The mystery of King Tutankhamen's death 'solved'
It has taken thousands of years, but a combination of 21st-century
forensic science and luck has finally revealed what happened to
Tutankhamun - the world's most famous pharaoh.
Mystery has surrounded the boy king ever since his death in 1323BC,
aged 19. The mystery intensified when the archaeologist Lord Carnarvon
died in Cairo shortly after he and Howard Carter discovered
Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922.
Now experts think they have solved the riddle of the king's death.
They believe injuries on his body are akin to those sustained in a
chariot accident and that his mummification was botched. Dr Chris
Naunton, director of the Egypt Exploration Society, was intrigued when
he came across references in Carter's records of the body having been
burnt. A clue came from Dr Robert Connolly, an anthropologist at
Liverpool University, who was part of the team that X-rayed
Tutankhamen's remains in 1968. Among the bones in his office he recently
found a piece of the pharaoh's flesh - the only known sample outside
Working with forensic archaeologist Dr Matthew Ponting, Dr Connolly
used a scanning electron microscope to determine that the flesh had been
Subsequent chemical tests confirmed that Tutankhamen's body was burnt
while sealed inside his coffin. Researchers discovered that embalming
oils combined with oxygen and linen caused a chemical reaction which
"cooked" the king's body at temperatures of more than 200C. Dr Chris
Naunton said: "The charring and possibility that a botched mummification
led the body spontaneously combusting shortly after burial was entirely
unexpected, something of a revelation."
Working with scientists from the Cranfield Forensic Institute,
researchers performed a "virtual autopsy" which revealed a pattern of
injuries down one side of his body. Their investigation also explains
why King Tut's mummy was the only pharaoh to be missing its heart: it
had been damaged beyond repair. The pharaoh's injuries have been matched
to a specific scenario - with car-crash investigators creating computer
simulations of chariot accidents. The results suggest a chariot smashed
into him while he was on his knees - shattering his ribs and pelvis and
crushing his heart.
- The Independent