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Doctor: Epilepsy Killed King Tut
September 19, 2012

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King Tut, the legendary boy king of ancient Egypt, died of natural causes exacerbated by hereditary epilepsy, according to an Egyptian scientist who recently completed examination of Tut's mummified remains.

The exact cause of death of the fabled King Tut is still very much in doubt, despite decades of research, testing, and hypothesizing. The latest theory alleges natural causes. (It is certainly not the first such theory.)

Scientists have examined the body of the boy king Tutankhamen in great detail, including by CAT scan. Research has discovered evidence of injuries and one fracture, which modern scientists have concluded contributed to Tut's death. But no written record of how he died has been passed down through the centuries, and so speculation reigns.

One theory making the rounds a few years ago was that King Tut was poisoned. That theory has not been proved. Another recent theory was that he was murdered. That theory has not been proved. Two years ago, a large group of archaeologists, including Zahi Hawass of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, concluded that Tutankhamen died from a combination of malaria and a deformed foot.

But a new theory from a London surgeon suggests the possibility that King Tut suffered from epilepsy and probably died as a result of a fall caused by a seizure, an occurrence found to be common for young epilepsy sufferers.

Dr. Hutan Ashrafian, who practices and lectures at Imperial College London, has put forward the theory based on three sets of information: Artwork from the period shows the king with highly feminine features and walking with a cane, both very unusual. Pharaohs were commonly shown as virile males and symbols of strength and vitality. Tut's portrayal in statues and other artwork as either feminine or disabled would have been a departure from the norm.

Ashrafian's theory goes a step further in pointing out the possibility of a genetic inheritance, passed down to Tutankhamen from his father, Akhenaten, who is thought to have been similarly disabled. Based on a series of visions, Akhenaten launched an ambitious religious change in Egypt, away from multiple gods and toward single-god worship, that of Aten, the sun god. Ashrafian's theory claims that powerful visions are often symptoms of epilepsy and that it could have been passed from father to son.

 


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