German Team Challenges Egyptians’ Conclusions on Tutankhamun’s Death

Yet another theory has been published concerning the ever-mysterious death of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
A team of German scientists from Hamburg’s Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine recently announced their conclusion that the Egyptian king died as a result of sickle-cell disease, not malaria, as recently suggested by an Egyptian team this past February.
“We question the reliability of the genetic data presented in this [the Egyptian] study and therefore the validity of the authors’ conclusions,” the German team wrote in a letter published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Egyptian study, which was heavily publicized and endorsed by Zahi Hawass, the Head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, utilized DNA tests and CT scans of Tut’s mummy – specialized tests that had previously been denied to other researchers and which were approved exclusively for the Egyptian team. They concluded that Tutankhamun suffered from inbreeding and a frail composition, and that he died of malaria after taking a bad fall.
The German side, upon further examining the king’s foot bones, stated that the “radiological signs are compatible with osteopathologic lesions seen in sickle cell disease (SCD), a hematological disorder that occurs at gene carrier rates of nine percent to 22 percent in inhabitants of Egyptian oases.” They have also stated their desire for further DNA testing on Tut’s mummy in order to better analyze the cause of the pharaoh’s death.
Hawass, who has in the past created controversy by giving preference to Egyptian teams in matters of research permissions, will be the deciding factor in whether additional testing is approved. If it is, it is unlikely to be conducted by a foreign team.
Earlier this month, Hawass lambasted the British Embassy for what he deemed unfair treatment of Egyptians and declared that he would limit relations with British scientists. The announcement came on the heels of a request for the British Museum, among other institutions, to return “stolen” Egyptian artifacts to Egypt.
Hawass has similarly made repeated requests to the Berlin Museum and has said he will make life “miserable” for those institutions that refuse to return stolen treasures. The Germans have ignored all of his requests.
You may read the German team’s letter here, provided you have appropriate access.
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