The mummified body of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun burst into flames inside his sarcophagus after a botched attempt to embalm him, according to scientists in a new documentary.
After his death in 1323 BC, Tutankhamun was rapidly embalmed and buried, but fire investigators believe a chemical reaction caused by embalming oils used on his mummy sparked the blaze.
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.
Tut has long fired the public imagination. He became pharaoh at the age of 10 in 1333 BC and ruled for just nine years until his death.
He was the last of the royal line from the eighteenth dynasty of the New Kingdom, one of the most powerful royal houses of ancient Egypt.
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.
Stunning treasure was found in his tomb, including an 24.2lb solid gold death mask encrusted with lapis lazuli and semi-precious stones.
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 and now believes Tutankhamun was killed in a chariot crash 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.’
He added: ‘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.’
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