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False Images of Tutankhamun:  

By Ahmed Osman

On Tuesday, May 10, 2005, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) released three images of Tutankhamun's face, based on reconstructions of the recent CT scanning of the young pharaoh. The three reconstructions were made separately by French, American, and Egyptian teams. The release of the images was made to coincide with the National Geographic Channel program about Tutankhamun, which was shown 5 days later and claimed to show the true face of the young pharaoh. Commenting on these reconstructions, Zahi Hawass, secretary general of SCA, said: "The shape of the face and skull are remarkably similar to a famous image of Tutankhamun as a child where he was shown as the sun god at dawn rising from a lotus blossom."

Hawas was not, of course, telling the truth, but was merely using his official status as the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities to advertise the National Geographic program, in which he was taking the main role. First of all, the three reconstructions are not in agreement on how King Tut looked, with the French and American ones showing more similarity, while the Egyptian reconstruction gives their Tut "a more prominent nose and a stronger jaw and chin." Then again, none of the three reconstructed faces look like any of the ancient representations we have of Tutankhamun. While these attempts can be regarded as a good exercise for the modern technological machines, the result, as I see it, is still far away from reality.

Although ancient Egyptian art did not generally represent how people looked, but rather presented an idealized form, the situation changed during the Amarna period. Two artistic schools emerged at this time: one romantic, which tended to exaggerate (for example, the king would be represented with unusual facial and bodily features), while the other school was realistic, depicting the real features of the person represented. Most of the Tutankhamun representations we have—his golden mask and his image coming out of the lotus flower—are in this latter style. When we look at the different artistic representations of King Tut, we can identify him as the same person in all of them. We can also see the similarity in looks between him and other members of the royal family. Professor R. G. Harrison, the anatomist who examined Tuts mummy in 1963, found a striking similarity to artistic impressions of Akhenaten, suggesting that they were close relations. Howard Carter, the artist who discovered Tuts tomb, was equally struck by the matching appearance of his mask and the mummy, both to Akhenaten and his mother, Queen Tiye.


Egyptian American French
* While not specific to this article click to see the image of the Australian research team . . . Click


Looking Down the Nose of Tut: 
What the Recent Exam of a Pharaoh Reveals about the New Face of Egyptology   

By Charles Pope

The June 2005 issue of National Geographic proudly displays the latest reconstruction of King Tut. It is the image of a serious but beautiful young man with unblemished complexion and pursed lips. He also has a thick, muscular neck and broad shoulders. "The New Face of Tut," as it is being called, was based on X-ray photos taken by state-of-the-art CAT scan equipment. So what could possibly be wrong with the resulting picture? Members of the study team are quick to point out that there are definite limits to what can be inferred from this type of technology alone. Yet, knowing this, the team discounted other valuable sources of information from Tut's tomb and from other royal mummies that would have greatly improved their work. For instance, a comprehensive study of Tut's wardrobe, which included numerous undergarments and his personal fitting mannequin, led other investigators to conclude that Tut's actual measurements were a less than heroic 31-29-43.

Previous examinations of royal mummies from Tut's era have demonstrated that pharaohs were in general not model physical specimen. They suffered physically and aesthetically from skin diseases, arthritis, scoliosis and other bone defects, dental abscesses, buckteeth, large hooked noses, baldness (male and female), and so forth. This does not include mental and nervous system disorders that cannot be discerned by visual inspection or X-rays of their mummies. The most recent study of Tut indicates many of these same conditions were present, but the examining team largely denies that he would have been plagued by any of them.

For example, the mummy of Tut exhibits abnormal curvature of the spine, especially in the area of the neck (cervix). This was not present while Tut remained alive, or so we are flatly told. The National Geographic website states, "Experts think . . . as the embalmers were laying Tut's body out, they inadvertently put a kink in his spine." This is not a reasonable conclusion when it is known that the tomb of Tut contained an excessive number of canes, some of which showed actual wear from regular use. The response to this peculiar find is that Tut, presumed to have been a normal, healthy teenager, collected walking sticks as a hobby! Therefore, the crook in Tut's neck was removed for the official portrait made by the National Geographic team.

Other experts in Salt Lake City studied X-rays taken of Tut as part of a recent Discovery Channel special. They concluded that he indeed had a dangerous bow and fusing of cervical vertebrae, which shortened the apparent length of his neck and made it impossible to turn his head without rotating his entire upper body. Steven Theiss of the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Division of Orthopedic Surgery, when interviewed by Discovery News, stated, "Klippel-Feil syndrome is commonly associated with other congenital problems that would have affected not only his appearance, but his overall health and function." Will these specialists now change their minds now that Tut has been given a clean bill of health by National Geographic?

Other skeletal anomalies abound. Tut sustained a severe fracture to the left leg just above the knee, as well as a detached left kneecap (patella). There is also an unhealed break of a lower leg (fibula) bone in the area of the right ankle. The team admits that the unhealed fracture in the knee region was especially profound and probably occurred within a week of Tut's death at the most. However, foul play is completely ruled out because a radiologist on the team claims that teenage boys are prone to breaking their legs like this. Regarding Tut's skeleton, the official companion book of the Tut tour further discloses, "There are many other fractures of the limbs, but most were probably caused by (Howard) Carter's team."

Howard Carter, it is speculated, also removed the sternum and front rib cage of Tut, which are absent from the mummy but not discussed in any of the previous reports. Removal of them, according to the most recent evaluation, would have been appropriate and necessary in order to liberate Tut from his jewels and golden coffin. Again, only the most conservative interpretations are drawn, with others dismissed out of hand. The need for further study is cited, but why bother when one is already content with the present state of affairs. The June 2005 issue of National Geographic is titled, "Modern Technology Reopens the Ancient Case of King Tut." However, the case was briefly reopened only so it could be permanently shut. According to the Head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass, who is incidentally also a National Geographic Fellow, "We don't know how the king died, but we are now sure it was not murder. The case is closed. We should not disturb the king any more."

Returning to the "supreme head" of Tut, the examiners note that he had an extremely elongated skull. They cushion this blow by saying they find no reason to suspect that he suffered any ill effects from it, and for the simple reason that his cranium had not prematurely fused. They further mention that Tut's left cheek had a deep scar, but this does not tarnish the image of the 3-D model of his face. Tut also had a cleft palette, but it is not believed to have manifested in a speech impediment or unsightly harelip. What's more, one of his wisdom teeth was impacted and pressing on the sinus cavity, yet it is said he was in little pain, if any. Tut's bottom teeth were crooked as well, and he had a pronounced overbite. However, the 3-D model of his face cannot show what must have been a torturing (and perhaps tortured) smile.

And what about other facial features? Chris Johns, Editor of National Geographic Magazine, quoting forensic anthropologist Jean-Noel Vignal in the June 2005 issue, writes, "It is impossible to know the shape of the nose and ears, the color of the eyes and the skin tone." This gave the team license to construct a politically correct Tut. Vignal continues, "Our solution was to model the color on modern Egyptian skin tones, which vary across a wide spectrum." What the author means of course is that Tut was given just enough color so as not to offend anyone (and as much as possible appeal to everyone). Tut was also equipped with a well-proportioned, even attractive nose, but one unlikely to even remotely match his own.

The mummies of Tut's grandparents, Yuya and Tuya, are so well preserved that we know exactly what their noses looked like. This would have been an excellent source for the forensic artist to draw upon. But no, oh the horror! The proboscis of Yuya more closely resembles a bird's beak. This would not be fit for Tut's "extreme makeover." The modern bust of Tut, just like those made of him (and other pharaohs) in antiquity, was largely commissioned for propaganda purposes. It is derived from reality but intended primarily to inspire devotion.


National Geographic Website: http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/tut/mysteries/index.html

Zahi Hawass, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, pp. 269-270.

National Geographic Magazine, "Modern Technology Reopens the Ancient Case of King Tut," by A.R. Williams, June 2005 Issue.

KMT Journal, "King Tut Returns," by Zahi Hawass, Summer 2005 Issue.

dwij.org Webzine: dwij.org/forum/amarna/comments/popedna.html

ABC News: http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s1244437.htm

Discovery Channel: http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20041115/tutmummy.html