What actually killed the mysterious King Tut?
November 3, 2014
SENIOR ANTHROPOLOGY STUDENTS at a Midwestern university had been given a plum gift. The university had offered a two-week mini course in Egyptology during the fall. It would be worth three college credits. Their trip to Egypt would not be free. They would have to pay a large part of their expenses, but the university had gotten an economical travel package. They were being excused from their other classes, with stipulations. Three of their favorite professors were heading up the group. They would spend most of their stay in Cairo, but they would also be going on some side trips down the Nile to other sites.
One such side trip found them near Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, location KV-62. As they stood gawking in awe at what was left of the body of King Tutankhamen, The Boy King, Professor Higginbotham stepped forward. “My two colleagues and I have found a perfect project for you to work on. The bonus is that you get to work on it as a group and we will question you as a group, orally. When you answer our questions and discuss the subject matter sufficiently, we will grade you accordingly. The results will constitute one half of your grade for this summer course. Since you get to work on it together, you will all get the same grade, so be thorough and cooperate with each other. Here is your challenge. You are to dig though known facts and become medical examiners. It is a pity that you cannot actually handle the body of Tut himself.”
There was a little wave of nervous laughter at his comment.
The professor continued, “You are to tell us what you as a team of medical examiners has come up with, as the cause of death for King Tut here, and the reasoning behind it. Facts! You may have more than one possibility for his demise. It has been over 3,336 years and it is not an exact science. How can we know for sure? We can’t! Use any and all resources that are available to you. We will continue our examination of other artifacts today and tomorrow, so you will have to do this in your spare time, after hours. You have two days. We will expect your results at this same time, two days from now.”
While enjoying late-afternoon snack-packs, the small group of students began discussing their challenge. Connor began immediately, relating something he had recently learned about Tut. “I ordered one of those DVD courses on the Pharaohs of Egypt. It was published fairly recently and says King Tut was murdered by one of his own people.”
“Yeah, I have read that theory myself.” Nate agreed. He was so young that he had an advisor for most of his life. His parents were dead. This advisor decided he wanted to be the king himself and offed Tut.”
“As luck would have it, I brought the little book that comes with the DVD with me to Egypt and I have it right here—I thought it would come in handy for something. It has been a useful tool. It says here that King Tut was the son of Akhenaten, The Heretic Pharaoh. When Akhenaten died in the 17th year of his reign, who would succeed him? Akhenaten had two children. King Tut, who was only ten years old, married his half sister. They had different mothers. Nefertiti was his half-sister’s mother and Tut’s mother was a minor wife that died during a childbirth. Because of the marriage of these two royal children, Tut was then king.”
“He got married at age ten? Monarchies work in mysterious ways!” Blaine exclaimed.
Connor continued. “This old guy that had worked for Tut’s father continued to advise the young couple on all things royal. His name was Aye. Tut’s main royal project was building his own tomb. Modern tests have shown that Tut was about eighteen or nineteen at death. His wisdom teeth had not even erupted yet. An x-ray on his mummy showed a serious head injury.”
“Okay that is our first evidence for this cause of death. We must site the head injury,” Nate interrupted.
“Right.” Connor agreed. “Here is the second piece of evidence. There are drawings in King Tut’s tomb that show Aye, the advisor, performing the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony on King Tut’s mummy.”
“I forgot. What is The Opening of the Mouth Ceremony, if you don’t mind my asking?” Laurie asked.
“It is a ceremony performed on the dead that allow them to breathe and speak in the next world,” Nate answered.
“More of proof of murder,” Connor continued, “In the drawings where Aye is performing that ceremony, Aye is now wearing the crown of pharaoh.
A side story to this, is that Tut’s bride was afraid she was going to have to marry that old man, Aye.”
“Eewww!” Laurie exclaimed.
“In fact she was so worried about this possible marriage that she had sent a message to a Hittite prince offering herself for marriage, and the Hittites were their enemies, but a royals could still marry a royals. The Hittite prince journeyed to hook-up with the young widow and take her away—he was killed at the border. Tut’s wife did have to marry the old guy. She is depicted as his wife in the tomb drawings, so that was a done deal. Then, she disappeared from all records.” Connor emphasized this last part.
“Chilling,” Blaine said. “But this is some of our proof of murder: Head injury, Aye wanting to be Pharaoh, Aye wanting to marry the young widow, and the Hittite prince getting killed at the border for interfering. Lets’ all remember these facts for our oral exam.”
“I remember just last year they came up with a different theory,” Nate started his own explanation. “They analyzed Tut’s body some more and put the results in some of those geography and museum magazines. These two institutions are known for their accurate, detailed work. The recent analysis shows that one half of Tut’s body was crushed while he was on his knees. The crushing accident smashed his pelvis, ribs and heart. The injuries are consistent with a chariot accident.”
“Yes! A chariot accident. I remember when they decided that was the cause of death,” Laurie agreed. “King Tut’s death has always enticed the mystery-lovers. He fought a bad case of malaria for a long time. That has been mentioned as a cause of death. They have also considered epilepsy, I do remember that.”
“It is a shame we don’t have a better Tut-body to work with. If you remember, something went wrong with the embalming process. There was a chemical reaction in the coffin, caused by all of the embalming ingredients. His body combusted, shortly after it was placed in the tomb.” Connor explained. “I think we should point that out to our professors during our oral exam. We should point out that because the body combusted, it has hindered finding an exact cause of death.”
“You are right, Connor,” Nate agreed. “They will be expecting us to mention that, to see if we did a thorough job. “Is everyone remembering all of these points?”
“I try to keep up on all of this Tut stuff. It is one of my interests and there is a brand new theory as to his cause of death. Does anyone know the one I am talking about?” Connor asked the group.
“I think I do,” Blaine responded, “very recent developments and it is more than bizarre. It says that all of these other causes of death are bogus—that all of the injuries to the body were post mortem, except for one to his leg. The same group of researchers that examined The Iceman in Italy, have recently done over 2000 scans of Tut’s mummy. They are surmising that this minor wife of Akhenaten, was his own biological sister.”
“Incest! Tut was the product of incest?” Laurie asked, incredulous.
“Yes. That is a current new theory. And they theorize that Tut had a whole passel of genetic problems as a result. He was born with a severely deformed foot. Commonly known as a club foot, it would have prevented him from driving or riding on a chariot. They had already found over 130 well-used canes in Tut’s tomb and that would back this up. Have you seen the recent digital estimates of his image based on bone structure? He was not the handsome young man depicted in his golden burial mask. He was homely, with a bad overbite,” Blaine continued.
“Yes, I saw that on a website. I guess it is like the wealthy people of olden days that hired portrait painters who would make them look ten times better than they really were.”
“Exactly! That is what just popped into my mind, also, Laurie.” Nate agreed. “So, Blaine, even if he was the product of incest and was diseased with malaria, what do the Iceman researchers have to say about the actual cause of death?”
“They think he got a bad injury to this leg—the only one that was an actual pre-mortem injury—and that he developed an agressive infection and because of his compromised physical condition, he could not fight off the infection raging in his body and succumbed to it.”
“As far as I know that is the most recent cause of death for The Boy King. Have any of you heard of any others?” Blaine asked.
“I think we have covered it pretty well, but I am sure this is not the last chapter in Tut’s story,” Connor said to the group as he got up to stretch. “To be on the safe side, I think we should ask some more questions at the sites and museums and see if they have any inside dope and see if we think it is worth mentioning to the professors during our oral exam.”
“I, myself think that Tutankhamen was the first person to die of King Tut’s curse. That he just keeled over one day with no warning, from a curse put on him by an ancient shaman,” Nate offered.
“Well, don’t mention your theory in the oral exam, puh-leeze. Do us all a favor,” Laurie pleaded with her classmate. “Say, I am wondering, we have all been rooting around in these tombs and artifacts. You don’t think we will fall victim to Tut’s curse ourselves, do you?”
Connor was quick to reply, “Not me. I am wearing my mysterious crystal.” He stopped to withdraw a leather thong from his collar. At the end was a tiny metal filigree cage containing something sparkly inside.
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