Tutankhamun was a battle-hardened warrior and not the sickly boy-king of legend, experts have claimed.
It has entered historical folklore that Egypt’s most famous king was frail and deformed, with a club foot.
He was buried with around 130 complete and fragmented sticks of various shapes and designs, which have been suggested to be walking sticks to help with his mobility.
But three experts on ancient Egypt have told Cheltenham Science Festival this week that such an assumption could be wrong.
Sofia Aziz, a biomedical Egyptologist, said: ‘When I studied Tutankhamun, I personally don’t think there was any evidence he was disabled, because I have seen mummies where it looks like there is a club foot.
Tutankhamun was a warrior and not the sickly boy-king of legend, experts have claimed
Tutankhamun was buried with around 130 complete and fragmented sticks of various shapes and designs, which have been suggested to be walking sticks to help with his mobility
‘We call these pseudo-pathological changes. The walking sticks were just a sign of royalty.’
The expert argues that the ‘club foot’ may in fact have been caused during the mummification process, where applying resin and tight bandaging can distort the shape of the foot.
A much-remarked upon missing middle bone in the second toe of his left foot, she says, could have gone missing after his remains were transferred into a sand box, or simply been taken by someone as a souvenir.
Speaking after the talk, the Egyptologist, who has studied more than 50 mummies in depth, said: ‘His legs were aligned so well – if he did have a deformity, and if he had a club foot, he would have had difficulty walking, but the long bones just don’t show any evidence of that.’
The leg bones would show signs of stress if someone had spent years hobbling.
Tutankhamun is so famous because his body lay undisturbed for almost 3,000 years after his death, without the tomb being ransacked by grave-robbers like those of many other pharaohs.
Discovered by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922, the tomb revealed tantalising clues about a child who became pharaoh in 1336 BCE, at just nine years old, before dying suddenly at the age of 19.
It has entered historical legend that the Egypt’s most famous king was frail and deformed, with a club foot (reconstruction made in 2005)
Tutankhamun is so famous because his body lay undisturbed for almost 3,000 years after his death, without the tomb being ransacked by grave-robbers like those of many other pharaohs
The view of Tutankhamun as a feeble king has been challenged by a minority of experts, but the idea that he was far more warrior-like is supported by items found in his tomb, such as armour made out of leather and various weapons.
Dr Campbell Price, curator of Egypt at Manchester Museum, who also spoke about Tutankhamun at the science festival, supports the idea that the sickly boy-king notion is most likely a myth.
After the talk, he said: ‘We have this sympathy for Tutankhamun, he’s not what you would expect from the golden mask.
‘And I would totally agree that anything in Pharaonic art is not what people looked like, because it’s the world of the gods.
‘But it’s gone the other way where we have a view of him as this poor creature.’
Dr Campbell Price, curator of Egypt at Manchester Museum, supports the idea that the sickly boy-king notion is most likely a myth
Dr Price added: ‘You’ve got to remember that when Tutankhamun was found, it was the immediate aftermath of the First World War and people had lost young men in the trenches, so there was this collective pathos for young men who had died, perhaps in battle, which plays into this fantasy, this myth of this supposedly feeble boy.’
The curator argues that Tutankhamun’s ‘walking sticks’ were signs of status, as they were emblazoned with pictures of his enemies, such as the neighbouring Nubians.
Raksha Dave, honorary president of the Council for British Archaeology, who chaired the science festival talk on the boy-king, described the debunking of a sickly Tutankhamun as ‘amazing’, adding: ‘It’s definitely a more rigorous, scientific and also refreshingly modern viewpoint on a story that is 100 years old, and how you can actually approach it in a different way.’
KING TUTANKHAMUN: THE PHARAOH WHO RULED EGYPT MORE THAN 3,000 YEARS AGO
The face of Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and ruled between 1332 BC and 1323 BC. Right, his famous gold funeral mask
Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, and ruled between 1332 BC and 1323 BC.
He was the son of Akhenaten and took to the throne at the age of nine or ten.
When he became king, he married his half-sister, Ankhesenpaaten.
He died at around the age of 18 and his cause of death is unknown.
In 1907, Lord Carnarvon George Herbert asked English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter to supervise excavations in the Valley of the Kings.
On 4 November 1922, Carter’s group found steps that led to Tutankhamun’s tomb.
He spent several months cataloguing the antechamber before opening the burial chamber and discovering the sarcophagus in February 1923.
When the tomb was discovered in 1922 by archaeologist Howard Carter, under the patronage of Lord Carnarvon, the media frenzy that followed was unprecedented.
Carter and his team took 10 years to clear the tomb of its treasure because of the multitude of objects found within it.
For many, Tut embodies ancient Egypt’s glory because his tomb was packed with the glittering wealth of the rich 18th Dynasty from 1569 to 1315 BC.
Egypt’s antiquities chief Zahi Hawass (3rd L) supervises the removal of the lid of the sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun in his underground tomb in the famed Valley of the Kings in 2007.
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