Tutankhamun was the pharaoh of the 18th dynasty of Egyptian rulers, who became famous due to his tomb. Many stories and mystical facts are associated with his death. Owing to the scientific research conducted using the latest equipment and facilities, more and more thrilling details from the life of the pharaoh, his family, and way of life of the ancient civilization became known. The biography of Tutankhamun is not distinguished by special facts. He died at the age of 19 (Buchanan). After his death, the supremacy of the dynasty which had reigned Egypt for more than 100 years was finished (Williams). The scientists put forward different versions of the causes of the pharaoh’s death. Decoding Tut’s DNA enabled scholars to make assumptions and conclusions about his health, death, and mummification. This paper investigates the data of forensic anthropology, the results of the virtual autopsy of Tutankhamun’s body, and provides suggestions on the possible causes of his death.
The life of Tutankhamun
Tutankhamun was the last representative of the dynasty that reigned Egypt for a short period of time, presumably from 1332 to 1323 BC (Buchanan). Becoming a pharaoh at the age of 9, he ruled under the guidance of senior advisers. The reign of Tutankhamun was not distinguished by any special events. It is known that his father implemented a new religion, and Tutankhamun pursued a policy of returning to the previous gods (Buchanan). For example, in line with his order, ancient buildings were restored. There is information that pharaoh married his sister at the age of 13 (Than). There were no heirs in this marriage, but mummies of female babies were found in Tut’s tomb (Williams). There is an assumption that the extinction of the dynasty occurred as a result of long-term incest. Tutankhamun became famous because of his grave, which was found in 1922 by Howard Carter, a British archaeologist (Williams). The pharaoh’s grave was not plundered unlike the tombs of other Egyptian kings. The discovery of the tomb became a world sensation. Golden sarcophagus, jewels, weapons, and many precious pieces of Egyptian art, including a golden mask of the pharaoh, were found there.
Appearance and health of pharaoh
The scientists conducted a virtual autopsy, which included more than 2000 computer scans, and a genetic analysis of the mummies of Tutankhamun and his family (Tutankhamun Died of Illness, not from Chariot Racing). DNA proved that Tut’s parents were the children of the same parents. Marriages between close relatives were usual in Egypt of the time. Representatives of ancient dynasties did not want to mix their noble blood with that of others, which resulted in genetic disorders for Tutankhamun and his stillborn children (Buchanan). Likely, the ancient Egyptians did not know about the consequences of incest. Virtual scans showed that Tutankhamun had buck teeth, an inborn splitting of hard palate, and a heavy clubfoot, which meant that his feet had been turned inward preventing him from walking normally (Than). According to the opinion of Ashraf Selim who was an Egyptian radiologist, the latter defect caused great pain to pharaoh (Buchanan). This fact was supported by about 130 walking canes, found in Tut’s tomb, which he had used during his life (Buchanan). In addition, as a result of genetic mutations, the hips of the pharaoh could have had roundish shape of feminine type.
The death of Tutankhamun
Tutankhamun met a sudden death, which is confirmed by the unprepared tomb. His royal predecessors were usually concerned about the place of burial, even those who died young. If the pharaoh was dying slowly, as if from a hereditary disease, he would surely take care of the place of his eternal peace. There are many versions of the reasons for Tut’s death. Earlier, the historians assumed that Tut had died as a result of chariot racing or murder in a conspiracy. Running a chariot during hunting or a war was a part of the royal duties of ancient Egyptian rulers (Williams). The version of death after the fall from the chariot was proposed after fractures were found in the skull, chest, and ribs of the pharaoh (Than). The damages resembled a trace of a wheel. In addition, the back of the skull was broken and small pieces of bones were found inside. Therefore, a theory was put forward that Tutankhamun got a strong blow to the head with a blunt thing from behind. It is known from history that the advisors of a young pharaoh were interested in his death. Tut inherited the throne at 9, and his father had died before his birth (Williams). The counselors feared that Tut would have a heir in a little while and they would have no chance to seize the power. Thus, they could have conspired and killed the pharaoh.
Later on, in 2005 a tomography scanning proved that infraction of Tut’s skull had happened after his death (Than). At the same time, it was announced that there were no evidence found confirming the blow to the head, and a hole in the skull was required for mummification. The version of chariot races was refuted as well. Tutankhamun, who felt constant pain when walking and required a cane for moving, would hardly have ridden a chariot and participated in racing.
Other versions of Tut’s death
There is another version of the cause of Tutankhamun’s death. The scientists assumed that the pharaoh broke his left leg as a result of falling from a chariot, participating in races. An open fracture caused blood infection, leading to his death (Buchanan). However, according to an Egyptian radiologist Ashraf Selim, who conducted the research, Tut had a fracture of the knee on his left leg that happened shortly before the death and embalming of the pharaoh (Buchanan). In addition, it was determined that the general status of Tut’s health was weak. These facts, along with his revealed clubfoot, meant that the pharaoh could not ride a chariot (Tutankhamun Died of Illness, not from Chariot Racing). Thus, this theory was contested.
The researchers assumed that the pharaoh’s death could happen as a result of genetic mutations. According to experts, Tut’s demise did not happen in a chariot crash (Buchanan). A theory was suggested about the pharaoh’s death caused by a poor health state due to genetic disorders inherited from his parents who were siblings. In order to test this theory, the scientists of the Institute made DNA analysis of the mummies of Tut’s family (Williams). Based on found drawings, images, and statues of that period depicting the male pharaohs with small breasts, rounded hips and oblong limbs, the researchers assumed that such feminine features of the figure indicated genetic disorders. Marriages between close relatives were widespread among Egyptian rulers as they supported the idea of pharaohs descending from gods. DNA tests of the mummy of Tut’s mother have confirmed that she was his father’s sister (Than). However, the tests have not verified that the representatives of the pharaoh’s family had feminine features.
The most credible version regarding the cause of the young pharaoh’s death is associated with malaria pathogens. DNA analysis conducted by the scientists revealed them in the mummy of Tutankhamun 33 centuries after the event (Buchanan). This is considered the most ancient finding of this microorganism. Thus, the greatest mystery of the pharaoh’s death was solved; he died from malaria. According to Professor Zink’s definite opinion, Tut’s disease was complicated by the consequences of a previously broken leg, was incurable, and led to his death (Tutankhamun Died of Illness, not from Chariot Racing). This theory was confirmed by numerous genetic analyzes.
Modern research technology, such as DNA analysis, virtual autopsy of the body, CT scans, and x-rays help to reconstruct the details of a human life and identify the causes of death, even more than 30 centuries after the events. The mummies of Tutankhamun and his relatives, found in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt became the objects of diverse studies. When conducting a virtual autopsy of the body, more than 2000 computer scans were obtained, which proved that Tut had genetic and physiological defects (Tutankhamun Died of Illness, not from Chariot Racing). DNA analysis revealed that he was born as a result of incest between a brother and a sister. CT scans and x-rays gave grounds for the scientists to believe that the young pharaoh had suffered from a clubfoot and an inborn splitting of hard palate. It was likewise revealed that Tutankhamun had a fracture of the left leg before his death, and damages to his chest and skull, most likely caused during mummification. DNA investigations managed to find traces of malaria, which finally resulted in the demise of the pharaoh.
Tutankhamun did not play a special role in history. However, he became the most famous of Egyptian pharaohs. His grave was not plundered, so the mummy of Tut and his relatives, the attributes of his life and death were kept in their original state. Various tests and research programs enabled people to learn how the pharaoh looked during his lifetime, to find his parents and children, and to reveal the possible reasons for his early demise. For a long time, the mysterious circumstances of Tutankhamun’s death aroused public and scientific interest, which resulted in various versions and assumptions. Due to the studies of the pharaoh’s mummy, the researchers became closer to solving the mystery of his death. Nevertheless, the only definitely known fact is that he died young and was buried according to all the traditions of that time.