With the mummy permanently locked behind glass in his tomb, the emergence of a fragment of the pharaoh’s flesh in the UK now provides an opportunity to crack this mystery.
Dr Robert Connolly of the University of Liverpool was part of the 1968 team that first x-rayed Tutankhamun and obtained tissue samples for blood testing. Now unique chemical tests confirm that the mummy was indeed burnt whilst still sealed inside his coffin. But having lain untouched for millennia, how was this possible?
For the first time, leading fire investigators will demonstrate how an incredible chemical reaction of the embalming oils used on Tutankhamun’s mummy lead to his spontaneous combustion – providing brand new evidence that his mummification was botched.
But this mystery of the burnt mummy is also a major clue to the greatest enigma of Ancient Egypt – what caused the young pharaoh’s death.
Drawing upon the expertise of forensic scientists from the Cranfield Forensic Institute and combining xray and CT scanning data, Dr Naunton and team use a virtual autopsy of Tutankhamun to uncover a highly distinct pattern of injuries down one side of his body. Their investigation also explains why King Tut’s mummy was the only royal pharaoh to be missing its heart – it had been damaged beyond repair.
For many Egyptologists a chariot accident has been the most plausible theory behind Tutankhamun’s death but no one has matched the mummy’s injuries to an exact scenario. Now Chris draws upon the expertise of leading car crash investigators to do just this, as they reconstruct a series of chariot accidents using computer software and, for the first time, reveal the only plausible event that could have caused Tutankhamun’s unique set of injuries.
Combined with new, historical evidence of the young pharaoh leading the charge in Egypt’s foreign wars what emerges in this investigation is a new image of the young ruler as a warrior king – and a tragic battlefield death.
But the question remains why Tutankhamun became the greatest legend of the Ancient World. It leads Chris to a sinister story of an aging vizier Ay, who seized an opportunity for power and immortality by switching tombs and giving King Tut a hasty burial.
It is a story that ends with an extraordinary twist of fate. After years scouring the Valley of the Kings for clues, geologist Steve Cross has uncovered evidence of a colossal flash flood that would keep Tutankhamun’s treasures safe from tomb raiders for millennia – and make it the only intact royal tomb ever found.
Until Howard Carter made headline news when he broke through the necropolis walls and uttered the immortal words of ‘gold, glistening everywhere’.
New series, Ultimate Tutankhamun starts 7.35pm, Sunday 27 September on SBS.