Tutankhamen’s Cause of Death

All the mysteries of human history fade in comparison with the greatness of Egyptian civilization. It continues to surprise and impress not only tourists but also famous scholars. The findings in Tutankhamen’s tomb impressed the entire world at the beginning of the 20th century. However, it was only an introduction to new discoveries, revelations, and speculations. The cause of the king’s death was the subject of an extensive investigation, which did not introduce any versions proposing many doubtful hypotheses instead. Some scholars believed that the pharaoh was killed, and the others considered the idea of malaria, though the Dynasty having genetic disorders was the most surprising theory. Different methods of diagnosis and the most modern technical means cannot resist the destructive power of time. Although, the contemporary scientific innovations can give essential and accurate data, there is no certain specific conclusion concerning Tutankhamen’s death.

The investigators of Egyptian history proposed the two most appropriate theories of the pharaoh’s death: a genetic disorder and malaria infection. The climate of Egypt, a contributing factor in malaria transmission, had a harmful effect even on the representatives of the royal family. Malaria killed about 1000 people in the state, and the cause of the disease was a simple mosquito bite. Actually, no one could be protected from the disease, not even the pharaoh. Therefore, some external factors could have caused a sudden death of a young healthy man. Thus, the scientists conducted genetic investigations and confirmed the following: “The HbS mutation that causes sickle cell disease may occur either in a homozygous genotype or in combined heterozygosity together with a wide range of mutations characteristic for beta-thalassaemias” (Timman & Meyer, 2010). The autopsy of the king’s mummy revealed multiple mutations and modifications on the cell level, which were possible in case of malaria. However, during the tests, the researches noticed some obvious features of a possible chronic illness or genetic disorder. The external body characteristics and the statues of his father illustrated some physical pathologies that could be the reason for those theories. The appearance of both Tutankhamen and his father Amenhotep was quite androgynous. Thus, the scholars proposed that Marfan syndrome could explain the appearance of the members of the royal family and its inheriting factor (Hawass et al., 2010). Moreover, the complicated form of the disease could have provoked his early death.

Nevertheless, other scientists proposed a different hypothesis, and it seemed to be the most convincing one: a murder. In 1998, the book The Murder of Tutankhamen proposed a theory of intentional homicide of the young king of Egypt (Brier, 1998). The book was translated into more than a dozen languages provoking new interest in the subject of Tutankhamen’s death (Brier, 1998). The scientists investigated many interesting and mysterious circumstances, which had a direct connection to a possible unnatural death. First, the arrangement of the king’s tomb was not typical of ancient traditions. It created an impression that all the funeral ceremonies and rituals were performed in a hurry. The scholars assumed that the possible killer organized the king’s death far away from the capital city and tried to hide all the facts and evidence. Moreover, the young king’s mummy had evidential confirmation of that theory. The scientists noticed some signs of trauma to the back of the skull. The skull being damaged could have possibly resulted in a sudden death or lethal outcome later (Brier, 1998). Egyptian traditions demanded appropriate preparation of the body before the funerals. The dead had to be mummified in accordance with important religious rituals that could last 2 month or more. However, the investigations confirmed that the body of Tutankhamen was not processed properly (Brier, 1998). Brier admitted also that the archeologists noticed that the tomb was obviously prepared for a woman (1998). The items in the funeral chamber could belong to his mother or a wife but not to the king. In addition to all those evidential facts, the historians admitted that there were many motives for the murder of the pharaoh. He was too young and incompetent compared to the famous ancient military leader Horemheb who was a better candidate (Brier, 1998). Horemheb started his career during the rule of Tutankhamen’s father Amenhotep IV; however, he did not accept his religious reformations. A well-known priest Aye supported Horemheb because the innovations of Amenhotep IV limited the influence of Aye in the governmental sphere. It could have been a significant reason for a riot against the incompetent king’s rule. In addition, there were many other essential details and facts confirming the possibility of the young king being murdered. Thus, this theory is the most acceptable. Of course, it does not reject Tutankhamen’s possible genetic disorders or infectious disease. However, the arrangement of the king’s funeral, the tomb, Tutankhamen’s mummy preparation, the damage to his skull, and the political circumstances in the country make the theory of Tutankhamen’s murder the most convincing one.

To conclude, the death of Tutankhamen was the subject for multiple arguments and it resulted in the variety of theories and hypotheses. Some of them were worth investigating because of the convincing argumentation. On the one hand, the tests on the mummy proved that the king’s physical condition was inherited from his father, thus confirming the genetic disorder theory. However, the mutations on the cell level could have been provoked by malaria infection. On the other hand, these theories were not properly confirmed. It gave a reason to believe that the young king was killed since numerous facts support this claim.

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