King Tutankhamun did not die in chariot crash, virtual autopsy reveals

New research indicates the boy king mostly likely died as a result of genetic impairments which weakened his body

Rose Troup Buchanan
Monday 20 October 2014 22:15 BST
Exhibit brings King Tut's tomb to Georgia

A ‘virtual autopsy’ of King Tutankhamun has revealed that he is unlikely to have died in a chariot crash, as has previously been suggested, because he suffered from serious genetic physical impairments.

The autopsy, composed of more than 2,000 computer scans, was carried out alongside a genetic analysis of Tutankhamun’s family, which supports evidence his parents were brother and sister.

Virtual scans showed that only one of the breaks occurred before he died, while fractures in his skull and other parts of his skeleton were made after the boy king was already dead - leading scientists to believe he may have succumbed to an inherited illness.

Professor Albert Zink, head of the Institute for Mummies and Icemen in Italy, said to The Independent he was confident King Tutankhamum did not die as a result of 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.

“We need further genetic analysis because that would give us more insight into his conditions,” he said. He added that the young royal’s death was most likely caused from his being in a weakened state as a result of genetic impairments inherited from his brother and sister parents.

“On the other hand he suffered from malaria so it is difficult to say whether that may have been a serious factor in the cause of death,” professor Zink said, emphasising there was still more research to be done.

Previous theories that the leader died after complications arising from breaking his leg in a chariot crash were challenged as the autopsy revealed the King’s weakened state, and club foot, meant he would have been unlikely to have ever driven a chariot.

The evidence is backed up by the discovery of 130 used walking canes in his tomb.

The revelations are made in BBC One documentary Tutankhamun: The Truth Uncovered, which will air next Sunday.

Ashraf Selim, an Egyptian radiologist, who is featured on the BBC documentary said to The Times: “There is only one site where we can say the fracture happened before he died and that is the knee”.

“It’s a big trauma. This fracture happened shortly before he died and before embalming,” he added.

Evidence gathered over the years has painstakingly constructed a clearer understanding of the Egyptian King, who ascended the throne in 1332BC at the age of nine or ten, ruling until his death in 1323 BC aged 19.

Various theories have been suggested for his young death. The prevalent notion for years was that he had been murdered, thanks to a large hole found in the back of his skull.

However, advances in understanding Ancient Egyptian culture led scientists to believe the hole was a result of the natural mummification process, and the young leader’s death was instead due to complications from a broken leg, which was exacerbated by malaria.

The discovery of his tomb in 1922 by Dr Howard Carter revived interest in Ancient Egyptian culture and history, leading to the mask of King Tut’s mummy becoming one of the most popular icons for the period.

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