TUTANKHAMUN’S mysterious death as a teenager may finally have been explained. And the condition that cut short his life may also have triggered the earliest monotheistic religion, suggests a new review of his family history.
Since his lavishly furnished, nearly intact tomb was discovered in 1922, the cause of Tutankhamun’s death has been at the centre of intense debate. There have been theories of murder, leprosy, tuberculosis, malaria, sickle-cell anaemia, a snake bite - even the suggestion that the young king died after a fall from his chariot.
But all of these theories have missed one vital point, says Hutan Ashrafian, a surgeon with an interest in medical history at Imperial College London. Tutankhamun died young with a feminised physique, and so did his immediate predecessors.
Paintings and sculptures show that Smenkhkare, an enigmatic pharaoh who may have been Tutankhamun’s uncle or older brother, and Akhenaten, thought to have been the boy king’s father, both had feminised figures, with unusually large breasts and wide hips. Two pharaohs that came before Akhenaten - Amenhotep III and Tuthmosis IV - seem to have had similar physiques. All of these kings died young and mysteriously, says Ashrafian. Read more.