Tutankhamen died young, at around 18 years of age. However, his cause of death has not been confirmed. Did he die of an injury, of illness, or was he murdered?

Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter in the Valley of Kings discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 marking a crucial archaeological finding of the century.  This Egyptian pharaoh had ruled the region over 3,300 years ago but his cause of death has remained a mystery. The pharaoh was just 18 years when he died and given the fact that ancient Egyptian pharaohs lived and fed well under high protection, his death is a mystery. 

When his mummy was first discovered, it was not embalmed and preserved in a very condition as other mummies were at the time of their discovery. For an ancient culture that normally hollowed out, embalmed and bandaged their kings and pharaohs, Tutankhamen’s mummy was preserved in a weird fashion. He was found covered in black oils, had a fracture on his thighbone that had embalming material inside, and a scarab replaced his heart (Carter, 1927). Scholars, archaeologists and scientists, are continually resolving the mystery of Tutankhamen’s life and death and this research paper provides some of the theories that explain his murder. 

One of the theories of the cause of Tutankhamen’s death is injuries. When carter and his team found the mummy, there were some fractures on the left thighbone, and the kneecap was a little loose. Carter and his team suggested that Tutankhamen might have suffered an accident, breaking his leg and leaving an open wound. Infection might have set in causing the death of the pharaoh.  This theory has been extended further suggesting that the pharaoh fell from a chariot in a hunting expedition (Carter, 1927). Another theory that explains the young pharaoh’s death is possible murder following x-ray scans of the skull that showed a hematoma at the lower side of the skull. Tutankhamen’s advisor, Aye who was next in command probably murdered the pharaoh. This is according to Bob Brier, a researcher at Long Island University. When Tutankhamen grew older, he no longer needed Aye’s advice and Aye decided that he wanted to be a pharaoh hence hired a killer to kill Tutankhamen in his sleep through striking his head. Another person that may have killed Tutankhamen for power could have been his deputy, Horemheb, whose role was fading away as the pharaoh grew older (Brier, 2010). 

The theory that seems to logically explain the cause of Tutankhamen’s death is the death as a result of injuries. After the discovery by carter, a broken bone stood out. A fracture on the left thighbone was ragged and had two layers of the embalming material inside. This may have occurred during life or even the embalming process after the death of the pharaoh. Such fracture, as it was later explained by the carter’s team is possible in young and so it probably happened during life. An obvious evidence for healing is not evident. Since the wound associated with the injury would have been still open, the fracture would have happened a short time before his death. Even though the fracture could not have been fatal, an infection might have set in. injuries were also found on one side of the pharaoh’s body and according to scientists from England’s Cranfield Forensic Institute, the injuries might have resulted from a chariot accident. Tutankhamen was known to love hunting and so might had an accident during one of his hunting expedition. The impact may have shattered his ribs and crushed his heart and this may explain why a scarab replaced his heart when he was mummified (Carter and Mace, 1977).

Further studies on Tutankhamen’s death have ruled out murder through a blow to the head. There was no evidence for murder from the study of Tutankhamen’s skull. There was no indication of a partially healed wound from the blow. There were two loose bone fragments in the pharaoh’s skull and matching these fragments to the skull, these pieces were believed to have been broken during the embalming process or by Carter and his team during discovery. Tutankhamen’s death remains a mystery, as even if he was murdered, it is almost impossible to solve the mystery as so many years have passed (Carter and Mace, 1977). Since he was a young boy, the son to a “Heretic” pharaoh, this creates many dynamics and theories that explain his death at a tender age. With the theory of death from injuries standing out, more scholars and scientists find this mystery interesting and so many theories and explanations will continue to emerge. 

Leave a Reply