King Tut’s Family Secrets

Study reveals boy king was product of incest, died from malaria

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Call it "CSI:Egypt."

A collision between ancient artifacts and modern technology has come up with answers to many long-lingering questions about the ancient Pharaoh known as King Tut, including exactly how he died: a case of malaria, which set in after he broke his leg.

"All of the things we've speculated for years and years," said Renee Dreyfus, Curator of Ancient Art and Interpretation for San Francisco's Fine Arts Museums, "and now finally we have direct evidence to tell us what it all means."

Millions of people have visited the "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco since it opened in June. But now, Dreyfus can't take a step without someone stopping to ask her questions. The visitors have heard that there is some "breaking news" about the teenager who ruled Egypt 3300 years ago.

The two-year study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Scientists performed DNA tests and CT scans on the mummies of King Tutankhamun and others who were discovered in his anciet tomb.

According to the Journal, test results show that the powerful king was plagued with health problems. King Tut suffered from a cleft palate, a club foot, bone disease and he died from malaria which set in after he broke his leg at the age of 19.

Dreyfus said the information explains a lot. Numerous walking sticks and footstools were buried in the tomb with him. Some carvings on the artifacts depict him sitting, even while hunting with a bow and arrow. The medical information suggests the powerful king was frail and probably had trouble walking and standing.

The DNA tests also shed light on the identities of what scientists always theorized were royal relatives who lay alongside him in the tomb. Turns out, King Akhenaten was indeed Tut's dad but the woman many believed to be his mom, Kiya, did not give birth to him. Akhenaten fathered Tut with one of his own sisters, which means that King Tut's father was also his uncle, his mother was his aunt and Tut himself married his half-sister.

Got that?

Doctors say the inbred genetics probably played a role in the boy king's many medical issues. The tests reveal that two mummies found inside tiny coffins, now on display at the de Young, are the fetuses of his stillborn daughters who would have been his only heirs.

"One of the things I've always heard is that Egypt has always given up all if its secrets," said Anne Hooker, a seventh grade student and self-professed Egyptophile. "Obviously it hasn't yet."

"It finishes the chapter," said Jim Venable, who traveled with his family from Oroville just to see the exhibit. "It was always open-ended and everyone had their opinions. They're good opinions but now we know."

Dreyfus said that before this study, this exhibit was about King Tut coming back and bringing his family with him. Today the world learned exactly who that family was.

The exhibit closes on March 28.

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