Pharaoh's curse or coincidence?
Pharaoh's curse or coincidence?
Researchers studying Tut hit by huge storm, CT malfunction
November 28, 2006
BY JIM RITTER Science Reporter
Scientists who recently conducted a high-tech examination of King Tut's mummy insist they don't believe in the "Curse of the Pharaohs."
Still, some awfully strange things happened when the team X-rayed the boy king's body with a medical CT scanning machine.
On the way to the Egyptian site, one researcher's vehicle nearly hit a child. Then a huge storm hit. The CT machine, usually reliable, wouldn't work at first. And when researchers finally began the CT scan, one scientist came down with such a violent coughing attack he had to leave.
"It was a very interesting moment, and a very scary moment at the same time," said Cairo University radiologist Dr. Ashraf Selim.
But Selim added: "I don't believe in the curse. I'm a scientific man."
National Geographic, which helped fund the study, announced preliminary results last year. On Monday, Selim detailed the findings for the first time at a scientific setting -- a meeting at McCormick Place of the Radiological Society of North America.
King Tutankhamun was about 9 years old when he was crowned around 1332 B.C. It was the golden age of pharaohs, and Egypt was a mighty empire.
What killed boy king?
Unlike other royal tombs, Tut's burial chamber remained undisturbed through the ages. When British archeologist Howard Carter finally discovered it in 1922, the tomb was filled with 5,000 breathtaking artifacts, including jewels, statues, magical amulets, furniture and a solid gold coffin.
But an inscription on the tomb supposedly warned: "Death shall come on swift wings to him that disturbs the peace of the king."
Lord Carnarvon, who financed Carter's expedition, died six months after the discovery. Newspapers blamed this on the curse, along wubsequent deaths of anyone remotely related to Tut's discovery.
Actually, Carnarvon already was in poor health when an infected mosquito bite led to blood poisoning and pneumonia. And researchers have shown that others involved in the Carter expedition lived, on average, normal life-spans. Carter himself lived another 17 years before dying at age 65.
The Curse of the Pharaohs "fascinates the public and Hollywood producers. Fortunately there is no such thing," concludes a National Geographic companion book to a traveling Tut exhibit on display at the Field Museum through Jan. 1.
Earlier scientific studies of Tut, using less sophisticated X-ray equipment, found bone fragments in his skull. This supported a theory that Tut was murdered by a blow to the head.
The new scan doesn't support the murder theory. It appears the fragments instead came from funerary workers who drilled a hole in Tut's skull.
However, the scan revealed a fracture in Tut's left thigh, just above the knee. Some researchers believe the injury might have triggered a fatal infection or blood clot. Other researchers argue the bone was broken by Carter's team.
"More work needs to be done," said James Phillips, curator of Field's Tut exhibit. "We may never find out how he died."
Researchers were forbidden to touch Tut. But the fragile mummy hasn't always received such gentle treatment. Tut's head is cut off, his body cut in two, and his shoulder, elbow, wrist and other joints disconnected.
And Tut's penis is missing. The CT machine scanned the bed of sand Tut lies in, and detected what may or may not be the missing penis, Selim said.
Researchers concluded Tut was about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and was about 18 years old when he died.
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