November 14th, 2004

CNN.com – X-ray attempt to find out why Tutankhamen died – Nov 13, 2004

CAIRO, Egypt (Reuters) — Egypt plans to X-ray the mummy of Tutankhamen to find out what killed the king who ruled Egypt more than 3,000 years ago and died while only a teenager.

Archaeologists will move Tutankhamen’s body from its tomb, which was discovered packed with treasure in 1922, to Cairo for tests which should resolve the mystery over whether he died naturally or was murdered.

“We will know about any diseases he had, any kind of injuries and his real age,” Egyptian antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told Reuters. “We will know the answer to whether he died normally or was he killed.”

The mummy would be moved by the end of November and the CAT scan, which will produce a three-dimensional X-ray of his remains, completed by the end of the year, he said.

Tutankhamen’s treasures, including a stunning gold mask which covered the head of his mummy, were removed from the tomb in Luxor’s Valley of the Kings by British archaeologist Howard Carter. They are usually on show in the Cairo Museum.

But his mummified remains were left in the tomb in a stone coffin. Archaeologists last opened the coffin in 1968, when an X-ray revealed a chip of bone in his skull.

That fueled speculation that a blow to the head had killed the king, whose high priest and army commander have been singled out as chief suspects.

“No one has seen the mummy since 1968,” Hawass said.

The three-dimensional X-ray of what appears to be a fracture would show whether it had been caused by a blow to the head, said Brando Quilici, a film maker with National Geographic, which is partly sponsoring the research.

Hawass said Tutankhamen’s mummy had largely been smashed to pieces by Carter’s expedition, when tools were used to remove the king’s gold mask from his body. The mask had been firmly attached to the mummy by resin, he said.

But that would not hinder the research.

“Even if it just bone, we can examine each bone,” he said.

Hawass said he would like Tutankhamen’s mummy to go back to its tomb after the completion of the research.

Mystery has surrounded Tutankhamen since the discovery of his tomb. Lord Carnarvon, Carter’s sponsor and among the first to enter the tomb, died shortly afterward from an infected mosquito bite.

Newspapers at the time said Carter had unleashed a Pharaonic curse which killed Carnarvon and others linked to the discovery.

Scientists have in the past suggested that a disease lying dormant in the tomb may have killed the British aristocrat.

It doesn’t get any better than this: two great things going together. Now, if only we could have Dr. Victor Lubek thrown into the mix….

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