Stories tagged Egyptology

Hot stuff: New testing on a fragment of King Tut's mummy reveals his remains caught fire after being entombed in his sarcophagus.
Hot stuff: New testing on a fragment of King Tut's mummy reveals his remains caught fire after being entombed in his sarcophagus.Courtesy Jon Bodsworth
We've documented the travails leading to the demise of young King Tut many times here on Science Buzz. But headlines today just add more fuel to the King Tut woe fire (so to speak). Tests done on a small fragment of Tut's mummy that is held in Great Britain show that his mummy caught fire. And that fire, researchers believe, occurred after Tut was mummified and entombed in his sarcophagus through spontaneous combustion from the mixture of embalming oils, wrapping fabric and oxygen. A virtual autopsy done as part of this research also concludes that Tut died from being run over by a chariot. All in all, not a very good day of news for young King Tut.

The King Tut exhibit is now open at the Science Museum of Minnesota. I've had the chance to go through it twice already, and one of the hot questions is how did they recreate Tut's mummy, which is one of the final pieces of the exhibit. Check out this video by Materialise, a 3-D software company that was part of the reproduction process. The video shows the combination of software and laser stereolithography technology to make a mummy replica.

The video references a recent Tut exhibit in New York City. The same recreated mummy is now on display at SMM.

Feb
08
2010

The Discovery of King Tut: Howard Carter, staging the discovery of King Tut, in 1922.
The Discovery of King Tut: Howard Carter, staging the discovery of King Tut, in 1922.Courtesy Wiki Media Commons
Science Buzz bloggers have been buzzing about this topic for some time, but as the time draws near, I thought I would jump in for those new to Science Buzz. The rapidly expanding field of DNA analysis is now being used to verify the genealogy of the great kings of Egypt. Zahi Hawass, chief of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, has announced that on February 17th, 2010 he will be revealing the results of DNA testing on the famous mummy of the boy king, Tutankhamun. DNA testing has already been done on King Amenhotep III (who reigned from approximately 1388 to 1351 BCE) for comparison as he is believed to be either Tut’s father or grandfather. The mummy of Amenhotep’s son, Akhenaten (who could be Tut’s father), has yet to be found. Researchers also plan to test the DNA of two mummified fetuses found in the tomb to determine if they are related to Tut and shed light on whether King Tut’s bride, daughter of Akhenaten, was his full sister or half sister.

Despite the popularity of King Tut and the splendid artifacts found in his tomb, he is actually only a minor figure in the history of Egyptian pharaohs, reigning for a mere 10 years in a time of great unrest. The story of Akhenaten is more interesting. Akhenaten, who ruled from 1352 to 1336 BCE, is famous for changing both religion and artistic style in Egypt, what is now known as the Amarna Period. Akhenaton introduced a new monotheistic cult of worship surrounding the sun disc Aten and excluded all other Egyptian gods from being worshipped in an effort to suppress the powerful priesthood of Amun.

Pharaoh Akhenaten: Classic Amarna Period sculpture of the Pharaoh Akhenaten.
Pharaoh Akhenaten: Classic Amarna Period sculpture of the Pharaoh Akhenaten.Courtesy Hajor and Wiki Media Commons
Artwork during the Amarna Period took on a more naturalistic style and often emphasized affectionate family scenes of the Pharaoh with his wife Nefertiti and their children. Of interest to many art historians is the depiction of Akhenaten himself. He is represented with an accentuated feminine appearance, rounded protruding belly, wide hips, long slender limbs, and a long thin face. Some believe it is a purposeful political depiction stressing his belief in equality of the sexes, some suggest he was a hermaphrodite, and others suggest he had Marfan’s syndrome. People with Marfan’s syndrome are usually very tall with long thin arms and legs, have thin faces, and funnel shaped chests. Unfortunately, until his mummy is located this will remain a mystery.

When Akhenaten died, the priests of Amun regained power, striking Akhenaten’s name from Egyptian records, reversed all of his religious and governmental changes, and returned the capitol to Thebes. His son, Tutankhaten changed his name to Tutankhamun to honor Amun and became the now famous boy king ruling from 1336 to 1327 BCE.

Mr. Hawass has announced plans to test all the royal mummies using their new $5 million DNA lab in the Egyptian museum. However, there is some concern in the scientific field that he will not submit results to labs outside Egypt for independent verification as is common practice in DNA testing. For example, DNA results of Hatshepsut, Egypt’s famous, powerful and only female pharaoh have never been released. Our fascination with the pharaohs is sure to continue for many more centuries.