King Tut Died in Hunting Accident, Expert Says

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The new documentary film also investigates the clothing discovered in Tut's tomb, including a specially designed corset that was likely worn as protection while riding at high speeds.

The tomb also contained hundreds of arrowheads that show evidence of having been fired and retrieved, the film reports.

Additional clues come from the floral arrangement that adorned the king's neck at the time of his burial.

The garland contained cornflowers and mayweed, which only bloom in the spring, setting up a timetable for the pharaoh to have died around hunting season.

"If the plants were alive when they were put in the tomb, they must have been in flower at the time, and then so you can deduce that it was spring," Nigel Hepper, a botanist with Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said.

"The time for the mummification process would take about six weeks … so you can then push that back and say he died something like the beginning of December or January," which was the middle of the winter hunting season, he added.

An Active King

The new theory of Tut's death comes as perceptions of the boy king are changing.

Though he has commonly been depicted as a sickly and overprotected boy, most evidence suggests he was a robust and active adolescent who was probably a well-trained sportsman, experts say.

"There's been, to some extent, a perception in the past of Tut as the 'tragic' boy king," said John Coleman Darnell, an Egyptologist at Yale University and author of a recent book called Tutankhamun's Armies.

"I think this has been done less in terms of looking at the evidence and what we know and more to sort of heighten the pathos of the wealth of the tomb and the fact that he wasn't terribly old when he died."

Other experts agree that Tutankhamun was a highly active ruler.

"There is certainly plenty of evidence to suggest that he was not only an archer, but also a good charioteer," said David P. Silverman, an Egyptologist at the University of Pennsylvania, who wrote text for the King Tut exhibition currently on a world tour (learn more about the King Tut exhibition).

"He came from the Tuthmosis family, who were well known earlier in the dynasty as military men and also huntsmen," Silverman explained.

Various artifacts also bear depictions of Tut in the act of hunting, Silverman said.

Darnell, of Yale, said Tut would have used a chariot often, as it was common for pharoahs of his era to present themselves as powerful warriors and take every opportunity to highlight their physical prowess.

"He would have used a chariot in ritual setting," Darnell said.

"He would have used it in ritualized shooting displays, riding the chariot, shooting his bows from the chariot. He might very possibly have used it on military campaigns.

"There would have been all these times when Tut would have been expected—and Tut would have expected himself—to get in the chariot," he added.

If Tut were injured in a chariot accident, Darnell said, it would be impossible to tell exactly what he was doing when he died, but the hunting scenario put forth by Hawass is as good an explanation as any.

"I would say it makes a nice story," he added. "It's a good scenario."

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