Tutankhamun wasn't murdered


American cops' shocking claims that the King at the centre of the biggest archaeological discovery of all time was murdered have been dismissed by Egyptological writers Andrew Collins and Chris Ogilvie-Herald.

The Channel Five Documentary broadcast last night - Who Killed Tutankhamun? . . . Revealed claimed to prove categorically that the Egyptian boy King was murdered by his prime minister. But recent research on the life and times of Tutankhamun, by Andrew Collins and co-author Chris Ogilvie-Herald clearly indicates these findings are deeply flawed.

The programme was based on the premise that two Utah policemen - Chief Greg Cooper and Lieutenant Mike King - could use modern day profiling techniques to determine Tutankhamun's cause of death.

The forensics' examination of Professor Ronald Harrison's 1969 x-ray of the body led them to believe that the deceased suffered a fatal blow to the back of the head. But Collins and Ogilvie-Herald are sure that nothing new has been discovered here as Harrison himself explained this dark patch (over 30 years ago) as simply a swelling caused by a blood clot following a possible 'blow to the head', although one which could have resulted from a number of different scenarios.

What did differ however, was the rather bizarre conclusion the programme drew regarding the cause of this head injury. Cooper and King’s proposed theory of an assassin attacking him from behind seems unlikely considering the King would need to have been lying on his side or stomach - why would the killer only hit him once (surely risking detection?) leaving the King to die slowly over many months, instead of finishing off the job.

Egyptological writers Andrew Collins and Chris Ogilvie-Herald suggest in their book Tutankhamun: The Exodus Conspiracy that it is far more likely that the King suffered the fatal blow as the result of an awkward accident - for example falling backwards out of a chariot, a solution also considered by Cooper and King. In the opinion of the two police officers, it was the king's prime minister, Aye, the next king, who had the greatest motive to kill the young pharaoh. Yet this theory is untenable, since evidence from the tomb of Tutankhamun shows that Aye was completely in sympathy with Tutankhamun's religious convictions and only became king in a rash attempt to block Horemheb, Egypt's military general, from seizing control of the throne, most probably at the request of the young widow, Ankhesenamun.

Further claims in the programme that the floating bone fragment found inside the skull of Tutankhamun was the result of a fracture caused by the blow to the head is also dismissed by Collins and Ogilvie-Herald, based on the work of American paleopathologist Bob Brier who concluded in his book The Murder of Tutankhamun (1998) that this cranial damage was the result of Howard Carter and Douglas Derry's man-handling of the remains during their examination in 1925, a conclusion supported by the authors.

To back up their claims of Tutankhamun's murder, Cooper and King cited new evidence that the boy-king suffered from a crippling bone disorder called Klippel Feil Syndrome (KFS). This is a rare disorder caused by the congenital fusion of two or more of the seven cervical (neck) vertebrae, resulting in a number of possible symptoms including restricted mobility of the upper spine and cranium. It occurs with the failure in the division of upper vertebrae during the first few weeks of foetal development. However, it is not considered a hereditary disease. Richard Boyer, a pathologist, claims to have identified evidence of KFS in the x-rays of Tutankhamun's remains taken by R. G. Harrison in 1969, the last time that permission was given for their examination. He also believes that he has identified the same congenital fusion of vertebrae in the pictures of one of the two unborn foetuses found by Howard Carter in the tomb of Tutankhamun, and thus believes that this new pathological evidence suggests that the foetuses are definitely those of Tutankhamun and his royal wife Ankhesenamun.

This is a bold new theory, and Collins and Ogilvie-Herald look forward to reading the published report of these new findings. However, the manner in which this apparent evidence of KFS was used on the documentary must be called into question. For instance, the discovery of as many as 30 walking sticks, some used, inside the tomb of Tutankhamun was cited as evidence that the boy-king was a virtual invalid. Yet hunting scenes of him show that he was able to ride chariots on his own, while at the same time firing a bow; surely not the actions of an invalid. Furthermore, no image of the king found in the tomb even hints at the possibility that he suffered from some disabilitating disease. In addition to this, a painted relief showing a king leaning on a walking stick in the presence of his queen, who offers him a lotus flower, was identified in the programme as Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun, and thus was used to ramify the idea that the boy-king suffered from KFS. However, the relief, which was found at the site of Akhenaten's city at Tell el-Amarna in Middle Egypt, is usually considered by Egyptologists to represent either Smenkhkare and his royal wife Meritaten, or Akhenaten and his queen Nefertiti. Never is it identified as Tutankhamun and Ankhesenamun, for if it was found at Amarna then it would mean that it had to have been fashioned before the abandonment of the city during the reign of Smenkhkare, when Tutankhamun was no more than eight or nine years old. The relief in no way shows a child of just eight or nine years old. Thus in the knowledge that a number of the objects found in the tomb of Tutankhamun bear a throne name used by the former king Smenkhkare, including one of the gold mummiform coffins, while even the quartzite sarcophagus would seem to have been originally intended for Smenkhkare, then the presence in the tomb of the walking sticks suddenly becomes ambiguous. Moreover, how it can be proposed that one of the unborn corpses suffered from KPS simply by the examination of a single photograph taken of the mummified remains in the 1920s is difficult to understand.

The most telling part of the documentary was the consideration that Tutankhamun did indeed fall backwards out of his chariot and knock his head on a rock, perhaps due to instability caused by KPS. This could, as we have seen, have produced an injury to the back of the head consistent with the abnormal density resulting from a blood clot in the brain, and would eventually have resulted in a slow, painful death. Whereas Collins and Ogilvie-Herald feel this is the most likely scenario, particularly in view of the boy-king's apparent love of hunting, they do not accept Cooper and King's suggestion that if the king did fall from a chariot, then the boy-king was left to die in the desert heat at the orders of Aye, who somehow engineered the 'accident'. This is especially so as Collins and Ogilvie-Herald have found evidence from the Jewish Talmud that the Pharaoh of the Exodus, which they see in terms of Tutankhamun, died in bed following a fall from his chariot.

In the opinion of Collins and Ogilvie-Herald, the two US policemen have wrongly assumed that Tutankhamun was murdered, simply by going along with Bob Brier's conclusions in The Murder of Tutankhamun, which likewise points the accusing finger at Aye. Yet this can be shown not to have been the case, and thus there never was a murder to solve, or an assassin to find. Unfortunately, the most obvious solutions are all too often ignored in the light of wild ideas and theories.

For the full facts behind the death of Tutankhamun and earlier claims by American paleopathologist Bob Brier that the boy-king was murdered by Aye, see Appendix I of Collins and Ogilvie-Herald's book TUTANKHAMUN: The Exodus Conspiracy, by clicking here. Click here for further details of how to obtain the book.