Egyptian skeleton shows traumatic injury before death
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Of all the things that ancient Egypt has offered archaeologists, Tutankhamun is perhaps one of the greatest. The boy king became a pharaoh after the death of his father, Akhenaten. At this point, Egypt was enduring a controversial period after Akhenaten outlawed the kingdom’s many gods except for one called Aten, the sun god.
The Egyptian people were severely unhappy with this, and when he died, they toppled and destroyed many of his statues and monuments.
Tutankhmaun was just nine years old when he took the throne, and to appease his people — likely the work of his powerful advisors — he reestablished the old religious order and apologised for his father’s work.
He went on to rule for roughly ten years, and was buried with the rest of Egypt’s pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings.
But while the chambers around him were looted and ransacked over the millennia, his lay untouched for over 3,000 years until British Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered it in 1922.
While some information is known about his rule, little is known about his childhood.
This all changed, however, during Channel 5’s new documentary, ‘Tutankhamun: Waking the Dead’ with Bettany Hughes, when the historian was given privileged access to the tomb of Amenhotep II, Tutankhmaun’s great-great grandfather.
A 50-metre journey deep into the rock, Ms Hughes walked through pillared halls and painted walkways before reaching the inner sanctum which is home to the burial chamber and Amenhotep II’s sarcophagus.
While the whole tomb was made for him, he was not the only person who ended up there, as in a side chamber, a stash of unidentified royal mummies was discovered which had likely been hidden from tomb raiders.
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Archaeologists named two of them the Elder Lady and the Younger Lady, and with the help of evolutionary DNA work, managed to identify the Younger Lady as Tutankhamun’s mother.
Ahead of gaining exclusive access to the Younger Lady, Ms Hughes said: “I’m about to uncover shocking evidence about Tutankhamun’s childhood and the dark secrets of his family.”
DNA analysis of the mummified remains has offered a promising lead about what life may have been like for Tutankhamun growing up.
The Younger Lady’s body has been studied by Professor Sahar Saleem, whose investigations have suggested that she was very young when she died, perhaps around 25 years old.
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Her body is filled with holes, as Prof Saleem noted: “What strikes me is her condition and all these wounds and injuries.”
Looking down at the Younger Lady, Ms Hughes said: “That is a terrible, terrible wound.”
Prof Saleem explained that the so-called wounds were characteristic of tomb thieves who would break the bodies of mummies to retrieve the gold and amulets inside.
Asking about the puncture in her face, Ms Hughes queried whether that was also the act of grave robbers.
Prof Saleem said: “We thought that at first, but actually the CT scan revealed something else.
“It revealed that this injury happened before mummification, so this could have killed her because she could have choked on her own blood.
“And also, the fractured bones go into the airway tract — so this could be fatal.”
It was quickly established that the injury did not happen long before the Younger Lady died because the CT scan shows no signs of healing around the trauma.
Researchers believe it would have been a “high impact force”, usually carried out with a blunt tool, a club with a stone head, or perhaps from a kick.
Prof Saleem said she believes it “looks like an attack”.
The Younger Lady was found by Victor Loret, a French Egyptologist , in 1898.
She was found adjacent to two other mummies: a young boy who died aged around ten, thought to be Webensenu — Amenhotep II’s son — and the Elder Lady.
Tutankhamun: Waking the Dead airs at 9pm March 25 on Channel 5.
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