CT scans help researchers come closer to solving King Tut mystery

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Computed tomography has given Egyptian radiologists what they believe could be the answer to how King Tutankhamun died. Ashraf Selim, MD, radiologist at Kasr Eleini Teaching Hospital, Cairo University in Egypt, took part in an international effort that studied the 3,300-year-old mummy making use of a mobile multi-detector CT scanner. The research team performed a full-body scan on the king's remains, obtaining approximately 1,900 digital cross-sectional images.

"We found the mummy was in a critical stage of preservation," said Dr. Selim. "The body was cut into several parts with some missing pieces."

With the information the CTs provided, the researchers estimate that King Tut's age at death was between 18 and 20 years. He was about 180 centimeters or approximately 5 feet 11 inches tall. Most intriguing, the researchers discovered what looks to be a premortem fracture to the femoral (thigh) bone. Though a cause of the injury cannot be determined, the information suggest that the injury could have been an open wound that became infected and ultimately fatal, according to the researchers.

Unlike what was previously believed through x-rays taken of the mummy back in 1968, the new CT scans suggest that there was no skull trauma.

The CT examination is part of a five-year initiative called the Egyptian Mummy Project to image and preserve Egypt's mummies to uncover information related to the sicknesses and lifestyles of ancient Egyptians. The results of this phase of the initiative were discussed today in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).