Head Blow Did Not Kill King Tut, CT Scan Suggests

King Tut's mummy is removed from its sarcophagus. i i

hide captionInside King Tut's tomb, Zahi Hawass (center), head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, looks on as the 3,300-year-old mummy is removed from its sarcophagus, Jan. 5, 2005.

Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic
King Tut's mummy is removed from its sarcophagus.

Inside King Tut's tomb, Zahi Hawass (center), head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, looks on as the 3,300-year-old mummy is removed from its sarcophagus, Jan. 5, 2005.

Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic
The mummy of King Tut is prepared for scanning. i i

hide captionThe mummy of King Tut is prepared for scanning. The CT scan took place outside Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, Egypt.

Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic
The mummy of King Tut is prepared for scanning.

The mummy of King Tut is prepared for scanning. The CT scan took place outside Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, Egypt.

Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic
Hawass (far right) looks on as King Tutankhamun’s coffin lid is replaced after the CT scan. i i

hide captionHawass (far right) looks on as King Tut's coffin lid is replaced after the CT scan. Data processing of the scan cast doubt on the popular theory that the boy king was the victim of a blow to the head.

Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic
Hawass (far right) looks on as King Tutankhamun’s coffin lid is replaced after the CT scan.

Hawass (far right) looks on as King Tut's coffin lid is replaced after the CT scan. Data processing of the scan cast doubt on the popular theory that the boy king was the victim of a blow to the head.

Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic

One of the great mysteries of ancient Egypt has just become a little less mysterious. Scientists who've been studying the 3,300-year-old mummy of King Tutankhamen say computerized scans contradict the long-held theory that a blow to the head killed the boy pharaoh.

Archeologists believe King Tutankhamun ascended the throne during the so-called 18th dynasty of ancient Egypt, when he was just 8 years old. He died at 19 and was mummified.

British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tut's tomb, in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, Egypt, in 1922. It was filled with some 5,000 artifacts, including a life-size golden mask of the young man's head. Since then, scientists have wondered how Tut died.

An X-ray taken in 1968 showed a bone fragment inside King Tut's skull, but the test was not advanced enough to reveal whether the fragment was the result of a blow to the head.

This past January, a group led by the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, briefly removed King Tut's mummy from its tomb to examine the body with computerized scanning machines. They found no evidence of a blow to the head — though they did find signs of a leg fracture.

Kathlyn Cooney, a Stanford University Egyptologist, says the computerized scans don't necessarily rule out murder. "All this has proved was that there was no blow to the back of the head," she says, adding that "the cause of death is by no means clear."

Egyptian scientists agree that it might have been murder — by poisoning, for example. Or it could have been an infection. But there's no way to tell for sure.

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