Down the Nose of Tut:
What the Recent Exam of a Pharaoh Reveals
about the New Face of Egyptology
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.
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
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?
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."
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
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.
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
National Geographic Website: http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/tut/mysteries/index.html
Hawass, Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs,
Geographic Magazine, "Modern Technology Reopens the
Ancient Case of King Tut," by A.R. Williams, June 2005
Journal, "King Tut Returns," by Zahi Hawass, Summer