In 1922 the grave of Tutankhamen was discovered by Howard Carter. However, DNA had not even been discovered and little could be understood about his life; it was not until very recently that his remains were re-examined using current DNA testing technology to understand more about the life and death of this young king. Tutankhamen was just ten years old when he came to rule, he made radical changes to the beliefs systems and he himself was worshipped as a god.
DNA tests on the mummified remains of King Tut has brought much to the light. For decades, the theory surrounding his death was that he was likely murdered. The boy’s skull showed a hole at the back of his head which was believed to have been caused by a violent blow to the head which likely caused the king’s death. Scientists have been able to show that the young boy died of malaria. The hole in the head was made by embalmers as part of preservation process for the dead through which the insides of the head were removed. The boy also suffered a breakage to the leg and a club foot.
DNA testing of two mummified fetuses found in his tomb also revealed more interesting information. The two fetuses showed the same genetic makers as Tutankhamen and thus, the two fetuses were king’s children which were probably from his wife Ankhsenpaamon. Testing on a total of twelve mummies helped to establish the king’s family tree. One of the mummies, Akhenaten, was likely to be the king’s father. The mummy of his mother was also found, however, she remains unidentified.
The unidentified corpse of King Tut’s mother also showed that she was his father’s sister. Such incestuous relationships were extremely common during that particular ruling dynasty. A number of diseases and rare disorders were also disproved and the king did not have the feminine features he is often portrayed as having. However, amongst the genetic disorders which the king was confirmed to have and which were likely caused by the brother-sister inbreeding characteristic of the time, were club feet and scoliosis and a cleft palate which King Tut’s father had and also his grandfather.
DNA testing has brought more than just information about the king’s life; ultimately it has changed the content of history books and in future it will tell us more and more about the lives of important historical figures who we may know little about. Many other historical figures besides Tutankhamen have had their remains subject to DNA tests, including Marie Antoinette and da Vinci, in order to understand that which is not written in history books.