Ever since Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamun (Tut) - the Egyptian pharaoh that ruled over 3,300 years ago, scientists have been haunted by the mystery surrounding the death of the 19-year old boy prince.
Over the years, there have been many theories ranging from a blow to his head after being hit by a hippo or horse to a gangrene infection caused by a broken leg to even, murder. Now, some British scientists led by Dr. Chris Naunton, Director of the Egypt Exploration Society believe that they may not only have solved the mystery, but also, uncovered that the king's mummification had been botched.
Working with scientists from England's Cranfield Forensic Institute, Dr. Naunton performed a 'virtual autopsy', which revealed that King Tut had sustained injuries down one side of the body. They then took the results to car-crash investigators who through computer simulations of chariot accidents, arrived at the conclusion that the young ruler had been killed when a chariot smashed into him, while he was on his knees - The impact shattered his ribs and pelvis and crushed his heart beyond repair, which they believe explains why the young pharaoh was buried without his heart.
But Dr. Naunton did not stop his research there. Intrigued by references made by Howard Carter that King Tut's body may have been burnt, he decided to explore that further and contacted Dr. Robert Connolly, a Liverpool University anthropologist who was a member of the team that x-rayed the pharaoh's remains in 1968. As luck would have it, Dr. Connolly happened to have a piece of King Tut's flesh among the artifacts he had been allowed to bring back.
Putting modern technology to work, Dr. Connolly and forensic archeologist Mathew Ponting used a scanning electron microscope which confirmed that the body had been burnt. They then conducted several chemical tests to see how that could have happened. Their conclusion? The embalming oils used in the mummification had interacted with the oxygen and the linen used to cover the pharaoh and resulted in a chemical reaction that 'roasted' the young king's body at temperatures of about 200°C - In other words, the mummification had been botched.
However, not everyone is convinced that this is the case. According to National Geographic's A. R. Williams, one of the biggest arguments against this theory is the fact that King Tut's body is intact, though that could be explained by the fact that the temperature was not high enough to reduce it to ashes. But then how does one explain the fact that his beaded linen cap showed no signs of being charred or that the dried flowers from the garlands he was adorned with were intact as was all the jewelry around his neck. Maybe the scientists will reveal some of the answers in their new documentary entitled Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Burnt Mummy, that is scheduled to be broadcast in England on Sunday, November 10th, 2013.
King Tut was not the most powerful or even one of the most important rulers of Egypt. But he remains one of the most popular and well known of all the pharaohs for a number of reasons. His tomb, which was the first of his era to be discovered, was not only remarkably preserved, but also, contained a treasure trove of gold and precious stones. Added to this were rumors of a mysterious 'mummy's curse', which began following some unfortunate events that occurred right after his tomb was recovered.
It all began when Lord Carnarvon died shortly after discovering the tomb, from a mosquito bite that turned into a deadly infection. Coincidentally, the lights in Cairo went out the exact moment the scientist passed away, adding more fuel to the theory. A few months later, his dog and a few other people that had been associated with the dig also succumbed to strange illnesses, confirming everyone's worst fear - King Tut's tomb was indeed cursed! It was much later that scientists discovered that all these deaths may be the result of spores released by some deadly bacteria discovered on the wall of the tomb. But by then King Tut had garnered the world's attention and become everyone's favorite pharaoh!
Resources: independent.co.uk, news,yahoo.com, nationalgeopgraphic.com