaohs Exhibition
This official Web site of the traveling museum exhibition featuring Tutankhamun’s treasures offers a “virtual preview” of some of its art works.
(Source: www.kingtut.org; accessed February 26, 2010)