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Archive for Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Research reveals King Tut died of malaria, broken leg

February 17, 2010

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The golden mask of King Tutankhamun is displayed in Cairo.

The golden mask of King Tutankhamun is displayed in Cairo.

— Egypt’s most famous pharaoh, King Tutankhamun, was a frail boy who suffered from a cleft palate and club foot. He died of complications from a broken leg exacerbated by malaria and his parents were most likely brother and sister.

Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on Tut’s 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others are helping end many of the myths surrounding the boy king. While a comparatively minor ruler, he has captivated the public since the 1922 discovery of his tomb, which was filled with a stunning array of jewels and artifacts, including a golden funeral mask.

The study, which will be published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, provides the firmest family tree yet for Tut. The tests pointed to Pharaoh Akhenaten, who tried to revolutionize ancient Egyptian religion to worship one god, as Tut’s father. His mother was one of Akhenaten’s sisters, it said.

Tut, who became pharaoh at age 10 in 1333 B.C., ruled for just nine years at a pivotal time in Egypt’s history. Speculation has long swirled over his death at 19. A hole in his skull fueled speculation he was murdered, until a CT scan ruled that out, finding the hole was likely from the mummification process.

Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan, said some of King Tut’s ailments, including his bone disease, likely were the result of his parents’ incestuous marriage.

The study noted that 130 walking sticks and canes were discovered in Tut’s tomb; some of them appeared to have been used.

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