The curse of the boy king How did King Tutankhamen actually die?

A replica of King Tutankhamen's mummy.


King Tut was an Egyptian Pharaoh who reigned for ten years during the eighteenth dynasty. His tomb was found by Howard Carter and Lord Carnavaron in 1922. His mummy was severely damaged, his skin was blackened as if a fire burned in the innermost coffin, several ribs were missing, and most intriguingly, his heart was missing. Most Egyptian mummies were left with the heart, liver, lungs, and intestines as the Egyptians thought those organs would be necessary in the afterlife. There was also a large hole in his chest cavity. Of all of the evidence on his mummy, the hole in his chest has supported the most theories.


King Tut had many deformities, including pigeon chest-a deformity of the chest cavity that causes shortness of breath. One theory states that the wound in his chest could have come from damage during mummification while removing the unwanted organs...or the heart. Why would the heart be removed? It was considered as the most important organ as it would decide what kind of an afterlife the dead person would have. Pharaohs had certain kingly duties, like ostrich or hippopotamus hunts. Paintings in his tomb have been decoded and they depict King Tut hunting an ostrich and collecting it's feathers. Ostriches are known to be aggressive, so an ostrich that King Tut believed to be dead that was only injured could have delivered the fatal kick to his rib cage, but this is unlikely because there is more evidence around the mummy including several limb fractures, which couldn't have come from an ostrich's kick, it had to be a crush injury. A hippo could have delivered the crush injury and the puncture wound in his chest. King Tut also hunted hippopotamuses.

However most theories point to a chariot crash. Paintings in his tomb suggest that he was riding a chariot while holding a bow in a battle against the Syrians and Nubian people. From the injuries on his mummy, he would have been kneeling or crouching while getting hit by the chariot. Advanced crash simulators and a replica of a chariot in his tomb show that a chariot's wheel-moving at the maximum speed that the chariot was capable of-had enough force to break several ribs, puncture the chest, squash internal organs, and break a leg. King Tut had all of these injuries, and the impact could have severely damaged the heart, and during mummification, severely damaged organs were removed so that the pharaoh would experience a pain-free after-life, but limbs were never removed. Several tissue samples from the mummy showed dead or weakened Plasmodium vivax bacteria-showing that he probably had malaria.

The painting on a wood box in King Tut's tomb.

What i think

Out of all the theories out there, I think that the theory about the chariot race is true. Even though hippo bites are very dangerous, King Tut would have been guarded or protected and prepared for dangerous situations. King Tut was an expert at hunting ostriches and an accident from one couldn't have done him in. Malaria was a problem back then, but the bacteria were younger than the rib fractures and puncture, and if King Tutankhamen died from malaria, he would have died later because the internal injuries would have killed him within hours. King Tut wasn't known for battle or strategy so a mistake in his defense against the Syrians could have led to damage to the chariot which caused the crash.

Works cited

National Geographic Article 1

BBC/historyextra Article 2 Article 1

BBC/historyextra Article 2 Article 2 (What King Tut might have looked like)

livescience Article Article 3

King Tut National Geographic documentary article

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