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DNA Results Prove Injury, Malaria Killed King Tut

February 17, 2010

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One of history's greatest mysteries may be solved after all. Apparently, King Tut died of a broken leg and malaria.

A new study released by Egypt's top archaeologists (including international celebrity Zahi Hawass of the Supreme Council of Antiquities) confirms that Tutankhamen, the famed "boy king" who ruled young and died young (at age 19), had a club foot and Kohler's disease, a condition that makes it difficult for blood to get to the bones in the foot. For most of his life, Tutankhamen used a walking stick or a cane to get around. (More than 100 of these walking aids were found in his tomb.) Because his left foot was so weak anyway, a fall or any other kind of injury could have caused a break. One such break, made worse by malaria, resulted in his death.

The announcement followed two years of DNA testing, which has been extended to hundreds of mummies in order to find out who the people and their families were. The archaeologists built two new labs and followed international genetic testing protocols, although the test results were not peer-reviewed before being released.

Various theories for King Tut's death have been put forward over the years since the tomb filled with magnificent riches was discovered in 1922. A mysterious head wound lent credence for a time to a popular theory of murder.

The DNA testing also confirmed that Tutankhamen's parents were brother and sister, an arrangement that was common in ancient Egypt among the royal family. More significantly, the tests point to Tut's father being Akhenaten, the famed revolutionary pharaoh who led a brief revolution promoting the worship of one god, the sun god, Aten.

The study is to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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