History's Greatest Mysteries (2020) s05e09 Episode Script

Who Killed King Tut

Tonight an investigation
into the death
of one of history's
most enigmatic rulers.
King Tut might be
the most famous ancient
Egyptian Pharaoh.
And around 1324 BC,
at about 19 years old,
he suddenly dies.
Even after 3,300 years,
no one knows for certain
what ended the young
pharaoh's life,
Who are the potential
suspects if it was a homicide,
which always takes us back
to the crime book theory
of means, motive
and opportunity.
His name is wiped
out from monuments
and temples across Egypt.
Someone wants him
erased from history.
Now we'll explore the top
theories behind the demise
of Egypt's legendary boy king.
The bone fragments that
show up on the X-ray are
at the base of the
skull in a position
that suggests one blow
in the back of the head.
And could he have been murdered?
DNA could really
make or break the case.
- King Tut's death.
- What a mystery.
Who or what killed King Tut?
It's November 4th,
1922 near Luxor, Egypt
in the ancient
burial grounds known
as the Valley of the Kings.
British archaeologist Howard
Carter is searching for the tomb
of a long forgotten
Pharaoh named Tutankhamun.
He had a a great
deal of support.
He had a very wealthy
lord, Lord Carnarvon,
who backed him for
a number of years.
Both were working so hard
to specifically find
King Tut's tomb.
On the list of kings they had,
every other tomb was found
in the Valley of the Kings
except for King Tut's tomb.
He's been looking
for five years for Tut
and he has failed
over and over again.
By the end of this
five year period,
Lord Carnarvon was
ready to give up
and you know Howard Carter
essentially begged him
for one more season, said,
look, I've got this feeling.
There's this one area
of the valley that
we haven't looked at.
Let me dig there and let
me see what I can find.
And he'd managed to
persuade Lord Carnarvon
to pay for one more season.
The area which hadn't
been touched was right
in the center of the valley.
He dug through, he found
some huts which had been used
by the builders of
another royal tomb nearby.
Under those, they
found a stone cut step.
It's here that
Carter and his team make
an extraordinary discovery.
The staircase that leads
them all the way down
to a door with a seal on it.
And that seal said on it,
the coronation name of King Tut.
Carter was able to
read it immediately
and know which pharaoh it was.
And you can imagine the
feeling that Howard Carter had.
All his life he's been
waiting for that moment,
and it happened just when
he was about to give up.
Carter decided to tear
down the sealed doorway
and continue his
excavation into this tomb.
They arrived yet again
at another sealed doorway
and Carter recounts
this in his publications
that they made a small hole
within this second
sealed doorway.
And Howard Carter
shined his little light
and looked into the hall and
said, "I see wonderful things."
What Carter sees becomes
the most famous archaeological
discovery of the 20th century.
What they had found was
this nearly intact tomb
of a royal burial
from the 18th dynasty.
Over 5,000 objects
were found in the tomb
and at the core of it all
the mummy of the king,
surrounded by coffins of
solid gold and gilded wood.
The king's mummy was surrounded
by four different
golden shrines.
And those golden
shrines contained
a quartzite sarcophagus
and within that quartzite
sarcophagus was a series
of nested coffins, almost like
these Russian dolls, right?
One within the other.
It must have been utterly
amazing to go through each
of the three coffins,
one inside the other,
to then finally confirm
that. yes, this is the body
of Tutankhamun and it has
been perfectly preserved
for 3,000 years.
But more than three millennia
after his mummified body
was so lavishly entombed,
little is known about the
brief reign of King Tut
or the cause of his death.
There's this incredible irony
that we learned so much
about Ancient Egypt
through Tutankhamun,
but we really know so little
about him individually,
how he died, and
that's the mystery.
All we know is that
King Tut was alive
and at the age of 19
he was being mummified.
It's very likely that King
Tutankhamun came to the throne
around 1330-1332 BC having come
after his father Akhenaten,
when he was only
about nine years old.
So this was the child
that we're talking about
who essentially had to
become a living god on earth
and rule the land of Egypt.
But such a young child
could not rule Egypt on his own.
He needed to surround
himself with close advisors,
essentially, to help
him rule as king.
Rule would've been
in the hands of adults,
but what they were
doing would be
in the name of the young king.
About the time
that King Tutankhamun
becomes Pharaoh of Egypt
part of his role as king
is he has to take a wife.
He ultimately ends up
marrying his half-sister,
Ankhesenamun, who
was also a daughter
of his father King Akhenaten.
- She was the royal heiress.
- They were both quite young.
Ankhesenamun must must
have been about 13 years
of age by that time.
King Tutankhamun,
he has a short reign.
It's roughly probably
about 10 years
that he's actually King of Egypt
and around 1324 BC
he suddenly dies.
70 years
after Tut's tomb was found,
one researcher thinks he
may have found the reason
for the young
pharaoh's sudden death.
In the 1990s, Egyptology
professor Bob Brier gets a hold
of x-rays taken in the 1960s
of Tutankhamun's mummy.
And he recognizes,
specifically, a head injury
in the back of his head
and he can tell that
the skull fragments
are inside the skull.
Professor Brier shows
them to Dr. Gerald Irwin,
who has experience
reading the x-rays
of head trauma patients.
And that colleague believed
the x-rays showed evidence
for a blow to the
back of the head.
Bob Brier starts to suspect
that it was a deliberate blow
to the back of the head
intended to kill him.
But who would want
to kill the 19-year-old king?
In any murder
mystery you're looking
for means, motive
and opportunity.
Professor Brier speculates that
if Tutankhamun was murdered,
the most likely suspect would
be someone in the Royal Court.
The first culprit
in our story is Ay,
the vizier of King Tut and
the grandfather of his wife.
Ay was one of the people that
Tut completely leaned on.
The vizier is one
of the most powerful
officials in Ancient Egypt,
analogous to something like
the Prime Minister today.
He's in charge of
diplomacy, trade,
all sorts of functions
of the state.
It's a job Ay likely knew well,
given his long service as a
member of the Royal Court.
Ay has been in the royal
family and the royal blood
for three generations now.
He actually started his career
during the reign of King
Tut's father Akhenaten,
and so Ay was the second
most powerful man in Egypt,
right after the king himself.
Ay's power would've been huge.
He would've answered,
essentially only to Tutankhamun.
Since King Tut is just a child
when he becomes pharaoh,
many historians believe that
Ay is the real power in Egypt.
And Ay's first priority is
to undo the damage caused
by Tut's father.
King Tut's father
was King Akhenaten,
he was the king that
decided all the gods
of Ancient Egypt
didn't matter anymore
and only one God matters.
Egyptian religion had been based
around dozens of gods going
back to the earliest times.
Akhenaten destroyed all
that, went on his own.
He ultimately moves the capital
to a different part of Egypt
to pursue a certain
religious agenda
and alienates the priesthood.
So the reign of King
Tutankhamun's father left Egypt
more or less in a crisis.
Weakened by internal dissent,
Egypt was increasingly
vulnerable to outside attack.
Egypt has its own enemies.
Any enemy is ready for
a moment of weakness
to come attack the
country and take it over.
Egypt's crisis eases with
the death of Akhenaten.
Tutankhamun reverses all
the policies of his father
under the advice
of his counselors.
The capital is brought
back to its original site.
The temples are restored
and the ancient religion
is also restored with it.
The decisions to
make moves like that
couldn't have been made by
a nine to 12-year-old boy.
But as King Tut grows up,
Brier believes there may have
been a struggle for power.
Under Ay, Egypt
gets its mojo back.
What he says, as the king's
chief advisor, is law.
Brier thinks that perhaps
Ay saw himself as the person
who brought Egypt
back on its feet
and sees himself then also as
the right man to be pharaoh.
But now King Tut's also
starting to mature
as a young king
and perhaps, even
making some decisions
that go against
the puppet master
who had been controlling
him for years.
History tends to show
that when a young king
starts thinking about stuff,
the people who've been his
regents start getting nervous.
Ay had just seen
Tutankhamun's father destroy
so many institutions that
were so necessary for Egypt,
and he's really possibly
seeing this boy king going
to repeat all of those mistakes.
Ay may have also sensed
that this could be his last
chance to take the throne.
The king and queen were
trying to have children.
If Tutankhamun has an heir,
it would absolutely
end any chance
that Ay has of becoming
pharaoh because the child would
now be the next in
line for the throne.
If you're going to plan
a murder, this is the time.
Brier speculates that Ay
could have dispatched one
of Tutankhamun's own attendants,
the only persons with access
to his private
chambers or bedroom,
to slip in there and possibly
assassinate the king.
He picks up a heavy weapon
and he strikes a
fatal blow at the back
of the king's
skull, killing him.
After Tutankhamun's death,
Ay becomes king of Egypt
and takes over the throne.
One of the ways that he
would've legitimized that claim
to the throne was by marrying
King Tutankhamun's half-sister
who was his widow.
So is it possible
that Ay actually had
the young pharaoh killed
to maintain his own power
and control of Egypt?
We know that Tut died
and that he died under
mysterious circumstances.
Is it natural causes?
Was it an accident?
And if none of those
are working very well,
we have to consider homicide.
By 1324 BCE,
19-year-old King Tut has
been married for 10 years,
but he remains childless
and therefore vulnerable.
Tutankhamun has no
living children in line
to assume the throne if
he were to suddenly die.
That creates an opportunity
for anyone in his inner circle
to potentially murder him
and assume the
throne for himself.
Many speculate
that Tut's alleged killer is
Ay, his vizier and successor,
but Ay is not the only suspect.
It's very common in history
when there is any political
turmoil, a coup takes place
and the head of the military
ends up being the king.
During the last years
of King Tut's reign,
there's one person
around the royal kingdom
that actually has the strength,
physically and mentally,
and has the army in their hand.
That man is one of
Tut's closest advisors.
His commander in chief.
Horemheb is an army general
and he first appears in history
when he's appointed as
regent for King Tut.
Clearly he must have been
somebody important prior to that
to be given the job
of running Egypt.
General Horemheb was
not of royal blood.
He's a normal citizen of Egypt
that had become a soldier
and had raised all the way
to the protector of the king
and proved himself.
So he was nearly
operating everything
from behind the scenes.
He was there for Ay.
Ay was always calling him
his right hand man,
but in all truth,
it seems like he was the
one in charge all along.
Despite having two
of the most powerful
jobs in Egypt,
some allege that Tut's regent
and top general is worried
about losing his grip
on the teenage pharaoh
and his kingdom.
As King Tutankhamun
started to grow up
and become a man himself,
it's possible that
Horemheb sensed
that perhaps
Tutankhamun was ready
to start making
his own decisions.
There's no point
of having a regent
when the king's an adult.
So Horemheb might resent that.
And this perhaps was
a motive for Horemheb
to seize power for himself.
Horemheb may have concerns
about Tut's physical weaknesses.
Ancient Egyptians see their
pharaohs as the embodiment
of the gods on earth,
strong and powerful rulers.
Based on his mummified remains,
Tut does not live
up to that image.
There are a lot of indications
that Tutankhamun was frail,
that he was weak and
that he was sick.
Medical examination of the
body of King Tut has shown
that he was quite infirm,
probably since birth.
The scans of his bones show
evidence of a clubbed foot.
He had a lot of walking
canes in his tomb.
Even though walking canes were
also a sign of elevation
and distinction,
there were so many that
it's hard to imagine
that he didn't also
need them for mobility.
But the king of Egypt
at this point, leads
his troops into battle,
fights in the front
lines on his chariot.
I don't believe for
a moment that this kid
that had a clubfoot
and physical ailments
could be out there racing
across the desert on a chariot,
flinging arrows from his bow.
It's important to let your
potential enemies know
that this guy that's leading
us is ready for battle
and he'll make sure
Egypt remains in charge.
Knowing that other
governments would look
at a leader who's frail
as potentially an example
that the country is frail,
Horemheb potentially could
be responsible for murder.
It wouldn't have
just been his ill will
towards Tutankhamun himself,
but a belief and a fear
that this can really leave
us vulnerable to our enemies.
A clue found
after Horemheb's death reveals
another possible motive.
Horemheb's tomb
contains inscriptions
that show in hieroglyphics
that he had been appointed by
Tutankhamun as the iry-pat.
The iry-pat is a title
of legal inheritance.
It's essentially an equivalent
to our modern crown prince.
King Tut, according to Horemheb,
adopts Horemheb the general,
and names him the
hereditary prince,
the next in line for the throne.
But there are no guarantees
that King Tut will make good
on that line of succession.
Horemheb's appointment
as crown prince is
effectively going
to be null and void the moment
that Tutankhamun has an heir.
And we know from the presence
of two stillborn mummies
in King Tut's tomb
that he is trying to have
children at this time.
If Tut's general
has designs on the throne,
he must act before
Tut's heir is born.
Horemheb would definitely
have had guards in the palace.
This would've allowed
Horemheb to just give the order
to murder the king and send
off some palace guard to go
and kill Tutankhamun
in his sleep.
But if Horemheb is the killer,
why did Ay succeed
Tut on the throne?
Because Ay is in his 60s
and near the end of his life.
It's possible that
they struck up a deal.
Essentially, Ay would take
over the role of pharaoh
for a brief period of time
after which point Horemheb
would become king,
and that is exactly
what happened.
To see both of them take power
after the demise of this
18th dynasty royal family,
it does put the
spotlight on them.
Ay dies after
just four years in power
and Horemheb takes
over as pharaoh.
No one knows precisely how
long Horemheb is pharaoh,
but some evidence suggests that
he was pharaoh for 25 years.
As Horemheb
builds his own legacy,
he also tears down
evidence of the past.
Once he's pharaoh,
Horemheb erases any record
of Akhenaten, Tutankhamun or Ay
from historical
records, documents,
and inscriptions across Egypt.
He wants to make it as
if they've never existed.
Horemheb either wanted to
make sure Egypt never looks weak
for the future generations,
or he wanted to make sure
he erases all the evidence
that puts him in
as the main suspect
of the death of King Tut.
Without children to
succeed him, King Tut
is vulnerable to enemies who
want the throne for themselves.
But perhaps the motive
behind his alleged
murder is less political
and more personal.
In any homicide investigation,
one of the first persons
you're gonna look at
is the spouse of a victim.
You never know what
happens behind closed doors
in a husband and
wife's relationship,
and that would've been just
as much true 3,000 years ago,
Young King
Tut and his royal wife
were both children of the
previous pharaoh, Akhenaten.
It was very common for
the ancient Egyptians,
at least the royalty, to
marry within the family
in order to kind of
keep the bloodline pure
and keep things closer
to home, let's say.
There's a number of depictions
from the tomb of
Tutankhamun that suggest
that King Tutankhamun had
a loving and devoted wife
in his half sister.
There were these scenes
of romantic relationship
between Ankhesenamun and Tut
that suggested this is a couple
that truly loved each other.
But things aren't often
always as they seem.
There are lots of engravings
and depictions of Tutankhamun
and Ankhesenamun together.
One in particular,
she's putting a very sacred
collar around his neck.
He's pouring water
into her cupped hands.
Then they're in a hunting scene
where King Tut is sitting
down discharging arrows
with Ankhesenamun
kneeling beside him,
handing them the arrows.
Which just seems to indicate
that they were
fulfilling the roles
that they were expected to fill.
But if the
royal couple is happy,
why would the young queen
have her husband killed?
The answer may lie
in King Tut's tomb.
The saddest
discovery that was made
in Tutankhamun's tomb
was the mummified remains
of two stillborn children.
Two stillborn girls,
one is about seven months,
one is nearer nine months.
And there is no textual
evidence for any other children.
This would indicate
that there was an attempt
to deliver an heir, but that
it had not yet happened.
Tutankhamun could have kids
with all kinds of other women.
He's got a harem.
This is not a problem.
It's Ankhesenamun who needs
the baby to come from her womb
such that she can
maneuver a path to power.
Trying multiple times to
produce an heir to the throne
and being unsuccessful in that
could have potentially led
to some resentment or
some concern, perhaps,
on part of the young queen.
If true, some
suggest the queen's resentment
may have led her to homicide.
Ankhesenamun was royal herself
and would've had a lot of reason
to want to preserve
her royal line,
and if she is looking
at the possibility
that this king is not
going to do that for her,
it could have been a
devastating prospect for her.
Perhaps this
young queen realized
that once her husband was
no longer in the picture,
this could allow her
to have the chance
to successfully produce an heir
to take over the
throne of Egypt.
To achieve that
the young queen plots
to avoid a likely next step,
marriage to her own
grandfather, Ay.
We found letters that were
sent from the Egyptian queen
to the king of the Hittites
right after King Tut's death.
And she tells him that,
"My husband has died.
A son I have not, but
you have many sons.
Give me one of your sons.
To me he will be husband.
In Egypt, he shall be king."
She's trying to
control the narrative
by choosing who is
going to be her husband,
a foreigner who doesn't
speak a word of Egyptian
and therefore she will
be the person in power.
If she marries anybody else,
she's not gonna be
in that position.
The king sent his prince son,
but someone found those letters.
Some scholars believe that
Ay learns of the queen's plan
and has the Hittite
prince killed.
And then Ay married
the queen himself,
her own grandfather,
probably by force,
and he legitimized himself
to become the next
king of Egypt.
But while a killer queen
is a compelling scenario,
some historians question whether
Tut's wife had the motive
to murder her husband.
It serves her to have
Tutankhamun there on the throne,
for her to rule through.
Ankhesenamun's desperate
letter to the Hittites suggested
that everything that happened
after Tutankhamun's
death was bad for her.
By writing to the
king of the Hittites,
she chooses what, probably,
Egyptians regard as treason,
and I suspect that
may have ended
either her freedom or her life.
Ay is now king and we hear
no more of Ankhesenamun.
Her name and images
from history were erased.
After that, we never
saw her again.
X-rays of King Tut
skull taken in 1968
lead some researchers to
suspect that a murderous blow
to the back of his
head ended the life
of the 19-year-old pharaoh.
More than three decades
later, new technology seems
to suggest another cause
of King Tut's death.
In 2005, King Tut's mummy
is removed from his tomb
for a CAT scan.
Zahi Hawass and his Egyptian
team removed the king's body
from his tomb in
the Valley of the Kings
where it had been resting since
Carter's discovery in 1922
and they decide to CT scan
the king's body to see
what more information
can they learn
about the young king's health
and potentially
how he even died.
A CT scan is much more
detailed than an x-ray.
An x-ray really does
just show you the bones,
but a CT scan gives you
a much greater
granularity of detail.
It shows you other
tissues, organs,
and sometimes blood vessels.
team scans 1,700 images,
leading to a brand new theory
on the death of King Tut.
They find two skull fragments,
and these are the same skull
fragments that they found
when the initial x-rays were
done of King Tut's skull.
The early examination
opened a Pandora's box
about the king being hit over
the head and being murdered.
But aside from these
two bone fragments,
they can't see evidence of
a fracture of his skull,
and so ultimately they
conclude that King Tut
probably didn't die
from a blow to the head,
but that the two skull fractures
are probably from
something else.
They specifically pointed
that this was more likely
an injury to the
skull after death.
During the
mummification process,
they're trying to
remove the brain
from the person being embalmed,
so, some skull fragments easily
could have been dislocated
in that sort of a procedure.
There's also always
the possibility too,
that in the rough handling
of the king's mummy
by Howard Carter and
his team in the 1920s,
that some of these bone
fragments could have
also been dislodged from
the skull at that time.
But the CT scan reveals
that Tut did sustain a
major injury before he died.
King Tut has a femoral fracture,
which is essentially a
break in your thigh bone,
and it suggested
that he might have had
this fracture right
before the time of his death.
The leg fracture that
we see in the CT scan
did not heal before he died.
A femur fracture,
especially one that might
have broken through the skin,
places someone at risk
for an infection, sepsis.
Even in modern day society,
when someone develops
sepsis and septic shock,
that is a really big deal.
Sepsis is a toxic
and overwhelming immune
system response to infection
that can cause profound
tissue and organ damage.
Back in the time of King Tut
sepsis is a death sentence.
One of the ways
that Tutankhamun could
have fractured his leg was
in one of the high-
risk activities
that we know all
pharaohs participated in,
which was hunting.
As a king, Tutankhamun would
have participated in a lot
of big game hunting expeditions,
which are inherently dangerous.
Another thing that's found
in the tomb is a sculpture
of the king mounted on a
reed boat holding a spear,
in a marsh, hunting an
animal that might be a hippo.
Egyptians hunted hippos
for thousands of years
before and after Tut's time.
For the pharaoh himself to
hunt such a large wild animal
was a ritual display of
strength and courage.
Hippos are actually an
incredibly territorial,
very aggressive,
deadly land animal.
They still kill over 500
people a year in Africa.
And it would've been a huge
accomplishment to kill one.
It was why they were such a
valued thing to have as a trophy
and why hunting hippos in Egypt
was such a ceremonial event.
If Tutankhamun fractured his leg
as the result of a hippo attack,
it is very likely that that
could have gotten infected
and ultimately led to his death.
But is it
possible a different kind
of accident ended
young Tut's life?
In 2013, a group of
forensic scientists,
led by Dr. Chris Naunton,
examined the CT scans
originally done by Zahi Hawass.
They perform, essentially,
a virtual autopsy.
Dr. Naunton and his
team find not only
that Tut just had
that fractured femur,
but that he had a
smashed rib cage.
His pelvis was shattered,
and he probably also endured
some internal
bleeding and damage.
The interesting part
about all his findings is
that the rib damage
and the pelvis damage,
including the internal organs,
all were on one
side of the body.
He came to the conclusion
that these injuries
weren't the result
of an attack by a hippo, but of
some other kind of accident
from a different kind of pastime
that the king would've done.
Which he theorized and said,
"If this was an autopsy
of a dead person today,
I would say this is
an obvious car crash."
And he theorized it could
have been a chariot crash.
Dr. Naunton and his
team run a simulation.
They take all the injuries
that King Tut has,
and they compare
it to what happens
to individuals in car crashes
to try to figure out
what might have happened.
But when
the analysis comes back,
Dr. Naunton and his team
are in for a surprise.
The recreations revealed
that it was highly unlikely
that Tutankhamun fell
out of his chariot.
Chariots were
actually very stable.
So the theory is that instead
of being thrown
from the chariot,
he may have been kneeling
down, fixing something,
doing something else,
and then was struck
by another chariot.
Dr. Naunton's theory is that
because of how the injuries were
on just one side of the body,
the only explanation he
could come up with is
that King Tut would've
been kneeling on the ground
while at the same time
getting hit by a chariot
to one side of his body.
But some scholars
question this scenario.
There's no reason King
Tut would be kneeling
on the ground.
He is the king. People
kneel to the king.
In 2010,
researchers launched a new study
into the life and
death of King Tut,
hoping answers might lie
within Tut's genetic code.
Five years after the
CT scans are performed,
Dr. Hawass teams up with
paleo geneticist Carsten Pusch
to examine the DNA, both of
King Tut and 10 other mummies.
They specifically
focused on the family
of the 18th dynasty
where King Tut was,
Akhenaten was, Akhenaten's
father was, the whole lineage.
It was the first time that
there had ever been a DNA test
done on mummies and historians
and scientists were shocked
to find how well
preserved the DNA was.
The reason they look at
this DNA is they want to see
what relationship King Tut
had to these other members
of the royal family, but also
to delineate the diseases
that they suffered from
and also whether these diseases
could have caused their deaths.
The DNA study
reveals stunning new information
about King Tut.
We knew that Tutankhamun's
father was Akhenaten,
but nobody knew
who his mother was.
It had been believed
that King Tut's mother
had been Nefertiti.
That was the consort
of his father,
but the DNA test proved
that it wasn't her,
it was someone else.
His mother was actually the
full sister of his father.
Incest and intermarrying
ends up resulting
in many gene problems
and birth defects.
Some scholars believe
that the cause of death
to King Tut was
actually inbreeding.
We all have recessive genes.
We all have
expressions of disease
that are in our bodies.
If we marry somebody who has
different recessive genes
and different disease
possibilities in their bodies,
we have less likelihood
of producing offspring
with those medical issues.
This is why you don't have
children with a cousin.
There are all kinds of
congenital birth defects
that will occur in the
offspring of parents
who are too closely related.
The fact that Tutankhamun
has two stillborn children
in his tomb suggests that
the more you continue
this kind of inbreeding,
the problems are only
going to get worse.
Is it possible that the
sharing of these recessive genes
through close
sibling marriage led
to these children not being
able to survive to term,
and was it also a ticking time
bomb for the pharaoh himself?
We know from the different
CT scans and x-rays
of the king's mummy that
he had a cleft palate,
a curved spine,
different ailments
that would've caused him a
lot of pain during his life.
People have concluded that
his upper vertebrae were fused
and that he had a club foot.
Some researchers suggested many
of these ailments
could be symptoms
of a condition called
Marfan syndrome.
Marfan syndrome is
a genetic disorder
that affects connective tissues
and the organs which
support the body.
Some of the features of
Marfan syndrome can be lethal.
Specifically, if you
develop what's called an
aortic aneurysm, you
could die from that.
But the 2010 DNA tests
conclusively rule
out Marfan syndrome.
Instead, researchers
find evidence
that suggests King Tut
suffered from a condition known
as Freiberg's disease, which
causes blood loss to the feet.
A temporary or a permanent
blockage of the blood flow
to the bones of the foot
is possibly what led
to his club foot and
the loss of his toes.
It's gonna make
it very difficult
to walk and to have mobility.
That's probably why they
found a number of canes
and staffs in King Tut's tomb.
Having Freiberg's
disease isn't fatal,
but it could predispose him
to other complications like
developing an infection
in the joints in his foot,
something called
septic arthritis.
In Tut's time, there
were no ventilators.
There were no antibiotics.
If King Tut got this
condition over 3,000 years ago,
it would be deadly.
In 2010, two German scientists,
Doctors Timmann and Meyer,
suggest a different cause
of Tut's bone damage.
Dr. Timmann and Dr. Meyer
believed that the cause
of all this bone damage
could have been
sickle cell disease.
In a situation like
King Tut's family
and the multiple inbreeding,
if the sickle cell gene was
in any part of that family,
then it's very likely
that would transfer
to King Tut himself.
The sickle-shaped cells
essentially block capillaries,
preventing blood flow
to the damaged bones
and can lead to fatal results
in childhood and
throughout life.
Timmann and Meyer believed
that sickle cell disease
could cause an infection
to spiral out of control.
We know from the CT scans
that Tut had a leg fracture
that did not heal
before he died.
So if that had become
a point of infection,
it is possible that he had a
sickle cell crisis as a result.
Which would've ultimately led
to oxygen not being delivered
to the king's vital organs.
And this could have led
to the king's death.
It's a promising
theory, but yet unproven.
That's not entirely surprising.
It's 3,000 year old DNA
and might've degraded,
and so it might've made that
diagnosis really difficult.
Hopefully, the
future will provide us
with even greater technology
that will give us an
even better insight
into the DNA of these mummies.
After decades
of investigating the
death of King Tut,
a research team
led by Egyptologist
Dr. Zahi Hawass believes
they've finally
found the answer.
It's clear that King Tut
had a whole host of ailments,
but unfortunately, none of the
genetic tests really tell us
that he was suffering
from a particular disease,
a particular condition that
could have caused his demise.
Then in 2010, Dr. Hawass
and his team re-look
at the genetic code.
In his analysis of
the DNA of Tutankhamun,
Zahi Hawass and his
team found a clue
that could perhaps
be the smoking gun.
The ironic thing is
that this young king
who was meant to be a living
god on earth and was supposed
to be Egypt's most
powerful influential figure
could have died from one
of the world's most
common diseases.
Malaria is an
infectious disease.
It's a parasite that's
transmitted by a mosquito,
and these mosquitoes do not
care if you're a pharaoh
or if you're a commoner.
If you're bitten by a mosquito
that's carrying the parasite,
then you ultimately
will develop malaria.
It causes periodic fevers
and extreme it can kill you.
Even today,
more than 400,000 people die
from malaria each year.
Malaria was prevalent
throughout Ancient Egypt.
It's easy to imagine that
along the banks of the Nile,
malaria would've been quite
common for ancient Egyptians,
whether they were commoners
or the king in his palace,
The DNA analysis of Tut's mummy
identifies a strain called
plasmodium falciparum,
which is one of the
deadliest strains of malaria.
Zahi Hawass contends that
in Tut's final days,
malaria exacerbated
a serious injury
which may have sent
Tut to an early grave.
The CT scan in 2005 by
Dr. Hawass and his team show
that femoral fracture,
a leg fracture.
Now, you don't
die of a broken leg.
However, in ancient
times with no penicillin
or other sorts of drugs,
you can get a very nasty
infection and die of that.
A serious infection
would've left the young
king especially vulnerable
to the deadly
effects of malaria.
Malaria instantly
goes into your body
and attacks your liver,
which makes you completely
With a big injury on your femur,
that is just a
recipe for disaster.
Getting exposed to
malaria could do nothing,
but wreak havoc and
speed up his death.
It may be the
most plausible theory yet,
but scholars agree,
we'll likely never know for
sure what killed King Tut
When studying a mummy like
the mummy of Tutankhamun's,
you know, physical remains
that have been preserved
for over 3,300 years,
nothing's gonna be perfect.
The level of precision
that you're going to be able
to bring to ancient genomic
studies are really limited.
So, even though we have a body
and we have genetic tests,
that's not going to
produce a smoking gun.
Unfortunately, this mystery
will not be solved today.
He could have been murdered.
He could have died
of an accident.
Theories will keep coming out,
but all we know is
that King Tut died,
the 19-year-old boy
who ruled all of Egypt.
Perhaps in the future,
more advanced technology
will allow science
to determine conclusively
whether it was natural
causes, an accident,
or even murder that caused
the death of King Tut.
Or perhaps it will simply
raise more questions.
Either way, every investigation
into Tut's final
days tells us more
about the fascinating life
of the once-forgotten
boy pharaoh.
I'm Lawrence Fishburne.
Thank you for watching
"History's Greatest Mysteries."
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