King Tut’s cause of death wasn’t what we though (2005)
King Tutankhamun’s tomb is one of history’s most celebrated archaeological finds due to the pristine nature of his burial chamber, and the 5,000 artifacts found within. But little is known about the Boy King, who only ruled Egypt for ten or eleven years until his death at age 19 in 1352 BCE. Researchers long believed that King Tut died from a blow to the back of his skull. New technology has allowed researchers to examine King Tut’s remains without taking sample pieces from the body. A CT scan revealed that King Tut did not die from a hit to the back of his head. His death is still a mystery, though. While we know how he didn’t die, it still leaves the possibility of infection from a broken thigh bone (although it doesn’t rule out murder, either).
In 1999, Yale University researchers John and Deborah Darnell found 4,000 year old Semitic writing on a cliffside near the Nile. These writings are the first known examples of ‘alphabetic writing,’ which would evolve into the hieroglyphics used by the ancient Egyptians. Alphabetic writing uses pictures or symbols to represent words; one letter represents one sound of a word, rather than communicating in pictographs, where an image stands for the entire word. It’s the difference between spelling ‘Cat,” with the letters c, a, and t each having a distinct sound to make the word, or drawing a picture of a cat to convey the meaning. The Darnell’s findings mean that Egyptian hieroglyphics developed about 300 years earlier than archaeologists believed.
One day in the Bahariya Oasis of the Western Desert, a guard overseeing a site 380 km west of the pyramids went chasing after a wayward donkey. The donkey’s leg fell into a hole in the ground. The guard looked in, and what he found led researchers to 105 mummies dating back to 332 BCE. Some mummies were encased in cartonnage, others wrapped in linen, some in anthropoid coffins (pottery coffins decorated with a human face), and others gilded with shining death masks. The tombs escaped the clutches of raiders, allowing researchers to preserve the items that help fill in the puzzle of ancient Egyptian culture, golden funerary masks, jewelry, small statues depicting mourners, coins, amulets, and other personal effects.
Despite having a name that sounds more Star Wars than ancient Egyptian, Tomb KV5 is the largest known tomb in the Valley of the Kings. A joint expedition between the American Univesrity in Cairo and the Tehban Mapping Project in 1985-1986 discovered the site. As they removed the debris built up over centuries and made their way through corridors and chambers, they passed a statue of Osiris, god of the dead. This discovery revealed the name of Ramses II inscribed on the wall. The tomb contained at least six of Ramses II’s sons, and may reveal more of his children. As of 2006, archaeologists have uncovered 130 chambers, and believe there are many more to discover.
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