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Who Killed King Tut?


Who Killed King Tut?

by The Government of Egypt

Edited by Jimmy Dunn



Notation: A very recent medical examination of the remains of King Tutankhamun suggest that he may have not been murdered, but died instead from an infection caused by a broken leg.

More than 3,000 years after the death of the young Pharaoh Tutankhamen, questions are still being asked about how he died. Was it a natural death or was he murdered? The possibility that Tutankhamen did not die of natural causes was first raised 28 years ago when an X-ray analysis of his mummy was made by the anatomy department of the University of Liverpool. It revealed that the king may have died from a blow to the back of his head.

The suggestion caused a controversy among Egyptologists and scientists. If he were murdered, who did it? Was it Aye, Tutankhamen's vizier who ascended to the throne after his death and married his wife? Or was it Horernhab, the army officer who became king after Ayes short four-year rule? Some archaeologists suggested that Aye and Horemhab might have shared the guilt, working in cahoots to kill the boy.

Early this year, a new X-ray analysis cast more light on the subject, this time suggesting that Tutankhamen may have been murdered in his sleep. The examination was conducted by a trauma specialist at Long Island University, USA, "The blow was to a protected area at the back of the head which you don't injure in an accident, someone had to sneak up from behind," said the specialist.

X-rays also show a thickening of a bone in the cranium which could occur only after a build-up of blood. This would indicate that the king might have been left bleeding for a long time before he actually died. In short, scientists suggest that the king was most probably hit on the back of his head while asleep and that he lingered, maybe for as long as two months, before he died.

King Tut in death as Osiris

According to Mohamed Saleh, Derictor-General of the Egyptian Museum, the original analysis of Tutankhamen's mummy suggested that the boy king died of a lung disease or even a brain tumor. "This would explain the lump found on the back of his head," he said.

In 1968, when the new analysis was carried out on the mummy, it was suggested that Tutankhamen was hit on the head and murdered by either Aye or Horemhab. "But in my opinion this could not be the case," said Saleh "because Tutankhamen had no enemies; on the contrary, he was loved by the priests and the population because he re-established the stale religion of Amun-Re after the religious revolution under Akhenaten, and re-opened all temples. Moreover," Salah added, "Aye and Horemhab would have had no reason to kill Tutankhamen because he was young and did not hold much authority.

Yet many believe that either Aye, Horemhab, or the two in league with each other did in fact kill Tutankhamen. It is true that Tutankhamen was young and did not wield much authority by the time of his death, but he was growing older and could have (or may already have) soon interfered with the two elder's regency.

However, Madelen El-Mallakh, Director-General of Luxor Museum, commented on the traces of a blow to the head: "Who is to say for certain how it was administered, whether it was foul play or accidental," she said. "There is certainly an element of mystery surrounding Tut's death.

Horemhab as the last Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty

" Left: General Horemhab after he became Pharaoh

Bob Brier, an American Egyptologist, believes that Tutankhamen was indeed murdered, and claims he knows by whom. "It was either by his own personal attendant or by his cup-bearer. No one could easily approach the back of the pharaoh unless it was part of his job to do so," he said. "The king's attendant and his cup-bearers would be the only people allowed to enter his bedroom without arousing suspicion." Brier added that he will back up his hypothesis with archaeological evidence which will be shown in his documentary, The Great Pharaohs. However, regardless of who performed that act of the blow to the head, or the introduction of poison to his system, it is doubtful that a lowly cup-bearer other personal attendants would have murdered Tutankhamen on their own.

Such contradictions raised by Egyptologists prompted the Antiquities and Travel Lovers' Committee (ATLC), an Egyptian non-profit organization, to re-examine Tutankhamen's mummy and tomb and to carry out further research on the possible causes of his death.

The first step was a re-examination of the three tombs in the Theban necropolis belonging to Aye (WV23), Horemhab (KV57) and Tut. The tomb and the treasure of the latter have revealed two pieces of literary evidence suggesting that Aye and Horemhab were innocent of murder.

King Aye administering the Opening of the Mouth Ceremony to Tutankhamen

The first is a papyrus document related to the "opening of the mouth ceremony," a ritual in which the dead man proclaims his innocence of any act he may have committed during his life-time, or mentions any subject he wants to shed light on in preparation for the day of judgement. Tutankhamen's document indicated that Aye was innocent of his murder. Also, on the pedestal of one of Horemhab's statues is a text in which he left a message to all Egyptians, indicating that he was not the man who committed the crime. He declared in writing that he was loyal to his king and carried out all his orders faithfully. He also warned any Egyptian who may read the text, against 'normalizing' relations with foreigners and told them never to trust them: "Egyptian brothers, don't ever forget what foreigners did to our King Tutankhamen", Horemhab wrote.

Forensic examination carried out by Egyptian experts on Tutankhamens mummy also have revealed that he may have been poisoned and it is now suggested that the blow to the back of the head might have happened after his death, during mummification. "His body might have been dropped on the floor, his head hitting the flagstones; there is no trace of bleeding around the blow," say experts.

Now another person is being accused of the murder: Tutu or Dudu, described first as an official in the court of Amenhotep III, later as an official of his son Akhenaten, and, later still, under Tutankhamen. He was not an Egyptian and may have been a person of a somewhat un-savory character who caused friction in the royal household. One of the leaders of a vassal state in Tunib in Palestine reputedly used this man to divert the messages of the Egyptian contingents in the area, so their calls for help failed to reach Egypt, and no aid was given. When Akhenaton realized that he had been supplied with false evidence about the true situation of his troops abroad, he apparently announced that an investigation would be carried out forthwith to discover its source.

King Tutankhamen

His death under mysterious circumstances followed and members of the ATLC suggest that it was Tutu who was responsible for the deaths of Akhenaten and Tutankhamun "because in the tomb of the latter, an object like a trotter was found on which graffiti invokes, 'go to the real killer and beat him and awake him from his death to confess and admit his crime so that the one who is now accused can be declared innocent." Since trotters were not ritual objects in Ancient Egypt it is suggested that it belonged to outsiders. "Therefore, as Tutu was a foreigner, the priests used the trotter to indicate the nationality of the murderer." Mohamed El-Saghir, head of Upper Egyptian Antiquities, added to the mystery. He claims that there is insufficient historical or archaeological evidence to suggest that either Aye or Horemhab were murderers, "but what is noteworthy is that Horemhab usurped some of Tutankhamen's treasure and affixed his name to them." El-Saghir referred to the two statues on display in the Luxor Museum which were found in the open court of Amenhotep III in the Luxor Temple in 1989. These feature the king seated before the god Atum and the goddess Isis respectively.

Beneath each are texts stating: 'Horemhab with gods' and El-Saghir points out that studies on both these statues reveal that they have the same physiognomy as Tutankhamen as well as evidence that the original texts were erased to inscribe the new ones. Analysis on the faint traces of the former show some parts of Tutankhamen's titles. "And as for Aye," El-Saghir continues, "there is insufficient evidence that he is guilty. He was the high priest and was, moreover, the one who wrote Tutankhamen's negative confession and performed his "opening of the mouth ceremony".

Tut and Ankhespaton, who as queen, always appears very loving

While Tutankhamen's murder is so much in the news, it must not be forgotten that his wife, Ankhespaton, may not be entirely ruled out as a suspect. She was the one who dispatched a message to the Syrian monarch asking him to send one of his sons to marry her following the death of her husband because she was without a son to take care of her. She indicated that she could not marry one of her 'slaves.' Was she referring to Aye (who was also much older than she)? Since there is evidence that Tutankhamen was murdered by poison, could she have been involved in a scheme with his cup-bearer? While this must be questioned, it should also be noted that she may have been forced to eventually marry Aye after Tutankhamen's death, an event that she seems not to have wanted, and soon after, disappears from ancient records. Hence, it has also been suggested that Aye may have murdered her.

So if Tutankhamen was murdered, which does seem likely, who might be the most logical suspect? Certainly it must be Aye, simply because it was he who inherited the throne, and who therefore seems to have had the greatest motive to do so (as well as some very good opportunities).

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