People often ask me, ‘well, it’s not really as exciting as Indiana Jones, now is it?’
I reply, ‘to an archaeologist, yes, it certainly is!’

— Zahi Hawass

VIDEO: How Did King Tut Die?

Before the tomb of King Tutankhamun was found, Egyptologists knew very little about this short-reigned king.  Since the discovery of KV 62 in 1922, King Tut has become the most famous pharaoh, and there has been much debate about why he died so young.

Related Egyptology Video: Treasures Hidden in the Cairo Museum's Basement

It is not only at excavation sites that amazing artefacts can be discovered, but the archives of previous digs as well as the artefacts already in museums can still surprise us. Or what about the basement of the Cairo museum?  Watch the video.

Egyptologists previously thought that it was most likely that Tutankhamun was the brother of Akhenaton, and the son of Amenhotep III. Now much more is known about the Amarna Period and the lives of Akhenaton and Tutankhamun.  Through studying the reliefs and historical texts, it seems very unlikely that he could be the son of Amenhotep III.  Tutankahmun was born in Amarna, so we now believe his mother was probably Kiya, an Egyptian princess and wife of Akhenaton, who likely died when she was giving birth to Tutankhamun.

Recently we CT scanned the mummy of King Tut to examine his life and death in depth and determine how he died.  We found that he died at the age of 19, and that he was not murdered, as people have long speculated. Previous studies and X-rays of the body showed a hole in the back of his head, so many people took this as evidence that he was murdered.  But studies of the CT scans show that this hole was made in the back of his head in order to pour the liquid used in mummification into his body after he died.  We also found that there was a fracture in his left leg.  CT scans revealed this damage was not caused by Howard Carter.  We know that when Carter found the mummy, it was covered with the golden mask and other gold pieces.  When he tried to take the mask and the rest of the gold off, he had to use forceful methods and ended up damaging the mummy, breaking it into 18 pieces.  Previous scholars thought this fracture in the leg was caused by Howard Carter, but we discovered it was the result of an accident that happened shortly before he died.

From artistic and historical sources, we know that King Tut used to go hunting and riding in the desert around Memphis.  Now the most likely scenarios are that he fell off while riding and broke his leg, or that he was fighting in a war and was injured.  The broken leg most likely led to complications that resulted in his death.  Now for the first time, we have been able to find scientific evidence of Tutankhamun’s cause of death.


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