How Did King Tut Die? Directions: The following slides contain evidence as to how King Tut died. Read each slide carefully and do your own investigating into this mystery. Decide for yourself which evidence is the most convincing. After reading all of the evidence, download the King Tut Evidence Organizer from the English Downloads Page and fill out the chart. Good luck!
Exhibit A: X-Ray of Broken Leg This original x-ray scan was taken in 1968. The femur is clearly broken; however scientists debate if this injury was the “death blow” that killed the young pharaoh. Could a broken leg have killed a 19 year old boy? Possible theories: The broken femur became infected with gangrene which lead to the death of Tut. There were no antibiotics to cure infections 3,000 years ago. Plus, the break was jagged indicating an accident (perhaps a fall). Explore here Howard Carter may have broken this bone during the initial excavation. Also, a fall from a moving chariot would have caused multiple injuries to his arms and legs. Finally, there is no “soft tissue evidence” that clearly suggests an infection. Explore here
Exhibit B: Skull X-Ray The 1969 x-ray you see here has caused a tremendous debate among historians. Could Tut have been assaulted or was the pharaoh’s skull trauma simply another example of Howard Carter’s poor excavation skills? Possible theories: The small fragment found within the skull was probably caused during the embalming or excavation process. The brains were typically removed through the nose by breaking a small bone in the nose. Explore here The bone fragment is irrelevant. The real issue is the density/dark area near the base of the skull which indicates ‘foul play’. Some scientists believe this x-ray shows a hematoma (blood clotting) where the skull meets the neck. A fall would not have damaged this protected region. Explore here
Exhibit C: King Tut’s Tomb Tutankhamen’s remains were placed in the Valley of the Kings by his successor Aye (who oversaw the burial). His tomb was filled with four rooms of cluttered treasure. Was his tomb left in disarray by Aye, Howard Carter or possible tomb robbers? Possible theories: Tut’s belongings were looted (more than once) by tomb robbers before Howard Carter’s discovery. Thieves were most likely the culprits of the mess. Explore here Most of the tomb was cluttered and disorganized. Also, the mummy seemed rushed and was hacked to fit inside the sarcophagus. Even the embalming of Tut’s body was poorly done. Aye oversaw the entire burial and frankly, did a poor job. Explore here
Exhibit D: Ankhesenamun Letters Letter to Suppiluliumas "Why do you say 'They are trying to deceive me?' If I had a son, should I write to a foreign country in a manner humiliating to me and to my country? You do not believe me and you even say so to me! He who was my husband is dead and I have no son. Should I then perhaps take one of my servants and make of him my husband? I have written to no other country, I have written to you. They say that you have many sons. Give me one of your sons and he will be my husband and lord of the land of Egypt.” - Author Unknown Someone in Egypt sent letters to the Hittite King asking for help. Who wrote them and why? Why would Ankhesenamun try to stop her grandfather Aye from taking the throne? Possible theories: The true author cannot be proven. Some historians believe the letter was written by Nefertiti after her husband Akhenaten died. Regardless, the letter does not point to a murderer. Explore here There were two legitimate successors to the throne during the time of Nefertiti. Most agree that the author was Ankhesenamun because Suppiluliumas sent his son to Egypt around the same time as Tut’s death. Sadly, the Hittite prince was assassinated on route to Egypt. Aye became the new pharaoh and worse, Ankhesenamun was forced to marry her grandfather. She “disappeared” shortly thereafter. Explore here
Exhibit E: CT Scan This CT scan was taken by a team of archaeologists in 2005. Possible theories: The CT scan shows no physical evidence of the hematoma that was claimed from the 1965 X-ray. The base of the skull looks quite healthy. Explore here King Tut’s death is still unclear. This only proves that a blow to the back of the head was not the ultimate cause of his death. He could have been knocked unconscious then stabbed; perhaps even poisoned. Explore here
Exhibit F: Mummification Many unconventional techniques were used on King Tut’s mummy. Why were his sternum, ribs and heart removed? Why was he missing the sacred scarab over his chest? Possible theories: Tut’s tomb had been robbed before. Thieves (or Howard Carter) could have easily stolen the precious amulet. Second, it is unclear who removed the ribs and sternum; however Carter makes no mention of missing bones in his notes. Explore here Howard Carter was not a thief. He spent 10 years cataloguing Tut’s priceless treasures. Carter did not accumulate any substantial wealth from his 1922 discover. Second, Egyptians believed the heart was the most sacred part of a person’s body. Hearts held the Ba (soul) which would be judged in the afterlife. Aye is responsible for this travesty because (Tut’s successor) oversaw the embalming and mummification. Explore here
Exhibit G: Advanced Genetic Testing Did King Tut contract the common Malaria virus and die? Medical researchers and Egyptologists have concluded that Tut contracted Malaria which caused his death. The researchers found evidence, in his DNA, of the virus. Read how researchers came to this conclusion. Go to the English Downloads page and look for the link to the New York Times Article to read more about this.
How Did King Tut Die? Directions: You will begin to prepare your persuasive essay by choosing the evidence that you think is the most believable. In the table to the right, rank the evidence in order of truthfulness and strength. Use numbers 1-7 with 1 being the strongest evidence. Then, jot down notes to explain why this evidence is strong. After briefly filling the table out, go the downloads page to download the King Tut Evidence Organizer.