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

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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

Ancient barley took high road to China

November 21, 2017

First domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, wheat and barley took vastly different routes to China, with barley switching from a winter to both a winter and summer crop during a thousand-year ...

New paper answers causation conundrum

November 17, 2017

In a new paper published in a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, SFI Professor Jessica Flack offers a practical answer to one of the most significant, and most confused questions in evolutionary ...

0 comments

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.