By Prerna Bhatia
Back in Time is ED’s newspaper-like column that reports an incident from the past as though it has happened just yesterday. It allows the reader to re-live it several years later, on the date it had occurred.
For this incident, we go back in time to 1923.
February 16, 1923:
After several years of futile searching, Howard Carter was finally successful in finding Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, the place where, for nearly five hundred years from the 16th century to the 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the Pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom who ruled Ancient Egypt.
“The romantic secret of the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor was revealed yesterday when, for the first time in 3,000 years, the inner chamber of the tomb was entered. Every expectation was surpassed. Within the chamber stood an immense sarcophagus of glittering gold, which is almost certain to contain the mummy of the king. Wonderful paintings, including that of a giant cat, covered the walls. A second chamber was crowded with priceless treasures.”
— H.V Morton, Daily Express, Saturday 17th of February, 1923
The Valley of the Kings is an uninhabited place. Located near River Nile, the place houses 63 tombs and chambers, with the architecture of each one varying with the degree of importance of the person buried. The Tomb of Tutankhamun, or KV62, as it is its Egyptological designation, is the most renowned tomb in the Valley of the Kings, known for its intricate jewels and treasures, some of which were stolen in the initial period after which King Tut was buried.
He was of a tender age when he died. The world of archaeology, which has shifted from research on the history of kingdoms to the research about the history of their kings, has not left any stone unturned to discover the cause of the young Pharaoh’s untimely death.
In an attempt to find more about the most famous Pharaoh, George Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, entrusted the duty of finding the Valley of the Kings to Howard Carter in 1907.
After going through Tut’s funerary treasures, Howard Carter moved on to inspect the three nested coffins that held the Pharaoh’s mummy. The first one was a cover of gold foil, and the second one had a shroud with garlands of olive and willow flowers, a sign of a burial in March or April. When Carter reached the third coffin, he found the mummy nested to the bottom with the ritual resins. With little option left, he “chiselled away the consolidated material from beneath the limbs and trunk before it was possible to raise the king’s remains.”
Much of the damage to the mummy was caused due to Carter’s reckless handling of the body. Although the contents were “hastily ransacked in antiquity, they were surprisingly complete”. When King Tut’s mummy was lifted again in 2005 for a CT scan, it was found that he had a fractured skull.
However, the most recent findings indicate that he died of natural causes, as opposed to the doubts that he might have been murdered. The report said that he died due to gangrene because of a broken leg. This damage was different than the cuts caused by Carter’s team. Also, the report suggested that the kneecap on the leg was loose, further confirming that the damage was during the last days of his life.
Although reports might disagree, some people still believe that he might have been murdered by one of his two successors, Aye and General Horemhab, because he was respected in his kingdom for reviving the ways of his ancestors and worship of Lord Amun.
So, while some people may believe that the suspicions behind the cause of his death have been raised, not everyone agrees with the theory of King Tut dying due to natural causes.
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