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The Cause of His Death

Bust of Tutankhamun found in his 
CMC PCD 2001-279-079 Researchers continue to investigate the cause of Tutankhamun's premature death. Bob Brier, a mummy specialist from Long Island University, has been tracking down clues that indicate Tutankhamun may have been killed by his elderly chief advisor and successor, Ay. An X-ray of his skull revealed a calcified blood clot at its base. This could have been caused by a blow from a blunt implement, which eventually resulted in death.

[SEE articles:
Tutankhamun's death
The Saga of Tutankhamen's Skull X-rays
King Tut Not Murdered Violently, CT Scans Show.

Ay performs the opening of the mouth ceremony; CMC S98-3522; PCD 2001-283-037 The painting in Tutankhamun's burial chamber depicts Ay at the "opening of the mouth" ceremony, giving life and breath to the young deceased pharaoh. Ay, a commoner, is wearing the leopard skin of a high priest and the crown of a pharaoh. Since Tutankhamun did not have a child to succeed him, it appears that Ay decided to seize the crown and declare himself King of Egypt.

There were at least two other deaths following that of Tutankhamun. His young wife Ankhesenamum pleaded with the king of the Hittites to send her one of his sons for a husband. She did not want to marry a servant, such as Ay. A son was sent, but he was murdered before he arrived.

Queen Ankhesenamun offers Tutankhamun a bouquet of flowers. Scene taken from the lid of an ivory chest found in Tutankhamun's tomb.
Papyrus painting, modern
CMC S98 3527; 
PCD 2001-283-036

So who did Ankhesenamum marry? There is now evidence that she married Ay. A ring has been found with her cartouche inscribed next to his. Did Ay force her to marry him, thus legitimizing his claim to the throne? Within three years of Ay's death, Ankhesenamum disappeared. Could she also have been the victim of a serial killer?

What happened to Ay? He died within a few years of seizing the throne. His cartouches, which he had inscribed on temple walls, were eradicated, his tomb was robbed and vandalized, and his mummy disappeared. His name was also eliminated from the official list of pharaohs, as was that of Tutankhamun.

Another theory on Tutankhamun's death suggests that he was murdered by General Horemheb, a man of low birth who became one of Akhenaten's closest advisors. Under Tutankhamun, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the army and deputy of the king. Following the demise of Tutankhamun and Ay, Horemheb became pharaoh. During his reign, he had the names of Akhenaten, Tutankhamun and Ay removed from the royal list of pharaohs, which suggests that he had personal reasons for eradicating those rulers from the records.

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