Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The case of the murdered monarch - who wasn't

I am fascinated by the history of early human cultures. I have been known to opine that nothing really interesting or new has happened in human history since about 1000 C.E. Everything since then has just been a rerun of happenings in ancient Egypt, Greece, Meso-America, China or Rome. Since, as a species, we seem to be incapable of learning from our history, we are doomed to repeat it, endlessly. We are all players in a colossal blockbuster of a movie just like Groundhog Day.

I enjoy reading historical fiction that is set in those ancient cultures, especially ancient Egyptian or ancient Roman mysteries. The period of Egyptian history that I particularly like reading about is that which occurred from the time of Queen Hatshepsut through the time of Ramses II (the Great), i.e, the late 18th and early 19th dynasties. It was an interesting time, full of colorful characters that are relatively well-known to us today, even though they lived more than 3,000 years ago. The most famous of these is King Tutankhamum, a very minor king. His fame stems not from any of his deeds but from the fact that his tomb was found intact by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. The riches of that tomb dazzled the world and still dazzle us today wherever they are exhibited.

Much of the popular literature that is set during the time of Tutankhamun postulates conspiracies against him and assumes that he was assassinated by ambitious characters to get him out of their way. Now science has finally identified his "murderers". It seems that he was done in by a combination of genetics and tropical disease, namely malaria.

Studies of his DNA have proven that poor Tut was heir to several genetic weaknesses that may have contributed to his demise, and some time before he died he suffered a broken leg, but the ultimate cause of his death seems to have been malaria, a disease which still plagues that and many parts of the world today. The report of the findings was published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and there will be a two part Discovery Channel program detailing the results of the study on next Sunday and Monday night.

So, will this be the end of all those potboiler mysteries with titles like "Who Killed King Tut?" Probably not. When did facts ever get in the way of a dedicated conspiracy theorist?

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