Deborah Jackson

Friday, June 10, 2011

And so . . . the Speculation of King Tut's Demise Continues

How did the young king die? Head injury, an infected broken leg, malaria, sickle-cell anemia? Still nothing has been resolved. But a recent twitter that married microbiology with historical/archaeological investigations added a new twist.

Microbes found in the tomb, dried, dead, unidentifiable, suggest that the king was buried in a hurry. Dr. Getty examined brown spots, "which had seeped into the paint and plaster at a molecular level." But try as he might, after analysis, he was unable to match the spots to living specimens of bacteria or fungi. They're dead, like Tut. So the only thing they might mean is that they died long ago and were likely introduced at the time of his death, suggesting that the paint had not dried before the tomb was sealed.

It seems that all we can do with Tut is speculate. Archaeology, pathology, and now historical microbiology, provide us with clues, but we may never know what really happened. But isn't that fodder for stories? Lovely, spine-tingling mysteries?

Tuthmosis III most likely died from a parasitic infection. I wrote a story about him, which I haven't released yet, and I used that information to create some authenticity. Then I intertwined it with mythology, to make it more intriguing. After all, what is so fascinating about a king, one of Egypt's greatest warriors, dying in such a mundane fashion?

King Tut is fascinating because his body still exists after 3000 years, his treasure was the greatest ever found, and the tale of the discovery of his tomb is equally spellbinding. But of the boy-king and his accomplishments, there is nothing much to tell. He changed the religion from the worship of Aten, begun by Akhenaten, his father, back to the original worship of Egypt's pantheon of gods. He ordered some monuments constructed and ran some military campaigns, or rather, his advisers did. But in all honesty this king secured a place in history not because of what he accomplished, but because of what he left behind.

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