Did drink-driving accident kill Tutankhamun? Fresh evidence suggests crash caused 'slow, painful death from infection'

16 June 2023, 15:45 | Updated: 16 June 2023, 16:01

Tutankhamun may have died in a drink driving accident, an independent researcher has claimed
Tutankhamun may have died in a drink driving accident, an independent researcher has claimed. Picture: Getty/Sofia Aziz

By Kit Heren

Tutankhamun died from a wound he suffered in a drink-driving chariot accident, according to a new study.

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The received wisdom has long been that the young Pharaoh died of malaria.

But egyptologist Sofia Aziz thinks the "typical teenager" drank too much wine before getting behind the reins - causing a horror smash that left Tutankhamun seriously hurt.

The major leg fractures then failed to heal and festered, with Tutankhamun then dying slowly and painfully of the infection, according to Ms Aziz's theory.

"He was like a typical teenager, drinking and probably driving the chariot too fast," Ms Aziz told BBC Science Focus.

Tutankhamun's death has long been the cause of debate. Picture: Getty

The death of Tutankhamun, who lived in the 14th century BC, has long been a mystery. Egyptologists dug him up in 2010 to get a better idea of how he died.

They discovered that he had suffered from malaria and various other conditions, including a broken leg.

The cause of the broken leg has remained a mystery.

Ms Aziz said the six chariots, armour and wine found in his tomb show that Tutankhamun rode on chariots like a "warrior king".

She added that she thinks he hit his head on the dashboard of the chariot in a crash.

Tutankhamun. Picture: Getty

Some have claimed that Tutankhamun had a club foot, pointing to distortions in his mummified leg.

But Ms Aziz disagrees. She said: "When I studied Tutankhamun, I personally don't think there was any evidence he was disabled, because I have seen mummies where it looks like there is a club foot,' she told Cheltenham Science Festival. 

'We call these pseudo-pathological changes. The walking sticks were just a sign of royalty.

"His legs were aligned so well - if he did have a deformity, and if he had a club foot, he would have had difficulty walking, but the long bones just don't show any evidence of that."

Despite these views, Professor Albert Zink believes that the 2010 findings - to which he contributed - still stands. 

Sofia Aziz has put forward the theory
Sofia Aziz has put forward the theory. Picture: Sofia Aziz

He told MailOnline: "The CT scans clearly showed the equinovarus foot deformity and the juvenile aseptic bone necrosis of the left second and third metatarsals (Köhler disease II, Freiberg-Köhler syndrome).

"So, there is no doubt that Tutankhamun had a walking impairment, particularly due to the bone necrosis."

But Professor Zink did not definitively say that the boy king could not have died in a chariot crash.

Read more: The term mummy is 'dehumanising' and should no longer be used, museum says in bid to protect ancient Egyptians

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But he said: "Given the acute stage of the bone necrosis in his foot, it is difficult to imagine that he was able to ride a chariot in standing position. 

"Nevertheless, it is true that he suffered from a leg fracture, although it is impossible to proof the exact cause. It remains a matter of speculation."

Ms Aziz also admits that she is not totally sure how Tutankhamun met his end.

"I think we might never find out exactly how he died," she said. "Unless they find something with the internal organs. I don't think that we can find out anything more until then."