A Medical Device Daily
Using images generated by a mobile computed tomography (CT) system from Siemens Medical Solutions (Malvern, Pennsylvania), experts in Egypt have examined the cause of King Tutankhamen's death some 3,000 years ago and found no evidence that the Egyptian king was murdered, as had been theorized.
The mummy of Tutankhamen was discovered in Egypt's Valley of Kings in 1922. An initial X-ray analysis in 1968 revealed a bone splinter embedded in the Pharaoh's skull. This fact – coupled with the body's obviously hasty mummification and burial – led to speculation that Tutankhamen had died from head injuries, and possibly been murdered.
The now-completed CT examination, based on images generated from a total of 1,700 slices, found no evidence for this theory. But the Pharaoh may have suffered from a broken thigh shortly before his death at the age of 19, researchers said. Some members of the examination team said that the Pharaoh may have died from an infection of that wound. They refer to the fact that the CT images revealed embalming resin inside the wound, and that there was no sign of a healing process.
Other scientists on the team said they doubt that the injury was the cause of the king's death. They believe the wound could have been inflicted later by archaeologists examining the mummy, arguing that there was no evidence for hematoma, which should be there if the injury was inflicted during the Pharaoh's lifetime.
This examination is part of a research project being conducted by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (Cairo), together with the National Geographic Society (Washington) and Siemens. The project was first reported on in Medical Device Daily in January (MDD, Jan. 14, 2005).
The project also includes meticulous CT scans of a large number of other Egyptian mummies. To support the project, Siemens has provided a special CT system, which is installed in a trailer – making it transportable to wherever it is needed. With this device, the fragile remains of Egypt's ancient people can be studied with a minimum of movement and disturbance.
The CT system donated for the project, the Somatom Emotion 6, provides what the company termed "important prerequisites for this study."
It combines advanced imaging capabilities with minimal sitting requirements. Because of its wide opening, the mummies can be positioned without difficulty. Also, it is capable of displaying the finest details in three-dimensional imaging, the company noted.
It is planned, during a three- to five-year period, to scan mummies that are still found in Egypt, which spanned a period of 3,000 years, starting 5,000 years ago. Today, they serve as a window into the past. It will be possible not only to investigate diseases of antiquity, but also to provide important information for conservation of the mummies and to clarify many questions in Egyptology.