Archaeologist: King Tut Died... While Chariot Racing


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His discovery captivated the world, and from 1922 on, discoverers Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter would become the most famous (and, allegedly, accursed) Egyptologists until their mysterious deaths. Over 20 people associated with the famous discovery of King Tutankhamen's earthly remains died in mysterious ways, often attributed to "the curse of Tutankhamen" and the supernatural power of the ancient Egyptian people.

Now, a new team has examined King Tut's mummy, and those researchers have concluded based on his injuries that he died in a chariot-racing accident. Beyond that, the mummy's terrible condition can be attributed to a chemical fire that resulted from a botched mummification effort.

The UK's Independent and Telegraph both report Dr. Chris Naunton, director of the Egypt Exploration Society, making the claim based on references to Tut's remains in Carter's original notes.

In those notes, Carter wrote about how scorched certain parts of the body appeared to be. X-ray images and samples of Tut himself taken in the late 1960's by anthropologist Dr. Robert Connolly assisted Naunton in his conclusions. When one of those samples (the only known piece of flesh belonging to Tut that wasn't located in Egypt) was put into a scanning electron microscope, it was revealed to have indeed been burned.

Chemical tests confirmed that the fire took place while Tut was inside the sarcophagus. The team hypothesizes that embalming oils, mixed with linen and oxygen, caused a chemical reaction that "cooked" Tut's corpse at over 200 degrees C.

"The charring and possibility that a botched mummification led the body spontaneously combusting shortly after burial was entirely unexpected, something of a revelation," Naunton said.

As to the cause of Tutankhamen's actual death, illness and accident were common speculations, based on a 2005 CAT scan showing a fractured and infected left leg and a 2010 DNA analysis showing malaria. The chariot-racing conclusion arrived when Tut's injuries were examined by car crash investigators who applied a series of variables to a computer simulation.

The simulation itself told a story of the accident that robbed him of life. According to the results, Tut was on his knees when he was struck by a fast-moving chariot; it shattered his ribs and pelvis, and his heart was crushed by the impact.

[Image via Wikimedia Commons]