Mystery of Tut's Father: New Clues on Unidentified Mummy

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
July 10, 2007

Egyptologists have uncovered new evidence that bolsters the controversial theory that a mysterious mummy is the corpse of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten, husband of Nefertiti and, some experts believe, the father of King Tut.

(Photos: Who Was Tut's Father?)

The mummy's identity has generated fierce debate ever since its discovery in 1907 in tomb KV 55, located less than 100 feet (30 meters) from King Tutankhamun's then hidden burial chamber.

So an international team of researchers led by Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, used a CT scanner to peer inside the body and those of several other Valley of the Kings mummies. (The expedition was partially funded by the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.)

The scan revealed a number of striking physical similarities between the mystery mummy and the body of Tut, including a distinctive egg-shaped skull. (Related photo gallery: King Tut's New Face.)

"CT technology virtually unwraps the mummies without damaging them," explained Hawass, who is also a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, in a press release.

"They reveal everything, including information about age and disease."

A CT machine produces some 1,500 cross-sectional "slice" images for each body. When put together they reproduce the entire body in three dimensions.

Heretic Pharaoh

Akhenaten, a powerful mid-14th century B.C. pharaoh also known as Amenhotep IV or Amenophis IV, had a heretical devotion to Egypt's sun god.

He decreed that Aten, the divine embodiment of the sun's life-giving warmth, was Egypt's one true god and that the pharaoh was the earthly incarnation through which Aten must be worshiped.

Akhenaten banned ancient festivals and closed temples that had honored other deities for centuries. He also founded a new capital city, Akhetaten (now Amarna), to honor Aten and break from the past.

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