Nebkheprune Tutankhamen is probably the most famous pharaoh in ancient Egyptian history, although not the most important. He lived a very short life, from 1503 to 1482 BCE to be exact. He was the ruler by the time he had turned nine years of age. Nobody really knows that much about him because he lived to only be around eighteen years old. Only because of an archaeologist by the name of Howard Carter who discovered Tutankhamen?s tomb on February 12, 1924 do we even have concrete proof that he even existed (Desroches-Noblecourt 7). One gigantic mystery about Tutankhamen?s life, is his death.
More than 3,000 years after the death of King Tutankhamen, questions are still being asked about how he died. Was it a natural death or was he murdered? The possibility that Tutankhamen did not die of natural causes was first raised 28 years ago when an X-ray analysis of his mummy was made by the anatomy department of the University of Liverpool. It revealed that the king might have died from a blow to the back of his head (Desroches-Noblecourt 18).
The suggestion caused a controversy among Egyptologists and scientists. If he were murdered, who did it? Was it Aye, Tutankhamen’s vizier who followed Tutankhamen as king and then married his wife, Ankhesenamon? Or was it Horemhab, the army officer who became king after Aye?s short four-year reign? Some archaeologists believed that Aye and Horemhab might have killed Tutankhamen together (Maugh).
A few years later, a new X-ray analysis was done only this time it suggested that Tutankhamen might have been murdered in his sleep. An unnamed trauma specialist at Long Island University conducted the examination. “The blow was to a protected area at the back of the head which you don’t injure in an accident. Someone had to sneak up from behind.? X-rays also show a thickening of a bone in the skull, which could occur only after a build-up of blood (Silverman 191). This would indicate that the king might have been left bleeding for a long time before he actually died. Scientists believe that the king was probably hit on the back of his head while asleep and that he was left there, maybe for as long as two months, before he died. According to Mohamed Saleh, Director-General of the Egyptian Museum, the original analysis of Tutankhamen’s mummy suggested that the boy king died of a lung disease or even a brain tumor, ?that would explain the lump on the head? (Silverman 195).
When the new analysis was carried out on the mummy, it was suggested that Tutankhamen was hit on the head and murdered by either Aye or Horemhab. Mohamed Saleh stated:
In my opinion this could not be the case. Because Tutankhamen had no
enemies; on the contrary, he was loved by the priests and the population because he re-established the stale religion of Amun-Re after the
Moreover, Aye and Horemhab would have had no reason to kill
Tutankhamen because he was youth and did not hold authority
Madelen El-Mallakh, Director-General of Luxor Museum, commented on the traces of a blow to the head: “Who is to say for certain how it was administered, whether it was foul play or accidental. There is certainly an element of mystery surrounding Tut’s death” (Silverman 199)
Bob Brier, an American Egyptologist, believes that Tutankhamen was indeed murdered, and claims he knows by whom:
It was either by his own personal attendant or by his cupbearer. No one
could easily approach the back of the pharaoh unless it was part of his
job to do so. The king’s attendant and his cupbearers would be the only
people allowed to enter his bedroom without arousing suspicion (Curse).
Brier added that he would back up his hypothesis with archaeological evidence, which will be shown, in his documentary, The Great Pharaohs. Such contradictions raised by Egyptologists prompted the Antiquities and Travel Lovers’ Committee (ATLC), an Egyptian non-profit organization, to re-examine Tutankhamen’s mummy and tomb and to carry out further research on the possible causes of his death (Curse).
The first step was a re-examination of the three tombs on the ban necropolis belonging to Aye, Horemhab and Tut. The tomb and the treasure of the latter have revealed two pieces of literary evidence suggesting that Aye and Horemhab were innocent of murder Desroches-Noblecourt 58).
The first is a papyrus document related to the ?opening of the mouth ceremony,? a ritual in which the dead man proclaims his innocence of any act be may have committed during his life-time, or mentions any subject he wants to shed light on in preparation for the day of judgment. Tutankhamen’s document indicated that Aye was innocent of his murder. Also, on the pedestal of one of Horemhab’s statues is a text in which he left a message to all Egyptians, indicating that he was not the man who committed the crime. He declared in writing that he was loyal to his king and carried out all his orders faithfully. He also warned any Egyptian who may read the text, against ‘normalizing’ relations with foreigners and told them never to trust them: “Egyptian brothers, don’t ever forget what foreigners did to our King Tutankhamen”, Horemhab wrote (Desroches-Noblecourt 62).
Forensic examination carried out by Egyptian experts on Tutankhamen?s mummy reveal that he was poisoned and it is now suggested that the blow to the back of the head might have happened after his death, during mummification. Experts say that his body might have been dropped on the floor and his head hit the flagstones; there is no trace of bleeding around the blow (Desroches-Noblecourt 68).
Now another person is being accused of the murder: Tutu or Dudu, described first as an official in the court of Amenhotep III, later that of his son Akhenaten, and then Tutankhamen. He was not an Egyptian and a person of a somewhat unruly character who caused friction in the royal household. One of the leaders of a vassal state in Tunib in Palestine repeatedly used this man to divert the messages of the Egyptian contingents in the area, so their calls for help failed to reach Egypt, and no help was given. When Akhenaton realized that he had been supplied with false evidence about the true situation of his troops, he apparently announced that an investigation would be carried out to discover its source (Desroches-Noblecourt 87).
Tutankhamen?s death in mysterious circumstances followed and members of the ATLC suggest that it was Tutu who was responsible for the deaths of Akhenaten and Tutankhamun “because in the tomb of the latter, an object like a trotter was found on which graffiti invokes, ‘go to the real killer and beat him and awake him from his death to confess and admit his crime so that the one who is now accused can be declared innocent.” Since trotters were not, ritual objects in Ancient Egypt, it is suggested that it belonged an outsider. ?Since Tutu was a foreigner, the priests used the trotter to indicate the nationality of the murderer,? Mohamed El-Saghir, head of Upper Egyptian Antiquities, added to the mystery. He claims that there is insufficient historical or archaeological evidence to suggest that either Aye or Horemhab were murderers, “but what is noteworthy is that Horemhab usurped some of Tutankhamen’s treasure and affixed his name to it.” El-Saghir referred to the two statues on display in Luxor Museum which were found in the open court of Amenhotep III in Luxor Temple in 1989. These feature the king seated before the god Atum and the goddess Isis respectively (Silverman 176).
Beneath each are texts stating: ‘Horemhab with gods’ El-Saghir points out that studies on both these statues reveal that they have the same features as Tutankhamen as well as evidence that the original texts were erased to inscribe the new ones. Analysis on the traces of the old inscription shows some parts of Tutankhamen’s titles. “And as for Aye, there is insufficient evidence that he is guilty. He was the high priest and was, moreover, the one who wrote Tutankhamen’s negative confession and performed the ?opening of the mouth? ceremony,? El-Saghir stated (Secrets).
While Tutankhamen’s murder was so much in the news, it must not be forgotten that his wife, Ankhespaton, must not been entirely ruled out as a suspect. She was the one who dispatched a message to the Syrian monarch asking him to send one of his sons to marry her following the death of her husband because she was without a son to take care of her; Ankhespaton, must not been entirely ruled out as a suspect neither. This proves that Tutankhamen?s death, to this day, is still an unsolved mystery and will most likely stay that way forever…. unless someone comes forth and admits it. Not likely anytime soon.