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by Paul Doherty

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-7867-1075-6

Anticlimactic conjecture regarding the Egyptian pharaoh’s death from historical-mystery writer Doherty (The Godless Man, p. 840, etc.), headmaster of a London school.

He was only 18 when he died in 1323 B.C., but it was no simple ending for King Tutankhamun, writes Doherty. The boy-king’s death falls into the category of “dark and sinister mystery,” yet now modern scholarship has “ripped away the veil of secrecy” to suggest that just maybe—gulp—he was murdered. For years, Egyptologists have speculated over the remains of Tut. Why were his embalming and the other rituals attending his burial done in such haste? Why such a ratty site for so important a person? What about that swelling behind his left ear? Where are his sternum and part of his ribcage? Where, for Amun’s sake, is his brain? After providing an overview of Egyptian dynastic political history and the particular intramural intrigues besetting the House of Tut, Doherty provides a sensible though derivative conclusion: Tut died unexpectedly of a tumor, which may have had something to do with a hereditary disease. Since such a tumor took its own sweet time to do its dirty work, Tut’s sly old Chancellor Ay may have hastened nature’s hand by providing the king with an over-ample draught of painkiller. By quickly sending Tut off on his journey to the Far Horizon, Ay could snatch the throne away from potential rival General Horemheb, who was off soldiering. Of course there are problems with this interpretation, such as an absence of hard evidence (admittedly understandable after 3,300 years) and the fact that it does nothing to explain why Ay chose to honor some burial rituals while ignoring others. But then, Doherty’s interpretation of events also fits snugly, albeit melodramatically, into some historical readings of Tut’s reign.

No big deal, for all its breathless delivery, which will doubtless be reproduced in the forthcoming Discovery Channel documentary based on it.