Last updated at 10:02 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

Tutankhamun 'killed by malaria'

Summary

17 February 2010

Scientists who spent the last two years looking at the dead body of Tutankhamun say the Pharaoh had disabilities. They now believe the young king wasn't murdered but that he may have died from malaria.

Reporter:
Michelle Roberts

Tutankhamun death mask in Cairo Museum

Tutankhamun death mask in Cairo Museum

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Report

Ever since Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings in 1922, scholars have speculated over why the 19-year old boy king died so young.

Some believe he was killed by a fall from his chariot, conspiracy theories say he was murdered but scientists who painstakingly studied the pharaoh's remains, think Tutankhamun died from a bout of malaria that attacked his already weakened body. They say he had a cleft palate and club foot, likely forcing him to walk with a cane.

In the journal of the American Medical Association, lead scientist Dr Zahi Hawass says how he found traces of the malarial parasite in Tutankhamun's blood along with signs of bone disease. The scientists' DNA studies also suggest the true identity of the king's parents and grandparents, something that has divided archaeologists for decades.

Michelle Roberts, Health Reporter, BBC News

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Vocabulary

speculated over

guessed about

conspiracy theories

unproven beliefs about how something may have happened which is different from the official reasons

painstakingly studied

very carefully looked at and analysed every possible detail

the pharaoh's remains

what is left of the king's body following his death

a bout of Malaria

a period of sickness caused by a bite from a particular kind of mosquito

a cleft palate

a person with a cleft palate was born with a very narrow opening inside their mouth above their tongue, making it very difficult for them to speak

club foot

a person with a club foot was born with one of their feet turned inwards, making it difficult for them to walk

traces of

extremely tiny amounts of

parasites

creatures, plants or organisms that live on or inside other larger beings to use them as food

archaeologists

people who study the past by looking at what is left of things such as very old buildings, tools and pottery

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