for National Geographic News
King Tutankhamun likely died after falling from his chariot while hunting, Egypt's top archaeologist says in an upcoming TV documentary, offering new insights into the boy pharaoh's long-debated death.
Tutankhamun is widely thought to have died of an infection stemming from a broken leg, after CT scans in 2005 revealed a severe fracture in his left thighbone, challenging theories that he had been murdered.
"He had an accident when he was hunting in the desert," said Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, who has overseen recent examinations of the pharaoh's mummy.
"Falling from the chariot made this fracture in his left leg, and this really is in my opinion how he died."
Hawass made the comments in the film Tutankhamun: Secrets of the Boy King, a documentary scheduled to air October 30 on Britain's Channel Five.
(Hawass is a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence. National Geographic News is a division of the National Geographic Society.)
The new theory stems largely from examinations of some of the 5,000 artifacts found in the king's tomb, which suggest he was an active, sporting young man and not the sheltered and fragile boy often portrayed by history.
Among the evidence for the theory are at least two chariots entombed with the king that show signs of frequent use, presumably by Tut himself.
"There is something greasy, something that made it easy for the wheel to move on the axle," said Nadia Lokma, general director of conservation of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.
"The movement from the wheel on the axle also left a deep line."
Lokma said she found these clues when she restored one of the pharaoh's chariots in the 1980s, but they only surfaced recently during interviews with British filmmakers.
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