Mysterious life and death of Tutankhamun revealed

November 11, 2013

The University of Liverpool's Dr Matthew Ponting and Robert Connolly are featuring in a new TV documentary about the causes of the death of Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Their research has shed new light on how the embalming process of the young king only partially succeeded.

Dr Matthew Ponting is a Senior Lecturer in Archaeomaterials at the University of Liverpool's Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology.

He said: "Theories about the life (and afterlife) of the Egyptian Tutankhamun have grown to legendary status since the excavation of the boy-king's tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. And on Sunday night a new TV documentary, with which I was involved, will put forward the case that he was killed in a chariot accident and looks in depth at how the Egyptians tried to preserve his corpse.

"My investigations focussed on the itself. We were able to compare a sample of Tutankhamun's skin with those of two other mummies provided by my Liverpool colleague Robert Connolly, who was part of the team that first x-rayed the Pharoah's remains in 1968.

"It was clear that this important burial ritual was botched by the ancient Egyptians. Using our we could detect carbonisation on the skin of the pharaoh that wasn't present on the two other samples. The combination of embalming oils, oxygen and linen used resulted in Tutankhamun's corpse being cooked at 200C – we think – soon after his mummification.

"We're one of the few archaeology departments in the country to have our own scanning electron microscope, and researchers and students routinely use it to investigate everything from Roman weapons to medieval stained glass.

"It's rare that you'll make a discovery that's as exciting as this, but it goes to prove that even when written sources are scarce and the physical evidence has been badly corrupted, it is still possible to find out more about the lives of people who lived and died millennia ago."

Explore further: Tutankhamun may have spontaneously combusted

Related Stories

Heart disease found in Egyptian mummies

November 17, 2009

Hardening of the arteries has been detected in Egyptian mummies, some as old as 3,500 years, suggesting that the factors causing heart attack and stroke are not only modern ones; they afflicted ancient people, too.

Tutankhamen fathered twins

September 1, 2008

( -- Two foetuses found in the tomb of Tutankhamen may have been twins and were very likely to have been the children of the teenage Pharaoh, according to the anatomist who first studied the mummified remains ...

Recommended for you

133 million-year-old dinosaur brain fossil found in England

October 28, 2016

Soft tissues such as hearts and muscles are very rarely preserved in the fossil record. For that reason, nearly all study of dinosaur soft tissue has to be reconstructed from fossil bones. However, researchers in the United ...

Science: Public interest high, literacy stable

October 28, 2016

While public interest in science continues to grow, the level of U.S. scientific literacy remains largely unchanged, according to a survey by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.

Experts uncover hidden layers of Jesus' tomb site

October 27, 2016

In the innermost chamber of the site said to be the tomb of Jesus, a restoration team has peeled away a marble layer for the first time in centuries in an effort to reach what it believes is the original rock surface where ...

Important ancient papyrus seized from looters in Israel

October 27, 2016

(—Eitan Klein, a representative of the Israel Antiquities Authority, has announced that an important papyrus document dated to 2,700 years ago has been seized from a group of Palestinian looters who reportedly ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.