In the past, archeologists had speculated that King Tut, who was just 19 when he died around 3,300 years ago, had been murdered or killed in an accident. More recently, he was thought to have succumbed to an infection from a broken leg.
But a "virtual autopsy" conducted by Egyptologist Chris Naunton, director of the London-based Egypt Exploration Society, combined with new historical evidence about King Tut's role in Egypt’s foreign wars, suggests he died in battle, said a news release from London-based public broadcaster Channel 4 Monday.
Channel 4 is airing a documentary called Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Burnt Mummy – Secret History on Nov. 10, revealing new details about Tutankhamen’s life, death and burial.
The documentary shows how Naunton and his team used X-ray CT scans to perform the virtual autopsy on King Tut’s mummy, revealing a “highly distinct pattern” of injuries on one side of his body. With the help of car crash investigators and computer simulation software, the researchers reconstructed different chariot accidents and the injuries they would have produced, to pin down the scenario that likely led to the boy king’s demise.
Naunton also worked with fire investigators to figure out why Tutankhamen’s mummy seemed to have been burned. The researchers’ chemical tests showed that the mummification of Tut’s body was “botched,” leading to spontaneous combustion from a chemical reaction of the embalming oils.
Naunton based his research on the notes of Howard Carter, the British archeologist who excavated Tut’s tomb in the southern Egyptian city of Luxor in 1922.
“His notes are full of intriguing observations and suggestions, many of which were never followed up,” Naunton said in a statement.
“I think what the project shows is that when it comes to ancient material there is always more to learn, and there probably will be in the future.”