Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Mummy 'spontaneously combusted'

The mummified remains of King Tutankhamun may have spontaneously combusted.

The mummified body of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun spontaneously combusted after a botched attempt to embalm him, according to scientists in a new documentary.

A fragment of flesh from the boy pharaoh, whose tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter and the Earl of Carnarvon, was tested by researchers who confirmed his body was burnt while sealed in his coffin.

Fire investigators, featured in a new Channel 4 documentary, believe a chemical reaction caused by embalming oils used on Tutankhamun's mummy sparked the blaze.

The discovery of his nearly intact tomb, complete with a gold coffin and gold funeral mask, was a worldwide sensation and sparked public interest in ancient Egypt.

Egyptologist Dr Chris Naunton examined Carter's original notes and also carried out a virtual autopsy of the body using X-ray and CT scanning technology which they said pointed to a theory that the young ruler died in battle.

Dr Naunton said: " Although the death mask and other treasures are very familiar, a staggering amount of the evidence has been overlooked. It's amazing how many questions have not even really been asked let alone answered.

"Despite all the attention Tut's mummy has received over the years the full extent of its strange condition has largely been overlooked. The charring and possibility that a botched mummification led to the body spontaneously combusting shortly after burial was entirely unexpected, something of a revelation in fact.

"I think what the project shows is that when it comes to ancient material there is always more to learn, and there probably will be in the future, but with this study we have taken a big step forward in terms of understanding what happened at the end of Tut's life."

:: Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Burnt Mummy - Secret History in on Channel 4 at 8pm on Sunday November 10.

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