Sunday, October 26, 2014

Egyptian scholars question incest claims in BBC King Tut documentary

By Rany Mostafa

CAIRO: Several Egyptian archaeologists have deeply questioned the results of recent research that has attributed the death of Egypt’s Pharaoh Tutankhamen to a genetic disorder.

Last week, researchers at the Institute for Mummies and Icemen in Italy issued a report suggesting the parents of Tutankhamen were brother and sister, from whom he inherited genetic impairments that caused his premature death at the age of 19.

Renowned archaeologist Zahi Hawass, as quoted by Al-Ahram Sunday, fiercely described the result as “slander” aimed at “distorting the fame of Egypt’s most famous pharaoh.”

Tutankhamen’s parentage is a historical debate, and Hawass said the assumptions claiming his parents were related are nothing but “medical conclusions that lack historical evidence.”

“The report is a media stunt aimed at acquiring fame at the expense of Tutankhamen,” he added.

The report is based on a virtual autopsy that created a full size computer-generated image of Tutankhamen by using 2,000 computerized tomography (CT) scans of the pharaoh’s mummified body, according to the Daily Mail.

The report includes images portraying Tutankhamen with girlish hips, a club foot and buck teeth. It also suggests that Queen Nefertiti—Tutankhamen’s mother—was the sister of his father, Pharaoh Akhenaton.

Pharaoh’s ancestry questioned

However, statues of Akhenaton and his royal family members, which show them with elongated heads, protruding stomachs, heavy hips, thin arms and legs and exaggerated facial features, might support the recent incest theory, archaeologist Sherif el-Sabban told The Cairo Post Sunday.

“It seems that the royal family’s lineage suffered from some kind of inherited conditions that have caused a hormonal imbalance,” according to Sabban.

But archaeologist Ahmed Saleh denounced the report and the photos, and told The Cairo Post Sunday that Queen Nefertiti was not Akhenaton’s sister.

He went further by saying “she was not related to Akhenaton and was not descended from royal blood.”

He added that the Akhenaton-Nefertiti relationship might not even be applicable to Tutankhamen’s genetics, as “Keya, Akhenaton’s concubine, was most probably Tutankhamen’s mother.”

Since mummies of Akhenaton and Nefertiti have yet to be found, the report can only remain a theory, according to Saleh.

Multiple theories on King Tut’s death

The results of the latest research challenge an older theory attributing Tutankhamen’s death to complications arising from when he broke his leg in a chariot crash.

Professor Albert Zink I, who participated in the research, told The Independent Sunday that Tutankhamen’s inability to stand unaided would have made riding in a chariot impossible.

“On the other hand he suffered from malaria so it is difficult to say whether that may have been a serious factor in the cause of death,” Zink said, emphasizing there was still more research to be done, according to The Independent Sunday.

The new research is part of a BBC documentary called “Tutankhamen: The Truth Uncovered” set to air on Oct. 26.


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