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Pharaoh puzzle

What really killed Tutankhamun?

Credit: P. TURNER/STONE/GETTY

A research team thinks it has solved the mystery surrounding the death of Egyptian 'boy king' Tutankhamun, who died in about 1324 BC aged just 19.

Imaging results suggest that Tutankhamun had osteonecrosis of two bones in one foot, and DNA evidence suggests he was infected with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. These factors, combined with a leg fracture — perhaps resulting from his foot problems — may have led to his death, asserts the team led by Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo.

Several outside experts, however, are sceptical, and say that the paper's conclusions overstep its data.

Genetic fingerprinting done on Tutankhamun and ten other mummies has also yielded a putative five-generation family tree (Z. Hawass et al. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 303, 638–647; 2010). See go.nature.com/c7dFly for more.

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Butler, D. Pharaoh puzzle. Nature 463, 859 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/463859b

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