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King Tut Discoveries Show How Technology Can Lead to Historic Insights

February 19, 2010 10:00 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
New findings indicate that King Tutankhamen may have suffered from malaria, a promising revelation for scientists hoping to learn more about the disease.

The Boy King’s Health Struggles

According to Scientific American, the Journal of the American Medical Association doesn’t typically “report autopsy results,” but made “an exception this week: for King Tut.” A research team, headed by Zahi Hawass of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo, Egypt, was able to construct a five-generation family tree that is Tut’s “most accurate” to date.

The process involved using “genetic fingerprints from Tut and 10 presumed relatives,” as well as CAT scans revealing “foot deformities,” and DNA tests that showed malaria infections in Tut and his great-grandparents.

King Tutankhamen has long been a mysterious figure. Clues have indicated that he died between ages 17 and 19, and that his reign occurred in the 18th Dynasty, between 1336 and 1327 B.C.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta suggests that the new findings could help scientists make additional discoveries about malaria and other illnesses. Medical historian Howard Markel, of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan, told CNN the findings are “very exciting” because scientists were able to “take modern technology and learn more about Egyptian history.” 

Background: King Tut’s Tomb

On Nov. 26, 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter made a small hole in a sealed doorway and, holding up a candle, shed light onto King Tutankhamen’s tomb in Luxor, Egypt, for the first time in more than 3,000 years.

When Carter first arrived in Egypt, in 1891, as part of a British-sponsored archaeological survey, most of the ancient tombs had been discovered and plundered; it seemed unlikely that any undisturbed burial chambers remained, according to EyeWitness to History. 

Carter, however, believed that the tomb of Tutankhamen still laid in the Valley of the Kings, on the eastern side of the Nile River. Sponsored by Lord Carnarvon, a collector of antiquities, Carter began excavating in the area in 1914.

Related Topic: Malaria

The Wall Street Journal reports that astrophysicists in Washington state are fine-tuning a laser beam that could be used to target and kill mosquitoes. Eventually, they hope the technology could help reduce the incidence of malaria around the world

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