Studies using a CT medical scanner revealed that
Tutankhamun suffered a badly broken leg shortly before he died,
just above his knee. In 2007, further evidence came to light which
suggested that he suffered the fracture while hunting game from a
Despite several theories in the past (see related
feature links, right), the mystery behind the sudden death of Tutankhamun,
the boy king who ruled Egypt between about 1333-1324 BC, may finally
have been solved by scientists who believed that he fell from a
fast-moving chariot whilst out hunting in the desert.
Speculation surrounding Tutankhamun's death had
been rife since his tomb was discovered in 1922 by archaeologist
Howard Carter. X-rays of the mummy taken in 1968 indicated a swelling
at the base of the skull, suggesting that the boy pharaoh had been
killed by a blow to the head.
More recent studies using a CT medical scanner,
however, changed that picture. The broken leg he was found to have
suffered probably led to fatal blood poisoning. Then further evidence
came to light suggesting that he suffered the fracture while hunting
game from a chariot.
These newer findings were still circumstantial, but
one of Egypt's leading experts on Tutankhamun said in a television
documentary screened in October 2007 that he believed the case was
now solved regarding how the boy king met his sudden and unexpected
He was not murdered as many people thought. He had
an accident when he was hunting in the desert. Falling from a chariot
created this fracture in his left leg and this really is how he died,
as Zahi Hawass stated as general secretary of Egypt's Supreme Council
Until that point, many historians had assumed that
he was treated as a rather fragile child who was cosseted and protected
from physical danger. However, Nadia Lokma of the Cairo Museum said
that a recent analysis of the chariots found in the tombs of the pharaohs
indicated that they were not merely ceremonial but showed signs of
wear and tear. Hundreds of arrows recovered from the tomb also showed
evidence of having been fired and recovered.
These chariots were hunting chariots not war chariots.
It could be seen from the wear on them that they were actually used.
A cache of clothing found in Tutankhamun's tomb, which
was stored in the vaults of the Cairo Museum, suggested that he was
accustomed to riding these chariots himself. They included a
specially-adapted corset which would have protected the wearer's
abdominal organs from any damage from an accident or the heavy jostling
of a chariot ride.
A final piece of evidence came from a garland of
flowers which had been placed around the neck of Tutankhamun's mummy.
Botanists found that it included cornflowers and mayweed that were
fresh at the time at which the decoration was made. These were in
flower in March and April, thereby given us the time of year in
which he was buried, according to Nigel Hepper of the Royal
Horticultural Society at Kew Gardens.
Because the flowers could have been collected only
between the middle of March and the end of April, and as the complex
process of mummification lasted seventy days, this meant that
Tutankhamun probably died in December or January. That timing coincided
with the middle of the winter hunting season.
The results of this latest research into Tutankhamun
came just a few weeks before Britain hosted the first exhibition of his
tomb's artefacts in thirty-five years at The O2 centre, formerly the
Millennium Dome, in south-east London.