Friday, August 26, 2005

Tut: The Final Conclusion

Tutankhamun, the famous boy-king of ancient Egypt, is famous for a few things: his parentage, short life and short reign; his world-famous funerary treasures; the "mummy's curse" and the rumours about his death.

Especially about his death.

He lived in a very screwed-up time (one of many) in ancient Egypt, no thanks to his predecessor, Akhenaten, who dismantled a centuries-old social order and nearly caused the country's collapse. So hated was Akhenaten and his bloodline that great measures were taken to erase them from history. The gaps in this time frame, dubbed the Amarna period, left plenty of room for scholars to explore - and pad.

For a while, the juiciest theory about his death was that of murder; Tut's vizier may have plotted his king's death and married the royal widow to seize the throne. In order to prove or disprove this theory, Tut's tomb and his mummy have been thoroughly examined. The initial findings seemed to prove the murder theory. Along with clues of a hasty burial, possible genetic defects and court intrigue, the "murder mystery" continued to tantalise many for years.

Early this year however, the Egyptians decided to conduct their own investigation (covered in the National Geographic documentary, Tut: Resurrected) with the help of CT scans. They concluded that Tut's death was caused by something more mundane: an infected knee fracture. Tomb paintings show that Tut was an avid outdoorsman, and that he fought in a battle. In either case, an accident or an enemy caused the wound that ultimately killed him.

Pretty convenient, I'd say.

When he was first found, Tut was "glued" into his coffin by the unguents used to mummify him, so a "Dr" Douglas Derry freed Tut from the coffin - by cutting him into pieces. That certainly didn't help those who would autopsy him in the future, nor did it improve the overall condition of the mummy. When they laid eyes on Tut, the Egyptian team was shocked to note the damage Derry had done, and the subsequent deterioration of his mummy.

Were the more plausible findings released to snuff out the wilder theories regarding Tut - along with any future exhumations - and allow him to finally rest in peace?