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No Proof of King Tut's Murder Found, Officials Say

March 8, 2005

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Two months after the initial set of 1,700 CT scans were performed on the mummy of Egypt's famous King Tutankhamen, archaeologists have announced that they have found no evidence that the Boy King was murdered. They did not, however, announce that they had discovered the cause of death.

The question of his cause of death has perplexed archaeologists for centuries. He is thought to have died of disease, but some historians have held out for the theory that he was poisoned. Such a conclusion could not have been supported from evidence revealed by the CT scans in any case. But the scans, conducted during a 15-minute period in the tomb of the Boy King, were done to try to eliminate another theory of death: a blow to the head.

An X-ray scan done 36 years ago showed bone fragments inside King Tut's skull. But that scan wasn't detailed enough to determine whether the bone fragments came from a blow to the head. According to Zahi Hawass, the secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, the bone fragments were actually caused by the mummification process performed on Tut after he died, some 3,300 years ago.

The scans did reveal, however, a badly broken leg. Some archaeologists theorize that the Boy King had some sort of accident that severly injured his left leg and that an infection resulting from the break could have caused his death. The scans did not prove this hypothesis.

During the procedure, the box holding Tut's mummy was lifted out of the stone sarcophagus in the underground tomb where it normally resides. (It had not left the tomb since being discovered in 1922.) The material that normally covers the mummy was pulled back, and the mummy was inserted into the CT machine.

The machine was donated by the German company Siemens and National Geographic. Tut will not be the last mummy scanned, according to National Geographic, which plans to fund the scanning of many more mummies to help determine their cause of death and also how best to preserve them.

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