New Theory on King Tut’s Demise


When I was younger I had a fascination with all things Egyptian. Gods and goddesses, golden headdresses, Pharaohs and mummies, not to mention a language made entirely of pictures. What’s not to love?

I promised myself I would learn hieroglyphics one day, although that day never came. In college, I studied archaeology and my love of all things ancient continued to grow.

Of all the fascinating things about Egypt, the story of King Tut has captured the public imagination the most. A boy king, killed before he hit the prime of life (at age 19) whose death is still a mystery. In fact, archaeologists are constantly re-examining his remains to come up with new theories as to why he might have died.

Some think he was murdered by enemies (maybe even his sister), others think he died of an infection, and a select few think he was crushed by a hippo. Recently, a new theory has been proposed by Egyptologist Chris Naunton—perhaps King Tut was struck by a chariot.

Naunton took all the x-rays of King Tut’s body that were taken in the last 90 years and compiled them into a single large image using equipment at a special forensics lab. The image showed Tut’s mummy was missing eight ribs from the left side of his body, part of the left side of the pelvis and the heart. Since the heart is usually mummified with the body, Naunton presumed the organ and the other missing parts were so damaged they were left out during mummification. So, his team of researchers started looking for a cause of death that would inflict that kind of damage and only to the left side of a person’s body.

They quickly decided a chariot was the most likely candidate, but a simple fall wouldn’t produce enough force or favor injury on the left side. However, a test drive of a replica chariot showed that if King Tut had fallen out of his chariot and then been struck by the wheel of another chariot on his left side, the damage would be nearly identical.

Did King Tut die in a chariot accident? Maybe, but without historical documentation we can never be certain. Only the one true God knows for sure.

Fun Activity: If you would like to spell your name in hieroglyphics, click here.


Reference: Petit, Zachary. September 2014. Crash Test Mummy. National Geographic Kids, p. 20.

Photo Credit: ID 36111796 © Neil Harrison |

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