King Tut may be seen as the golden boy of ancient Egypt today, but during his reign, Tutankhamun wasn't exactly a strapping sun god.
Instead, a new DNA study says, King Tut was a frail pharaoh, beset by malaria and a bone disordera€”his health possibly compromised by his newly discovered incestuous origins. Regarding the revelation that King Tut's mother and father were brother and sister, Pusch said, "Inbreeding is not an advantage for biological or genetic fitness. Despite his brief reign, King Tut is perhaps Egypt's best known pharaoh because of the wealth of treasuresa€”including a solid gold death maska€”found during the surprise discovery of his intact tomb in 1922. The new study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, marks the first time the Egyptian government has allowed genetic studies to be performed using royal mummies. In the new study, the mummies of King Tut and ten other royals that researchers have long suspected were his close relatives were examined. Using DNA samples taken from the mummies' bones, the scientists were able to create a five-generation family tree for the boy pharaoh. The team looked for shared genetic sequences in the Y chromosomea€”a bundle of DNA passed only from father to sona€”to identify King Tut's male ancestors. Furthermore, the mummy known as KV35 was King Tut's grandfather, the pharaoh Amenhotep III, whose reign was marked by unprecedented prosperity. Preliminary DNA evidence also indicates that two stillborn fetuses entombed with King Tut when he died were daughters whom he likely fathered with his chief queen Ankhensenamun, whose mummy may also have finally been identified. Also, a mummy previously known as the Elder Lady is Queen Tiye, King Tut's grandmother and wife of Amenhotep III. While the body of King Tut's mother has finally been revealed, her identity remains a mystery. Some Egyptologists have speculated that King Tut's mother was Akhenaten's chief wife, Queen Nefertitia€”made famous by an iconic bust (Nefertiti-bust picture). Instead, the sister with whom Akenhaten fathered King Tut may have been a minor wife or concubine, which would not have been unusual, said Willeke Wendrich, a UCLA Egyptologist who was not involved in the study. The team's examination of King Tut's body also revealed previously unknown deformations in the king's left foot, caused by the necrosis, or death, of bone tissue.
The affliction would have been painful and forced King Tut to walk with a canea€”many of which were found in his tomba€”but it would not have been life threatening.
The scientists found DNA from the mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria in the young pharaoh's bodya€”the oldest known genetic proof of the disease.
The team found more than one strain of malaria parasite, indicating that King Tut caught multiple malarial infections during his life.
The malaria would have weakened King Tut's immune system and interfered with the healing of his foot.
Until now the best guesses as to how King Tut died have included a hunting accident, a blood infection, a blow to the head, and poisoning. Another speculation apparently laid to rest by the new study is that Akhenaten had a genetic disorder that caused him to develop the feminine features seen in his statutes, including wide hips, a potbelly, and the female-like breasts associated with the condition gynecomastia.
When the team analyzed Akhenaten's body using medical scanners, no evidence of such abnormalities were found. In his book Tutankhamun's Armies, Darnell proposes that Akhenaten's androgynous appearance in art was an attempt to associate himself with Aten, the original creator god in Egyptian theology, who was neither male nor female. The generally good condition of the DNA from the royal mummies of King Tut's family surprised many members of the team.
Indeed, its quality was better than DNA gathered from nonroyal Egyptian mummies several centuries younger, study co-author Pusch said. The team suspects that the embalming method the ancient Egyptians used to preserve the royal mummies inadvertently protected DNA as well as flesh. After two nights of tests in the Valley of the Kings, new evidence reinforces the theory that undiscovered rooms may lie behind the painted walls. Hirokatsu Watanabe, a radar specialist from Japan, pushes his specially modified Koden-brand machine along the north wall of Tutankhamuna€™s burial chamber.
The results, announced Saturday morning at a news conference in Luxor, bolster the theory of Nicholas Reeves, a British archaeologist who believes that the tomb contains another royal burial. On Friday, Eldamaty stood next to that wall, which is painted with a scene depicting the burial rituals of the boy pharaoh, who ruled in the 14th century B.C. The scansa€”conducted by Hirokatsu Watanabe, a Japanese radar specialista€” also provide evidence of a second hidden doorway in the adjoining west wall. WATCH: New evidence supports the theory that King Tut's tomb has a hidden chamber, according to experts who this week completed the first-ever radar scanning of walls inside. The first scans in the tomb happened to be scheduled for Thanksgiving, and they began at dusk, after the tourists had left and the Valley of the Kings had fallen silent. By 7 oa€™clock, Watanabe seemed re-energized, and he was ready to scan the west wall of the burial chamber, which Reeves believes contains a blocked-in doorway. Watanabe, Mamdouh Eldamaty, the Egyptian antiquities minister, and archaeologists Nicholas Reeves and Yumiko Ueno study an image of a painted wall scene.
Slowly, Watanabe began to push the trolley at a distance of five to seven centimeters from the wall, watching a computer screen that was perched on top. From the beginning, the current investigation of the tomb of Tutankhamun has been driven by high technology. In 2009, a Madrid-based team of conservators and artists called Factum Arte began conducting high-resolution laser scans of the tomb. The Factum Arte scans portrayed the texture of the walls in black and white, without the distraction of the scenes. For years Reeves has believed that Nefertiti outlived her husband and became pharaoh, at which point her name changed to Smenkhkare. When Reeves combined this research with what he noticed on the Factum Arte scans, he believed that it all told the same story: Nefertiti had become pharaoh after Akhenaten and had been buried in a tomb that was then hastily adapted for Tutankhamun, who died suddenly when he was 19 years old.
In late September, Eldamaty, Reeves, and others conducted a careful examination of the tomb and found features that support the theory.
Pointing to his computer screen, Watanabe explains the multicolored bars that represent radar data used to determine the material structure of the walls. With all the hope for some positive attention, the pressure has been evident on everybody who is involved in the Tutankhamun investigation. After the aborted scan, Watanabe tinkered with the radar machine and decided that he didna€™t need the string after all. After he was finished, he studied the multicolored bars that ran across the computer screen.
Standing next to the north wall, Reeves and Eldamaty looked relieved, although both said they wanted to wait for Watanabe to analyze his data.
After Watanabe was finished, he exited the tomb, and there in the Valley of the Kings, standing under a full moon, he threw up from exhaustion. The next day, Eldamaty and Reeves confirmed that the initial analysis of the data was extremely encouraging.
When I spoke with Ray Johnson, the director of the Chicago House, an epigraphic research center of the University of Chicago that is based in Luxor, he told me that most people in the field are intrigued by Reevesa€™s work, with some reservations about his conjecture that Nefertiti might be entombed there. In recent years, Johnsona€™s research has also provided compelling evidence that Nefertiti was a pharaoh. Eldamaty told me that if the evidence continues to build, in the future they probably will penetrate one of the hidden chambers by drilling a small hole in the wall of the side room that is known as the Treasury. On Thursday, after the radar scans were finished, the observers spontaneously broke into applause.
The north wall depicts the a€?opening the moutha€? ceremony, a traditional practice in which the new ruler uses an adze, a ceremonial tool, to open the mouth of the previous kinga€™s mummy, a ritual that now seems strange and exotic. Afterwards, while I was standing next to Tutankhamuna€™s mummy, Reeves wandered over, looking exhausted but happy. Inside King Tuts subterranean burial chamber, Zahi Hawass, head of Egypts Supreme Council of Antiquities, removes padding to reveal the boy king's remains.
Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. As evidence, they cite an x-ray taken in 1968, which shows a fragment of bone in the skull cavity—emptied by embalmers, according to custom. The maturity of the skeleton and wisdom teeth confirms that Tut was about 19 years old when he died. Supporters of such possibilities point to Tut’s mangled chest, with its breastbone missing and much of the front rib cage cut out. Carved into the Valley of the Kings, Tut’s tomb hid his mummy and funerary regalia until archaeologist Howard Carter revealed its contents to world acclaim. Scenes infused with magical powers surround Tut’s burial chamber and map out his journey to the next world.

An angry wind stirred up ghostly dust devils as King Tut was taken from his resting place in the ancient Egyptian cemetery known as the Valley of the Kings. All afternoon the usual line of tourists from around the world had descended into the cramped, rock-cut tomb some 26 feet (8 meters) underground to pay their respects.
When the valley closed to the public at dusk, Egyptologists in jeans and laborers in long robes and turbans got to work. After months of carefully recording the pharaoh’s funerary treasures, Carter began investigating his three nested coffins. The sun can beat down like a hammer this far south in Egypt, and Carter tried to use it to loosen the resins. Archaeology has changed substantially in the intervening decades, focusing less on treasure and more on the fascinating details of life and intriguing mysteries of death. Today diagnostic imaging can be done with computed tomography, or CT, by which hundreds of x-rays in cross section are put together like slices of bread to create a three-dimensional virtual body. After Akhenaten’s death, a mysterious ruler named Smenkhkare appeared briefly and exited with hardly a trace.
Egyptologists put little stock in conspiracy theories, but tales of intrigue have captured the imagination of countless King Tut sleuths, who cite the circumstantial evidence against Aye, Horemheb, and even Tut’s wife, Ankhesenamun, as well as clues from the burial.
Regardless of his fame and the speculations about his fate, Tut is one mummy among many in Egypt.
By the time we left the trailer, descending metal stairs to the sandy ground, the wind had stopped.
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It apparently solves several mysteries surrounding King Tut, including how he died and who his parents were. Normally the health and immune system are reduced and malformations increase," he said. He ascended to the throne at the age of 9 but ruled for only ten years before dying at 19 around 1324 B.C. The researchers then determined parentage for the mummies by looking for signs that a mummy's genes are a blend of a specific couple's DNA. Akhenaten was best known for abolishing ancient Egypt's pantheon in favor of worshipping only one god. DNA studies show that she was the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye and thus was the full sister of her husband, Akhenaten. But the new findings seem to challenge this idea, because historical records do not indicate that Nefertiti and Akhenaten were related.
The strains belong to the parasite responsible for malaria tropica, the most virulent and deadly form of the disease. These factors, combined with the fracture in his left thighbone, which scientists had discovered in 2005, may have ultimately been what killed the young king, the authors write.
Hawass and his team concluded that the feminized features found in the statues of Akenhaten created during his reign were done for religious and political reasons. The hidden tomb, he has speculated, belongs to Nefertiti, King Tuta€™s mother-in-law, who may have ruled as a female pharaoh during Egypta€™s 18th Dynasty. There were around two dozen people in the tomb: Eldamaty, Reeves, Abbas Mohamed, an Egyptian professor of applied and environmental geophysics, a couple of journalists from the Egyptian state press, and film crews from National Geographic and Tokyo Broadcasting System Television.
He also said that radar would reveal much more than any other type of scan, and it was likely to track any blocked-over partition or doorway.
He fiddled with the machine for a moment, and then he called out in Japanese, a€?Can I have a piece of string?a€? Someone scurried off to get a rope. Their primary goal was to create an exact replicaa€”one of Factum Artea€™s core conservation principles is that high-tech facsimiles allow people to experience famous archaeological finds without damaging the originals by their presence. On the north and west walls of the burial chamber, Reeves noticed a series of perfectly straight vertical lines that seemed to correspond to the shape of partition walls and doorways. In July, Reeves published a papera€”a€?The Burial of Nefertiti?a€?a€”that laid out his ideas. Among other things, they noticed a chiseled line in the ceiling, and Eldamaty discovered a clear contrast in the surface texture of the north wall; both of these features correspond exactly to the markings of the Factum Arte scans.
Since the Egyptian revolution began in 2011, the economy has been decimated, and the country has struggled with political instability and violence.
On Thursday night, right before Watanabe began to scan the west wall of the burial chamber, Eldamaty was asked how he felt.
Watanabe is not an Egyptologist, and he had not studied Reevesa€™s ideas closely, but what he observed on the radar matched up. He hopes that thermographic scans, which Eldamaty plans to carry out again, might show that the queena€™s cartouches originally had been painted on the north wall, which would identify the tomb as intended for her.
It adjoins the possible corridor behind the north wall, and most important, it has no painted scenes that could be damaged.
I found myself standing next to the mummy of Tutankhamun, whose blackened, withered body rests beneath glass in a case at the far southern end of the tomb. But I wondered what Tutankhamun would have made of todaya€™s scene: a cluster of cameras and serious faces, all of them silently focused on a Japanese septuagenarian pushing a small cart along an underground wall.
Hawass led the team that used CT-scan data of the mummy to create the most accurate forensic reconstruction of the face of the pharaoh. The last heir of a powerful family that had ruled Egypt and its empire for centuries, he was laid to rest laden with gold and eventually forgotten. His teeth had no cavities, and though his palate had a small cleft, he was probably unaware of it. In addition, a painted wooden box shows him defending Egypt from its enemies, a symbolic scene but maybe based in truth. Though the peripheral rooms were looted in antiquity, the burial itself remained untouched. Dark-bellied clouds had scudded across the desert sky all day and now were veiling the stars in casket gray. They gazed at the murals on the walls of the burial chamber and peered at Tut’s gilded face, the most striking feature of his mummy-shaped outer coffin lid. Shouting directions and encouragements over the roar of fresh air being pumped into the tomb, they quickly attached ropes to the head and foot of the coffin lid and lifted it out of the sarcophagus.
Opening the first, he found a shroud adorned with garlands of willow and olive leaves, wild celery, lotus petals, and cornflowers, the faded evidence of a burial in March or April. For several hours he set the mummy outside in blazing sunshine that heated it to 149 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius).
If he hadn’t cut the mummy free, thieves most certainly would have circumvented the guards and ripped it apart to remove the gold. He was the last of his family’s line, and his funeral was the death rattle of a dynasty. His son Amenhotep IV succeeded him and initiated one of the strangest periods in the history of ancient Egypt. With power plays and intrigues surely seething around her, Tut’s widow, Ankhesenamun, appears to have launched a coup of her own, sending desperate letters to the king of the Hittites in Anatolia. An elder courtier named Aye, possibly Ankhesenamun’s grandfather, then became pharaoh. Did he conspire with the aged Aye to eliminate Tut and the Hittite prince, and then bide his time until Aye’s death? For starters, Tut’s tomb is unusually small for a king, and its contents were crammed in.
Like pallbearers they climbed a ramp and a flight of stairs into the swirling sand outside, then rose on a hydraulic lift into the trailer that held the scanner. After checking that no data had been lost, the technicians turned Tut over to the workmen, who carried him back to his tomb.
A gray head took shape from a scattering of pixels, and the technician spun and tilted it in every direction.
This programme follows an international team of Egyptologists as they investigate his burial. You can remove any cookies already stored on your computer, but these may prevent you from using parts of our website. But until the tests began on Thursday, the evidence ran no deeper than the surface of the walls.

Those scans revealed a number of features that appeared to be underground chambers, one of which turned out to be a tomb. The body and antenna normally sit on a small, wheeled trolley, pointing straight down; Watanabe commissioned a Japanese company to remove the radar, turn it sideways, and reattach it to the trolley.
I had the feeling that I was watching some strange performance art: All the attention in the room, and around ten cameras, were aimed at Watanabe, who moved with excruciating slowness, like an elderly man struggling to push a cart in a supermarket. But Factum Arte is also determined to support open scholarship, and they posted all of their scans online. Earlier in the 18th Dynasty, a royal widow named Hatshepsut became pharaoh and one of the most powerful figures of the period.
At that point, it became more than just a theorya€”there was physical evidence.Earlier this month, an Egyptian and French team conducted thermographic, or infrared, scans, and while the results seemed to indicate some structural irregularities in the walls that match Reevesa€™s theory, they were inconclusive, possibly because the room was too hot. The potential of an earth-shattering archaeological discovery has captured the imagination of government officials who are desperate for good news about Egypt. Barry Kemp, an archaeologist who has excavated for more than 30 years at Amarna, the royal city of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, once told me that he didna€™t like to use the word a€?religiona€? with regard to ancient Egypt because of its modern connotations. Since the discovery of his tomb in 1922, the modern world has speculated about what happened to him, with murder the most extreme possibility.
Some Egyptologists and amateur sleuths have long speculated that a stealthy foe murdered Tut by attacking him from behind. A cross section reveals two loose pieces of bone, as well as additional chips embedded in the embalming resins that line the top and back of the skull.
Nut, the sky goddess, welcomes Tut to the realm of the gods, and Osiris, god of the afterlife, embraces him along with his ka, or spiritual double.
And could it answer two of the biggest questions still lingering about him—how did he die, and how old was he at the time of his death? Was he an honorable official who stepped into the top job in the sudden absence of an heir?
Twenty minutes later two men emerged, sprinted for an office nearby, and returned with a pair of white plastic fans. Less than three hours after he was removed from his coffin, the pharaoh again rested in peace where the funerary priests had laid him so long ago. Radar scans had never previously been conducted in the tomb, and they represent a crucial step in the investigation. Hea€™s 73 and remarkably fit, but he had travelled 20 hours to reach Luxor, and the pressure of the job clearly weighed on him at the beginning. The material quickly caught the attention of Reeves, who at the time was working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Slowly, he began to consider other types of evidence: He analyzed the layout of the tomb, the various known features, and the scenes on the walls.
On Thursday, Mohammed Bedr, the governor of Luxor, arrived in the Valley of the Kings in a motorcade of police vehicles and black Jeeps. Thata€™s something that a lot of our colleagues have a problem with, being very specific about what may be behind any partition walls.a€? He continued, a€?But at the same time we accept the fact that if there are additional chambers found, therea€™s a possibility that they are storage chambers. If a camera reveals artifacts within, the ministry would likely have to investigate a way to safely remove the north wall and its paintings in order to access the chamber. He wonders if it should be considered more like science, or pseudo science, because it was such a fundamental underpinning of the world for ancient Egyptians, who may have accepted core concepts of faith as absolute truth. Now, leaving his tomb for the first time in almost 80 years, Tut has undergone a CT scan that offers new clues about his life and death—and provides precise data for an accurate forensic reconstruction of the boyish pharaoh. There, a CT machine scanned the mummy head to toe, creating 1,700 digital x-ray images in cross section. Packing material also appears near the ear canals and in the sinus cavities, and plugs close the nostrils. At the center rested Tut himself, with a stunning mask of gold covering his head and shoulders. Baboons on the far wall represent the start of his passage through the 12 hours of the night—a journey symbolized by a boat bearing a scarab, emblem of the sun god. Inside, cradled by cotton batting and yellowed muslin, lay the mortal remains of King Tutankhamun: a serene face with a scarred left cheek, a barrel chest, skeletal arms and legs, all blackened by resins poured on during his burial rites. They remain the richest royal collection ever found and have become part of the pharaoh’s legend. He further shocked the country by attacking Amun, a major god, smashing his images and closing his temples.
In any event Horemheb, still sadly childless late in his reign, named as crown prince his old army buddy Ramses, who became the founder of a new dynasty. The Egyptian Mummy Project, which began an inventory in late 2003, has recorded almost 600 so far and is still counting. Other images revealed a hand, several views of the rib cage, and a transection of the skull. Reuse and recycling was the order of the day as powerful people competed to claim the young Pharaoh’s vacant throne. For the first time, specialists have collected data about both the material structure of the walls and the open spaces behind them. The work started at midday with a test scan in a nearby tomb called KV5, where Watanabe used the machine to examine walls with known features behind them.
Hea€™s a specialist in the 18th Dynasty, one of the most dynamic and mysterious periods in the history of ancient Egypt. There was a strict, straight, vertical line, which corresponds perfectly with the line in the ceiling. And he notes that today we do a modern version of the same thinga€”after all, few of us really understand the scientific truths that we take for granted. In a few moments the world’s most famous mummy would glide headfirst into a CT scanner brought here to probe the lingering medical mysteries of this little understood young ruler who died more than 3,300 years ago. Stunning artifacts in gold, their eternal brilliance meant to guarantee resurrection, caused a sensation at the time of the discovery—and still get the most attention.
The next phase: scanning the mummies with a portable CT machine donated by the National Geographic Society and Siemens, its manufacturer.
Analysis by a team of radiologists would take several weeks to complete—and would reveal no conclusive evidence for murder. Ita€™s these spaces that are most intriguinga€”they could contain artifacts and possibly even burial goods that rival those found with Tutankhamun.
Such equipment is generally used by engineers; the radar can locate rebar in bridge decks, for example, or find structural weaknesses. Within half an hour, he was drenched in sweata€”the deeper reaches of tombs in Luxor are hot and airless. Akhenaten, an important pharaoh of this era, tried to radically change key elements of the belief system to focus on the worship of a single deity, the sun god Aten. Reeves concluded that about 80 percent of the artifacts had originally been made for somebody elsea€”a woman.
In the tomb of Tutankhamun, the intense attention and respect that all of us showed during the scanning was itself a kind of faith. With Tut’s entire body similarly recorded, a team of specialists in radiology, forensics, and anatomy began to probe the secrets that the winged goddesses of a gilded burial shrine protected for so long.
Once they had finished, they reassembled the remains on a layer of sand in a wooden box with padding that concealed the damage, the bed where Tut now rests. Could such a fall have damaged his breastbone and ribs so badly that the embalmers had to remove them? King Tut is one of the first mummies to be scanned—in death, as in life, moving regally ahead of his countrymen.
But the results showed the machine was working well, as did a second test run along another wall that is already known to have a room behind it, this time in the tomb of Tutankhamun. He found definitive evidence that even the famous golden funerary mask had been modifieda€”the artifact has traces of a previous cartouche. Others think it may be the result of an accident or assault that led to Tut’s demise after a virulent infection set in and spread. Sitting back in his chair, Zahi Hawass smiled, visibly relieved that nothing had gone seriously wrong.

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