Tutankhamun’s tomb closed amid controversy over BBC documentary
Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Egypt’s antiquities chief closed Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings for restoration, amid controversial revelations about the king’s lineage and death in a recent BBC documentary.

Head of the Egyptian Antiquities Department at the Ministry of Antiquities, Youssef Khalifa, made a statement on Tuesday announcing the closing of King Tutankhamun’s tomb — An Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, who ruled ca. 1332 BC–1323 BC — in the Valley of the Kings, west of Luxor, for restoration purposes, the state-owned Middle East News Agency reported.

The routine restoration process will be carried out by the Getty Conservation Institute from November 1 to December 15, and will be limited to the walls and inscriptions inside the tomb, rather than the king’s mummy itself.

Khalifa said a decision had not yet been made regarding moving Tutankhamun’s mummy to Cairo, especially after Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty suspended the decision to begin restoration.

The announcement comes amid controversy regarding the young king’s life and death, following a BBC documentary, which released findings based on a “virtual autopsy,” using more than 2,000 CT scans of the mummy to shape a 3D image of the king, who died at the young age of 18.

The scans revealed that the king had “an overbite, feminine hips and a club foot,” reported the UK-based Huffington Post newspaper. According to researchers, the discovery of a number of genetic impairments might mean that contrary to popular beliefs, Tutankhamun didn’t die in a chariot accident, but as the result of illness. The broken bones that were found, aside from one, were concluded to have had happened post-mortem.

There have been numerous theories surrounding the king’s death, especially in the absence of records documenting his final days. Among the suggested causes of death are an assassination attempt, an infected left leg fracture, malaria, temporal lobe epilepsy and sickle cell disease.

In 2013, CT scans of the mummy were conducted by Egyptologist Dr. Chris Naunton, revealing a pattern of injuries on one side of the body, which car-crash investigators simulated to a chariot accident. It was suggested that a chariot had smashed into young Tutankhamun while he was on his knees, shattering his ribs and pelvis.

The BBC documentary film made an even more shocking allegation, that DNA testing of samples obtained from the mummy proved that the king was born of an incestuous relationship between Akhenaten — who is renowned for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing the monotheistic worship of Aten — and his sister.

Researchers claim incest was common among ancient Egyptian royalty, to preserve the purity of their bloodline. However, “they would have had no idea of the health implications and the outcome on the offspring,” said the scientific director for the Institute for Mummies and Iceman in Italy, Albert Zink, according to the Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, the revelation caused controversy among Egyptologists across the world, particularly Egyptian archeologists. Egyptologist and head of the Nubian Reservation Fund, Dr. Ahmed Saleh, told privately owned Youm7 newspaper that he saw a lot of errors in the documentary’s conclusions.

Saleh said that historically speaking it was proven that Tutankhamun’s father married two women, famous queen Nefertiti and a concubine by the name “Kia,” neither of whom were blood relations.

As for the flatfoot, Saleh said it was almost a certainty, as the king’s tomb contained 130 walking sticks, which might suggest that he was involved in an accident that affected his foot for life, rather than the result of genetic malformation.

The nearly intact tomb was discovered by British Egyptologists Howard Carter and George Herbert in 1922. Since then, artifacts from the tomb have received global renown, both in Cairo museum and others worldwide. 


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