Science at home: The Story of King Tut continues

by Katie Bowell, Curator of Cultural Interpretation

King Tut’s Mask

In a study released on Tuesday, February 16th, researchers reveal the results of their “molecular Egpytology” – an analysis of DNA extracted from the bones of 11 Egyptian mummies, including King Tutankhamen.

King Tutankhamen (“Tut,” for short), ruled Egypt from 1333 B.C. to 1324 B.C as part of the 18th Dynasty. He became King when he was only nine, and ruled for approximately ten years.  Tutankhamen is arguably the best-known of the Egyptian pharaohs, largely because his tomb was one of the few not vandalized by grave robbers before being excavated in 1922 by archaeologist Howard Carter. Artifacts from his tomb have been exhibited all over the world.

While Tutankhamen may be the best-known pharaoh, there’s still a lot about him that remains unknown. One of the biggest questions has always been: how did he die? Several theories have been proposed over the years, including skull trauma, a gangrene infection, and even murder. The molecular findings released yesterday point to a combination of malaria and avascular bone necrosis, a condition in which areas of bone are weakened because they don’t get enough blood, as the cause of Tutankhamen’s death.

In addition, the DNA analysis challenges a theory about the Egyptian royal family’s appearance. Wall paintings and statues of royals from the 18th Dynasty depict Tutankhamen and his relatives with often feminized or androgynous appearances. This lead scientists to suspect that genetic abnormalities such as Marfan syndrome were common within the heavily inbred family. However, the latest research shows no evidence of syndromes that would cause those physical appearances. It’s seems more likely that the members of the Egyptian royal family were simply having themselves portrayed in an idealized fashion.


February 2010
« Jan   Mar »

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 48 other followers

Flickr Photos


%d bloggers like this: