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King Tut Killed by a Knee Infection? 152

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the clearer-picture-from-clearer-pictures dept.
adminsr writes to tell us the Discovery Channel is reporting that an Egyptian-led research team claims to have found compelling new evidence relating to the cause of death of King Tutankhamen From the article: "According to the Italian doctors, it was likely that King Tut suffered a violent blow, most likely by a sword. The blow would have lodged gold fragments from the decorations of the Pharaoh's armour or dress into the knee."
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King Tut Killed by a Knee Infection?

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  • Obvious... (Score:4, Funny)

    by creimer (824291) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @05:28PM (#14643158) Homepage
    Never demonstrate how your subjects should bow down to you while holding a sword.
  • So... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Darlantan (130471)
    Does this mean that King Tut developed 'Gold Fever'?
  • by imoou (949576) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @05:32PM (#14643169) Homepage
    King Tut's left index finger is pointing at his wound.
    • by No Such Agency (136681) <abmackay@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Sunday February 05, 2006 @12:05AM (#14644299)
      "King Tut's left index finger is pointing at his wound."

      Is that sort of like "Throckmorton's Sign"? [whonamedit.com]
    • No. The hands were crossed over his chest. Clearly he was pointing at the W and the S on the compass dial [answers.com]... so obviously, Waylon Smithers did it. On the other hand, the way that the Egyptians orient a sarcophagus would mean that, from the Tut's point of view, the "W" would've appeared as an "M", so then it must've been Maggie Simpson ;)
  • by quintesson (118019) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @05:36PM (#14643179)
    This must have set the gold armour industry back centuries.

    • Once a king went jousting wearing a gold visor. Well, gold's expensive, but not exactly hard--in fact, pure gold is very malleable. Long story short, king gets hit in gold visor, visor shatters, piece hits eye, king dies. Lesson: if you happen to be Medieval royalty, wear goldfoiled steel (or iron) armor.
    • That's why they call it "Bling-bling" these days.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2006 @05:36PM (#14643181)
    It must have been difficult to "Walk like an Egyptian" after that.

    Right, I'll get my coat.
  • by d474 (695126) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @05:36PM (#14643183)
    ...that King Tut was killed by the "Knights That Say 'Ni'!"?
  • Interesting (Score:4, Funny)

    by mabu (178417) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @05:38PM (#14643187)
    I find it very interesting that Italian doctors are speculating King Tut had a knee injury. Maybe he had a few outstanding debts from gambling on some camel races?
  • We're privileged (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SigILL (6475) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @05:41PM (#14643196) Homepage
    What's interesting about this is that in king Tut's days wounds like that generally were lethal. How privileged we are living in this modern age (and having access to anti-biotics)!
    • by Tx (96709) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @05:45PM (#14643210) Journal
      What's interesting about this is that in king Tut's days wounds like that generally were lethal. How privileged we are living in this modern age (and having access to anti-biotics)!

      Yeah, I think that every time I'm in a sword fight! ;)
      • What's interesting about this is that in king Tut's days wounds like that generally were lethal. How privileged we are living in this modern age (and having access to anti-biotics)!

        Yeah, I think that every time I'm in a sword fight! ;)

        Actually, you should think about that every time you're not in a swordfight.
      • You should think about it everytime you see a limbless veteran.
    • Re:We're privileged (Score:2, Informative)

      by yogikoudou (806237)
      Indeed we are.
      More information about this:
      I saw a documentary a few weeks ago on the death of Tutankhamun, and they were coming to this conclusion as well. The first hypothesis were that he had been killed, as a piece of bone was missing at the back of his skull; blood was also present around this hole. It turned out that it might have been made during embalming.
      They were also speculating on the many fractures the mummy presented. They were annoyed by the really bad general state of the body, mainly because
    • by willtsmith (466546) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @10:43PM (#14644075) Journal

      Well, perhaps he was just too rich to eat mouldy bread. Perhaps a peasent stone-mason would have survived the same wound.

  • I think.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by seabre (889946) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @05:42PM (#14643198)
    death due to pimp accessories is pretty bad ass.
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @05:42PM (#14643201)
    the blow would have lodged gold fragments from the decorations of the Pharaoh's armour or dress into the knee."

    And the writing was litterally on the wall.

    Kids dont do bling.
  • Can't we get a better source for these things than the discovery channel? I rarely watch TV and yet I have STILL seen three documentaries explaining how King Tut died, all in different ways. Died from an infection due to gold dust? I guess it is possible, but it seems fairly far fetched to me. Is there a reason that they didn't publish their findings in a regular journal like Nature or Science or whatever journal Egyptologists use? The whole thing seems rather like fools gold to me.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      The whole thing seems rather like fools gold to me.

      Yeah, kind of like a pyramid scheme.

    • by stonecypher (118140) <(stonecypher) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday February 04, 2006 @06:54PM (#14643419) Homepage Journal
      No no, the gold dust didn't cause the infection. Gold is a noble metal, and is non-toxic. It's just that we found little gold bits embedded in his knee that look like pieces of armor, and that means he got stabbed or slashed, and back in those days, that pretty much always meant infection anyway. With that context, what is known about how he died makes much more sense, and so now a knee infection - the gold is just evidence of the wound - is the most likely cause of death.

      Is there a reason that they didn't publish their findings in a regular journal like Nature or Science or whatever journal Egyptologists use?

      Er, they did. Slashdot just doesn't cover those. Thing is, we *do* cover physics journals, and the method they used to detect the gold in the first place is of interest to physicists. This also got into medical journals and traveller's journals (national geographic being the only traveller's journal most people recognize.)
    • Feh. Another crackpot theory.

      I don't know that much about physiology or medicine, but based on what I know about King Tut I'd say that what killed him was shoveling his guts into clay pots, wrapping him in bandages, and burying his ass in the middle of the desert.

      Based on observation of current-day politicians I cannot say for certain whether sucking his brains out through his nose was a contributing factor.

      Bemopolis
    • The source isn't Discovery Channel. The actual source is the Alto Adige daily newspaper. Its not even the discovery channel, it is the Discovery news that has translated the article for your enjoyment and pleasure.
    • Died from an infection due to gold dust?

      I feel a fourth Discovery Channel documentary coming on: King Tut - Human, or Cyberman?
    • I can't help thinking that Tut's death was the JFK assassination of his day. "It was the Mafia with a stone club to the back of his head! No, the Cubans with a sword to the knee! No, the CIA gave him the plague! I've got a witness who saw an archer on the grassy knoll!"
    • Can't we get a better source for these things than the discovery channel?

      Actually, it was National Geographic. I saw it, and it was pretty compelling. Of course, with no antibiotics and little knowledge how to deal with infections, a large knee injury will usually kill people in the course of a few days. Completely sensible. A swordfight training accident sounds like a plausible cause.

      The head injury/sneak attack theory was debunked - that damage happened long after death.

  • Armor that covered the knee? This was 1500 BC not AD.

    Also, I thought Egyptians were advanced enough to have dealt with infections from wounds. Poison? Maybe an accidental and embarrasing wound that he wouldn't let someone attend?
    • No matter how advanced they were, nothing indicates they had any more understanding of antibiotics [wikipedia.org] than other cultures of similar cultural and scientific precedence:

      From Wikipedia
      Many ancient cultures, including the ancient Greeks [wikipedia.org] and ancient Chinese [wikipedia.org], already used moulds [wikipedia.org] and other plants to treat infection [wikipedia.org]. This worked because some moulds produce antibiotic substances. However, they couldn't distinguish or distill the active component in the moulds.

      We've only had them as a class of drug for the past ~

      • Amendment time: medical practicioners of Ancient Egypt did have an understanding of the fact that bacteria do not grow well in honey [reshafim.org.il], so it's possible the King would have received timely treatment of a tasty type (ahh, alliteration). It is hard to tell from the resources I read if that understanding or the effectiveness was as extensive as that surrounding moulds (PP).

        No luck yet on the poison angle - looks like it was most commonly administered by drink, and often by members of the religious sects. Gee,
    • Re:Armor? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by stonecypher (118140) <(stonecypher) (at) (gmail.com)> on Saturday February 04, 2006 @07:03PM (#14643458) Homepage Journal
      Armor that covered the knee? This was 1500 BC not AD.

      Actually, it was 1322. By the New Kingdom, Egypt had complex armor making capabilities. They were in fact distributing chariot armies all over the Senet area on a standardized-width rut road system, something typically attributed to Rome. Egypt had some fairly complex metallurgy practices, and even had rudimentary pit steel-making capabilities, though there were no surface iron deposits nearby for them to really use in the way that the Assyrians did.

      The reason you don't see armor on depictions of Egyptian warfare isn't a technological one in the sense that they didn't know how to make armor, but rather that the climate generally didn't allow for it - Egypt is fucking hot, and people would cook. Tutankhamen and other pharoahs wore armor as a ceremonial and last ditch protective thing (fat lot of good it did him,) and could get away with it because they were being moved in covered, shaded transportation vessels. Even then, several pharoahs are never depicted wearing armor - Seti I and Setnahke being good examples, shown wearing only normal clothes and the lapis crown.
      • Perhaps my memory serves me wrong, but I thought that the Egyptians only acquired the ability to work iron after the 18th dynasty. Wasn't the lack of iron technology a major reason for the difficulty the Egyptians had in fighting the Hittites under the Ramessides, in the 19th dynasty?

        • Re:Armor? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Fred_A (10934)
          Armor doesn't have to be iron or steel. Leather, or just padded material have also been used. Wood has also been used in armor, as well as a number of other natural materials.
          People didn't wait for the late middle ages (which is where you would have found the classical plated steel armor one usually associates with the term) to seek protection from physical harm.
          • Yes, but I was referring specifically to OP's mention of iron-based technology. I know that the Egyptians had bronze at the time.

        • Re:Armor? (Score:3, Informative)

          by stonecypher (118140)
          Your memory does serve you wrong. They had pit steel at the time. The bulk of armor in the day was bronze, due largely to availability. And no, it was lack of iron, not lack of iron technology. Doesn't matter if you know how to work it if you don't have much to speak of.
          • Ah, interesting. My memory was half-wrong, right about the lack of iron swords etc., but wrong about the reason being technology as opposed to raw material. It must have been rather disconcerting to have your bronze sword broken by your opponent's iron sword.

            • If you're in a melee fighting for your life and your only weapon breaks I'm not sure you'd find it "disconcerting". I know my emotions would be at a fairly more basic level. Like crapping my pants (or my tunic I guess). ;)
          • Your memory does serve you wrong. They had pit steel at the time. The bulk of armor in the day was bronze, due largely to availability. And no, it was lack of iron, not lack of iron technology. Doesn't matter if you know how to work it if you don't have much to speak of.

            Actually, lack of iron wasn't really important, either. Contrary to popular belief, cold-worked tin bronze is actually SUPERIOR to wrought iron in both hardness and holding an edge. Only when iron making developed carburization, essentia

  • ..than 'break a leg'?
  • Is what he had to breakfast on the third full moon after the winter solstice. How many thousand years has this guy been dead? That's some pretty good detective work.

  • 19? (Score:4, Informative)

    by daivdg (930179) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @06:09PM (#14643273) Homepage
    ...1333 B.C., at the age of nine, and reigned until his death in 1325 B.C., aged 19...

    Wouldn't he have been 17 or 18?

  • Nuts (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ranger (1783) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @06:15PM (#14643286) Homepage
    First scientists announce they think the Ice Man, Oetzi [wikipedia.org] was infertile. How could they know that? And now they are saying King Tut was killed by a knee infection. Had they not lived two thousand years apart on different continents. They could have hypothesized that King Tut kneed Oetzi in the nuts so hard it sterilized him. Oetzi in an attempt to fend off the blow was holding either an arrowhead or flint knife at just the wrong angle so that it cut King Tut's knee and cut off his testicles at the same time. But solving historical mysteries aren't that easy.
    • by lanc (762334)
      ...scientists...
      what sciencists? whoa, important fact, worth to research. Interesting sure. Now, how many millions did that research cost, Safranek?

  • He probably kept saying, "It's only a flesh wound!"
  • But isn't gold germicidal?
    • I wouldn't say germicidal, but I'm pretty sure that it's biologically neutral. Given that it has been used for dental fillings, I would say that the chances are that it isn't poisonous...
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Informative)

      by belg4mit (152620) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @06:45PM (#14643395) Homepage
      Silver is. Gold is largely inert; this is the reason it's used for
      teeth, electrical contacts, etc. Of course it's possible the body
      could still simply recognize it as being foreign and try to fight
      it but it'd just make a lot of puss I think. Undoubtedly something
      else could've entered at the same time.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

      Probably not, you might be thinking of cis-platin, the anti-cancer drug, which contains platinum (of all things) but it bears as much resemblence to platinum as aspirin does to charcoal.
  • due to the ancient Egyptians use of honey as an antibiotic. It is some great forensic work, none the less. I didn't think the head injury was the cause of death, but just looked like an effect of the embalming process. You have to wonder if his mummy had been around to kiss the boo boo and make it better, would he have lived a full life?
    • Honey is not really an antibiotic, it is a preservative, and that is the way the Egyptians used it.

      Due to the extraodinarily high sugar content, no bacteria can grow in honey, and it is, at least in theory, possible to preserve things in honey indefinately. (Obviously air exposure is limited as well.) People have even been mumified in honey.
  • I've seen on the same channel a show on Imhotep (they did it to feed off of the publicity of the Mummy movies). They mentioned on the showed that he discovered the use of honey as an antiseptic. So if that's true then the Egyptians had antiseptics, what is the likelihood of Tut dying from an infection like that? Maybe the ancient medicine wasn't powerful enough for a wound like that. If the researchers can see that the gold fragment were decorations of birds, then it must have been noticable. Why did t
    • Answer (Score:5, Informative)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @09:46PM (#14643906) Homepage
      Getting an infection in a joint like the knee is a Bad Thing, even in today's antibiotic infested world. The nasty little bacteria that were hanging around on the sword suddenly got stuck in a rich, tasty nutrient soup (blood and bone) and started to multiply like gangbusters. Unless the Egyptians knew to open the wound up and clean it out thorougly, the topical "antiseptics" that they had would be of little use. Just like putting an antibiotic cream on a deep wound.

      If Mr. Tut had wandered into a modern ER after some serious sword play he would have had the wound irrigated thoroughly, perhaps in the operating room where it could be opened up and inspected. He then would have been given IV antibiotics. And a large bill.

      So it's not too surprising that a little bit of honey or whatever didn't work out too well for him.
      • Honey has no magical antiseptic powers, either; the key anti-bacterial ingredient is sugar (some bacteria die in an all-sugar environment). Straight sugar works better, and unlike honey, is unlikely to harbour contaminants. Clostridium is sometimes found in honey, and isn't exactly a great thing to get inside a wound.

  • Funky Tut (Score:4, Funny)

    by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @06:39PM (#14643367)
    Must've sustained the injury during his move from Arizona to Babylonia
  • Missing history (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lifeisgreat (947143) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @06:56PM (#14643426) Homepage
    I can't help but feel disappointed that for every new discovery surrounding Tut, his accomplishments and wealth were insignificant compared to the majority of Egyptian rulers. We'll barely know a fraction of what we could if their tombs were similarly intact.

    Just think of all the history that is gone forever - the Alexandrian library containing most of the world's knowledge up to that point, the slaughter of the Druids, who thanks to not having a system of writing took their people's knowledge rites and history with them to the grave, the Indus civilization which 5,300 years ago developed cities that were more sophisticated than many that Pakistan's and India's people currently live in, where the hell the Basque people came from and why their culture is so distinct from the rest of Europe, the origins of the Sphynx, and heck a lot more. All gone forever.
    • by drewxhawaii (922388) on Saturday February 04, 2006 @07:38PM (#14643567) Homepage
      this is the single most depressing thing i've read on /.
      • i did a little research and found this:


        We find in Caesar's Gallic Wars the first and fullest account of the Druids.

        All instruction was communicated orally, but for ordinary purposes, Caesar reports, the Gauls had a written language in which they used the Greek characters.

        No druidic documents have survived. "The principal point of their doctrine", says Caesar, "is that the soul does not die and that after death it passes from one body into another".

    • Not that minor (Score:3, Informative)

      by vlad_petric (94134)
      His rule marked the transition from the "heretic" Atenism (worshiping of the Sun god as the only true god) of his father back to the old ways of the Egyptian religion. For example, his name was originally Tutankhaten (Living Image of Aten) but he changed it to Tutankhammun (Living Image of Ammun), to show that he abandoned the religion of his father [thanks wiki]. Those were really troubled times, so it's quite interesting to know why exactly he died.

      There's many things we don't know, starting with the or

      • Atenism (worshiping of the Sun god as the only true god) of his father


        Exactly who Tut's father was is uncertain. It is unlikely that Akhnaten (the Heretic pharoah) was his father.
    • A bit of background (Score:3, Informative)

      by kbahey (102895)
      Yes, Tut was a minor figure in Egyptian history, despite his modern fame.

      This fame is due largely to the discovery of his tomb in the early 20th century by Howard Carter. What was unique is that it was about the only tomb of a pharoah to be found intact, i.e. unplundered.

      Tut's era was the New Kingdom last 4 centuries of the second millenium BC), one of three "peaks" in Egypt's ancient history. This same era saw more famous kings such as Ahmose (uniter of Egypt, expelling the foreign Hyksos), Hatshepsut (the
  • So Tut went out from a gold overdose? Looks like his whole funerary display is a 3D hieroglyphic epitaph of just that demise.
  • Since when is gold toxic?

    Or are they saying King Tut was a Cyberman?
  • the Discovery Channel is reporting that an Egyptian-led research team claims to have found compelling new evidence relating to the cause of death of King Tutankhamen
    The Discovery Channel has been reporting on new theories of Tutankhamen's death every six months of so for years... Next to sharks it's their biggest infatuation.
  • The article claims that, "After Akhenaten's death, a mysterious ruler named Smenkhkare appeared briefly and exited with hardly a trace." However, everything I've ever read on the subject says that Smenkhare was Tutankhamun's older brother, and was co-ruler briefly during their father's reign, but died young. I've never heard of a claim that Smenkhare ruled on his own at any time. I'm not saying that this discredits the report, but that it makes me wonder just how accurate the rest of the historical parts
  • At least in my area on the Basic of the basic cable were you don't get Discovery channel there is national geographic channel which told about this many months ago. I guess Discovery channel just didn't have the time explaining the link between Quantum Physics and Psychics.
  • This week on CSI Egypt, Grishom and the team discover a dead King at a Cairo Museum. At first they believed he was killed by a blow to the back of the head, but further investigation lead them to believe it was a sword to the knee cap.
    Who could have knee capped this young King and will Grishom catch the culprit?

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