King Tut 'Spontaneously Combusted' in His Coffin

Thanks to a bungled mummification, scientists find

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 4, 2013 7:14 AM CST

(Newser) – The story of King Tut's death—and what followed—just got even more interesting, all thanks to a single piece of flesh. That remnant of Tutankhamun is the only one of its kind known to exist outside Egypt, and British experts decided to analyze it after stumbling upon a decades-old record by one of the archaeologists who found Tut's tomb in 1922. That record indicated the body had been burnt, and a scanning electron microscope and chemical tests proved that was indeed the case, reports the Independent. But here's the truly intriguing part: The body caught afire after it was sealed in its sarcophagus, essentially "spontaneously combusting," says Egyptologist Chris Nauton.

The scientists' theory is that the mummification was bungled and that the body caught fire due to an unfortunate chemical reaction spurred by the combination of oxygen, embalming oils, and linen; the temperature would have reached 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Raw Story adds that the researchers also partnered with a team of car crash investigators whose computer simulations seem to verify the leading theory as to cause of death: a chariot accident. The injuries sustained on one side of his body (as revealed by what the Independent calls a "virtual autopsy") suggest a chariot crashed into Tut while he was on his knees, crushing his heart. The findings will be presented in a documentary airing Sunday in Britain. Scientists believe Tutankhamun may have fallen from the chariot while hunting.

The sarcophagus of King Tut is seen in his underground tomb in the famed Valley of the Kings  in Luxor, Egypt Sunday, Nov. 4, 2007.
The sarcophagus of King Tut is seen in his underground tomb in the famed Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt Sunday, Nov. 4, 2007.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
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