Fractured leg bone not the end of Tutankhamen mystery

03/10/05

Robert Connolly, Senior Lecturer in Physical Anthropology from the University's Department of Human Anatomy and Cell Biology, is working with the Egyptian authorities to analyse recent findings from a CT scan of the mummy and has been asked to comment on suggestions by scientists that Tutankhamen died as a result of an infection following an injury to the femur bone.

Mr Connolly has re-analysed the original X-rays of the leg taken by Professor Ronald Harrison in 1968 and has found no evidence, such as the involvement of soft tissue, to suggest that the fracture in the femur bone became infected.

Mr Connolly adds: "It's possible Tutankhamen's leg injury could have been sustained in an accident. There are remarkable similarities between his ribcage injuries and those of a British mummy - St Bees Man in Cumbria - who sustained fatal damage to his chest in a jousting accident. It is therefore highly possible that the King could have died as a result of a chariot or sporting accident, or even at war.

"Another possibility is that the leg bone was broken during the 1925 autopsy, during which the mummy was sawn in half, just below the rib cage, for no apparent medical or scientific reason. It is possible that damage to both the leg bone and the ribs was done at the same time, in an attempt by scientists to find hidden gold in the cavities of the body."

The original X-rays also revealed fragments of bone in the skull, which led many to believe the King could have been murdered by a blow to the head. Mr Connolly, however, found that the bone had been dislodged from the top of the neck and not the skull as previously thought.

He continues: "It is possible that the vertebrae could have been broken when Egyptian priests removed the brain. We believe there was a substantial delay between death and mummification, during which time the brain would have liquefied. The priests have almost certainly drained the brain through the base of the skull rather than removing it in the traditional way via the nose.

"However, the bone was not caught in the resin that the priests used to preserve the body, suggesting that the bone was not broken during mummification. It is more likely that it was dislodged in the 1925 autopsy, as scientists searched for possible treasures hidden inside the skull."

Mr Connolly has also conducted an analysis of Lindow Man - the body found in a peat bog in Lindow Marsh, Cheshire, in 1984, which is now on display at the British Museum.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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