No Sign Tutankhamun Murdered

From: http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=7837783&section=news&src=rss/uk/scienceNews

Tue Mar 8, 2005 12:20 PM GMT
Printer Friendly | Email Article | RSS
By Amena Bakr

CAIRO (Reuters) - A three-dimensional X-ray scan of Tutankhamun's mummy found no evidence to support theories he was murdered but failed to solve the 3,000-year-old mystery of how the young Egyptian pharaoh died.

Some members of the investigative team say he may have died from an infected thigh wound, but others doubt this, saying that injury may have been inflicted later by archaeologists, according to the team's five-page report released on Tuesday.

Either way, the team's chairman says the case should now be closed and the tomb of the king who died in 1352 BC, aged about 19, should not be disturbed again.

Some historians have speculated the ruler was murdered, based on his young age and the turbulent political and religious circumstances during that period of Egyptian history.

"We don't know how the king died, but we are now sure that it was not murder. Maybe he died on his own," said Zahi Hawas, chairman of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

"The case is closed. We should not disturb the king any more," he told Reuters after the report came out.

"There is no evidence that the young king was murdered," said a press release attached to the report.

The report said some but not all of the eight team members suggested he may have died after a serious accident in which he broke his thigh, leaving an open wound which became infected.

"Although the break itself would not have been life-threatening, infection might have set in," the report said, citing those members of the team. The others disagreed.

Tutankhamun came to the throne shortly after the death of Akhenaten, the maverick pharaoh who abandoned most of Egypt's old gods and tried to imposed a monotheistic religion based on worship of the Aten, the disc of the sun.

During Tutankhamun's reign, which lasted about 10 years, advocates of the old religion were regaining control of the country, turning their back on Akhenaten's innovations.

The report said the CT scan performed in January found no evidence of a blow to the back of Tutankhamun's head and no other evidence of foul play.

IN GOOD HEALTH

They found that Tutankhamun had a bent spine and an elongated skull but they ruled out pathological causes. They believe the shape of the skull to be a normal variation and the spine resulted from the way the embalmers positioned the body.

"Judging from his bones, the king was generally in good health ... There are no signs of malnutrition or infectious disease during childhood," the report added.

Addressing the murder theory, the report noted that the king had two bone fragments loose in his skull. But it adds: "These cannot possibly have come from an injury from before death, as they would have become stuck in the embalming material."

The team believes the fragments were broken during the embalming process or by the team led by British archaeologist Howard Carter, who discovered Tutankhamun's intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings in southern Egypt in 1922.

Advocates of the broken thigh theory noted that there was embalming material inside the thigh wound and no obvious evidence that the wound healed, suggesting the fracture took place only days before death.

But other members of the team said the fracture was the work of Carter's team when they removed the mummy from the coffin. "They argue that if such a fracture had been suffered in life, there would have been evidence for hemorrhage or hematoma present in the CT scan. They believe the embalming liquid was pushed into the fracture by Carter's team," the report said.

The team thinks it has found Tutankhamun's penis, which was present in the 1920s but had gone missing by the time of an examination in 1968. "Although they cannot be certain, the team believes that they have located (it) ... loose in the sand around the king's body," the report said.