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King Tut's Death

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  • Yigal Levin
    ... ======================================== Experts Seek King Tut s Cause of Death By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: January 5, 2005 Filed at 6:33 p.m. ET
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2005
      >From <http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/science/AP-Scanning-Tuts-Tomb.html>

      Experts Seek King Tut's Cause of Death

      Published: January 5, 2005

      Filed at 6:33 p.m. ET

      LUXOR, Egypt (AP) -- A team of researchers briefly removed King Tut's mummy
      from its tomb Wednesday and laid bare his bones for a CT scan that could
      solve an enduring mystery: Was it murder or natural causes that killed
      Egypt's boy pharaoh 3,000 years ago?

      Tut's toes and fingers and an eerie outline of his face could be seen as the
      mummy, resting in a box to protect it, was placed inside the machine in a
      specially equipped van parked near his underground tomb in the famed Valley
      of the Kings.

      The 1,700 images taken during the 15-minute CT scan could answer many of the
      mysteries that shroud King Tutankhamun's life and death -- including his
      royal lineage, his exact age at the time of his death -- now estimated at
      17 -- and the reason he died.

      A simpler X-ray done 36 years ago showed bone fragments inside the skull of
      Tut -- who was buried in a ``hurried'' fashion in a glitter of gold
      treasures, said Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief archaeologist. But that previous
      test wasn't sophisticated enough to determine if the bone fragments
      signified a blow to the head.

      The CT scan, in contrast, will provide a far more detailed,
      three-dimensional view of the scattered bones and coverings that make up
      Tut's mummy.

      CT imaging has been used for numerous Egyptian mummies in the past,
      including one of famed pharoah Ramses I. It also was used on the
      5,200-year-old remains of a Copper Age man found frozen in 1991 in a glacier
      in the northern Italian Alps. In that case, CT imaging picked up what
      simpler X-rays had failed to identify -- an arrowhead in the iceman's body
      that possibly killed him.

      Hawass, part of the 10-man team that conducted Wednesday's tests, said the
      results of the Tut scan will be announced later this month in Cairo.

      ``There are so many stories about his death and his age,'' Hawass said.
      ``Today we will determine what really happened.''

      The removal of the mummy from its tomb -- the first time in 82 years -- also
      showed that it's in bad condition, Hawass said, adding that Egyptian
      officials will begin a ``process of restoration to protect and preserve

      After the scan the mummy was returned to the tomb, where all restoration
      will be done, he said.

      The short life of Tutankhamun has fascinated people since his tomb was
      discovered in 1922 by a British archaeologist, revealing a trove of fabulous
      treasures in gold and precious stones that showed the wealth and
      craftsmanship of the Pharaonic court.

      A U.S. museum tour a quarter-century ago of Tut's treasures drew more than 8
      million people. A smaller number of treasures -- minus Tut's famous gold
      mask -- will again go on display in the United States starting June 16 in
      Los Angeles, after touring Germany and Switzerland.

      The decision to allow the exhibit was a reversal of an Egyptian policy set
      in the 1980s that confined most of the objects to Egypt, after several
      pieces were damaged on international tour.

      Archaeologists have long wondered if Tut was murdered. Hawass said one
      factor was that the conditions of his burial in the tomb seemed ``hurried.''

      Tutankhamun ruled about 3,300 years ago and is believed to have been the
      12th ruler of ancient Egypt's 18th dynasty. He ascended to the throne at
      about the age of 8 and died around 1323 B.C.

      Tut's lineage also has long been in question. It's unclear if he is the son
      or a half-brother of Akhenaten, the ``heretic'' pharaoh who introduced a
      revolutionary form of monotheism to ancient Egypt and who was the son of
      Amenhotep III.

      The CT scan, conducted under rare cloudy skies in the valley on the Nile's
      west bank, began with the removal of the wooden box that holds Tut's mummy
      from underneath a stone sarcophagus in the underground tomb. Tourists to the
      tomb see only that stone covering.

      The box holding the mummy was then carried up stone steps out of the vault.
      Coverings, which appeared to be insulation-like material, were then pulled
      back. The blackened mummy, still resting in the box to protect it, was then
      inserted into the CT machine.

      The machine, brought from Germany, was donated by Siemens and National
      Geographic, Hawass said.

      National Geographic Executive Vice President Terry Garcia said his
      organization would fund the project for about five years, during which many
      Egyptian mummies would be scanned to determine how best to preserve them and
      learn more about their health before they died. A documentary is also in the

      ``The most pressing purpose of this work is conservation, and through the
      imaging work we can determine what steps might be necessary to conserve
      them,'' Garcia said. ``Then we will also be trying to get a better picture
      of health and disease in ancient Egypt.''

      Egyptian officials had previously announced they were planning the tests,
      but did not give a date or inform most media ahead of time. Hawass has given
      exclusive rights to film archaeological events to certain media in the past
      in return for financial assistance or research help.

      The mummy had not left the tomb since the British archaeologist Howard
      Carter excavated the tomb 82 years ago. Hawass said Carter's team damaged
      the mummy when they used sharp tools to prize off the famous gold and blue

      The team of examiners included medical doctors who operated the machine,
      senior antiquities officials and restoration experts.

      Plans for the examination had raised a row among archaeologists and
      officials in Egypt, who insisted the mummy not be taken from Luxor, and that
      the research be done by Egyptians. The researchers originally planned to
      move the mummy to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo for examination, but altered
      that after the outcry.
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