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Tutankhamun

Death by Murder / Death by illness ?

 Ever since the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun there has been speculation about the king's death - was he a victim of the backlash against the Akhenaten / Amarna heresy? Had he been murdered to allow his courtiers access to the throne? Or was he a sickly young man whose genes had been affected by generations of in-breeding by previous Egyptian pharaohs?

The different views:
1. Murder
- In a recent book 'the Murder of Tutankhamun' by Bob Brier, a more sinister motive for Tutankhamun's death is suggested. Brier also uses his medical knowledge to look closer at the young King's skull ­ here he finds evidence that leads him to declare that these bumps and marks are the reason for Tutankhamun's early death (these same marks could most likely only be caused maliciously he argues ­ the area of the head which was damaged could only have been reached by someone who had ready access to the King, a servant for example. Interestingly both Ay and Horemheb have left literary works denying themselves of any wrong doing ­ a text from Horemheb's statue warns 'Egyptian brothers, don't ever forget what foreigners did to our king Tutankhamun' ­ which does indicate that Tutankhamun was indeed murdered!).

the arrow marks the location of the blow to the head

2. Accidental - Marks and damage to Tutankhamun's skull and subsequent death were caused accidentally ­ the usual romantic idea being a chariot accident.

However there are signs that these bumps show sign of healing, other damage to the skull could purely be caused during the embalming procedure.

3. Tutankhamun was poisoned. This latest theory comes from the Egyptian state information service -
the information is very sketchy: 'Forensic examination carried out . Reveal that he (Tutankhamun) was poisoned and it is now suggested that the blow to the back of the head might have happened after his death, during mummification. There is even a suspect named ­ Tutu (or Dudu) who first appears as an official in the court of Amenhotep III, later in the court of Akhenaten and finally in that of Tutankhamun, Tutu is described as non-Egyptian, an unsavoury character who caused friction.
(A link to the Egyptian state information service is available on the LINKS page).

4. Death by illness?
This is my own pure speculation ­ several images of Tutankhamun found in his tomb show a young man with his young queen, but the same images also show him in several cases to be seated or resting on a walking stick:

 

Further images of a sitting Tutankhamun - including hunting while seated (above)



Of course the images of Akhenaten (Tutankhamun's possible father or brother) found at Amarna also show a king seated being served by his wife. Also there are images of Tutankhamun from his tomb which do show an active king (mowing down the enemies of Egypt in his chariot for example) ­ but there could be a case for a sickly young Tutankhamun who was never destined to rule far beyond a few short years ­ who would not die from a blow to the back of the head, from a chariot fall or from a foreign zealot but from illness.

Could the image of Smenkhkare in fact be that of Tutankhamun? ­ Another king leaning on a walking stick? Or a mistaken identification?