Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Thursday, September 06, 2012

That's the latest suggestion by Mr Hutan Ashrafian, a clinical lecturer at Imperial College London and covered in New Scientist. (My thanks to Andrea Byrnes on Facebook.) The reasons seem to be: 1) the generations died successively younger indicating an inheritable condition which became more acute over the decades; 2) Amenhotep III and Akhenaten had religious experiences; and 3) Akhenaten's feminisation could have been a result of disruption of the temporal lobes which caused hormal changes. Ashrafian believes that epilepsy killed Tutankhamun. For me that's the obvious weakness in the theory. If an inherited condition killed Tutankhamun at a younger age than his ancenstors, one would expect the other supposed symptoms to have also been more severe. So for instance, we should be looking for a greater feminisation of Tutankhamun that Akhenaten and probably for him to have been even more prone to religious experiences. There is no evidence for either.


monika said...

Whatever next?
It is astounding how some scientists still cling to illnesses caused by supposed hormonal changes that are only suggested by the way they look at the contemporary representations of the royals.
The generations died younger? Amenhotep III lived up to a quite ripe age for that time, Akhenaten could well have reached middle age or at least the earlier part of it if we do not consider KV55 to be him.
Tut died undoubtedly young but this is nothing extraordinary at all.

Religious visions?
How much of the political and religious changes of the period was due to "visions", religious conviction or rather calculated reasoning? We`ll probably never know, but one thing is certain: all that could well have happened without any infliction such as epilepsy.

I would rather appreciate if someone pursued the case of Tut`s missing chest, broken ribs and partly destroyed and missing bony pelvis, all of which is documented by the x-rays taken in 1969.
I understand that Robert Connolly has taken on this task by hunting for these old x-rays for re-assessment as they were never published and is about to present his findings in the JEA.
As it is hard to imagine that all the documented damage to the body was inflicted after death (maybe a few broken ribs yes, but severe damage to the pelvis and a cut-out chest most likely not) I guess that the most likely cause of death was some sort of violent impact.

Anonymous said...

hasededsnutsI seem to remember that the missing chest was as a result of theft, during the second world war, when security was lax. The original photos of the body of Tutankhamun show the chest area covered by a large pectoral ornament which was stuck to it. It's believed that theives cut away the chest in order to steal the ornament.

monika said...

Yes, but it is now believed by many (including Dr. Connolly and Dr Harer) that under the broad collar the chest was already damaged.
This damage was invisible at the time of the first autopsy because they didn`t use x-rays then.
Dr. Harer points out that Carter was unable to remove the collar (what he would certainly have done had it been possible) because it was glued fast to the resin-soaked linen which had been used to stuff the chest cavity. Had there been an intact layer of skin under the collar it would have been rather easy to remove.
Another clue are the clean edges of the ribs where they have been cut off. Bones can only be cut in such a way if they are still fresh whereas thousands of years old brittle bones show rough edges or splinter completely when cut.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I knew that the cut edges were in some way supposed to be consistent with the idea of the chest having already been missing, but had no idea about the chest cavity being filled with resin soaked linen, over which was laid the pectoral.

monika said...

Yes, the stuff that is visible today in Tut`s chest is the now rock-hard linen. It was made exactly level with the rest of the body so together with the large collar on it it made the body look completely "whole" and even fooled Dr. Derry.
Yet another clue is given again by Dr Harer (there are apparently two Harers the younger of which has written an article quite recently on this subject in Ancient Egypt Magazine). He argues that the chest must have been gaping open at the time of death because the chest was packed before the abdomen. This is visible from the diaphragm which is pushed downards.

Besides the Harers claim that the diaphragm is totally intact and not even punctured. In other mummies the removal of the lungs through the abdominal incision usually required that the diaphragm be removed or at least punctured. This was not done with Tut`s body as it was not necessary because the chest was open anyway.

Unfortunately the Harers` observations have not found the attention I think they deserve, but they have not been challenged since either (as far as I am aware).
Whatever caused the extensive damage to the body, especially chest and pelvis, should in my view be considered as the primary cause of death.

This does not rule out of course that Tut and his relatives had other health issues as well but there is little evidence what of these could really have caused their deaths.

Kate Phizackerley said...

It's always surprising how much is not generally known about Tutankhamun

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the extra info from the Harers'. What they report about the packing of the chest cavity and the unpunctured diaphram, certainly point towards some kind of violent death for poor young Tut.
I likewise am very wary of the kind of (pretty much untestable) theories regarding royal health issues, such as in the recent New Scientist article

Anonymous said...

Arthur Weigall suggested Akhnaten was epileptic back in the Nineteen-Twenties.

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