Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What killed you? And oh - by the way - who's your Daddy?

King Tut is back in the news.  It seems he's hardly ever out of it - nor is Zahi Hawass, who certainly knows the meaning of milking a story for every single word it's worth in the international press.  Mr. Hawass, I've got news for you - you can be good at your job without being such a schmuck. The most important aspect of this story is confirmation that Tut was, indeed, the son of fabulous Pharaoh Akhenaton - but that got buried in this story. I do hope, however, that this will once and for all put paid to all of those conspiracy theory stories out there about how Tut was murdered. He was weakened by a terrible injury - a broken leg - and suffering from malaria.  Even today millions die from malaria.  So, enough already.
Thanks to Isis for this news:

Malaria, genetic diseases plagued King Tut
(Story from CNN)

The legendary Egyptian "boy king" Tutankhamun, commonly known as King Tut, died of conditions including malaria and complications from a leg fracture, according to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered in 1922, but his life remains shrouded in mystery, and not much is known about him. He ruled during the 18th Dynasty, from 1336-1327 B.C., according to the Web site Egyptology Online, and is believed to have died young. Forensic analysis of his mummy has put his age of death at about 17 to 19 years.

In the study published this week, researchers used anthropological, radiological and genetic testing to examine Tut and 10 other bodies mummified over a two-year period during Tut's dynasty.

Previously, based on historical records and earlier digs, Zahi Hawass, the lead investigator of the study, had said Tut could have been the son of Amenhotep III, a successful and popular king of the 18th Dynasty, who was later known as Akhenaten.

Through DNA, Hawass' researchers determined that was indeed the case, and that Tut was married to his sister. Scientists believe that genetics and inherited diseases played a role in Tut's health because of inbreeding within the family.

"We know there were weaknesses in these mummies, perhaps even cardiovascular problems," Hawass said.

When researchers scanned Tut's mummy, they found he not only had severe kyphoscoliosis, or curvature of the spine, but also suffered from a toe malformation known as oligodactyly. The condition made his left foot swell, and it would have caused excruciating pain when he walked.

"In ancient drawings we see Tut shooting arrows, not standing, but sitting in a chariot. This was unusual," Hawass said. "In his tomb, we also found 100 walking sticks. Originally we thought they represented power. But they were ancient crutches that he obviously used. He could barely stand."

Hawass said by taking his prior research and combining it with his most recent findings, the cause of Tut's death became pretty clear to him.

"The purpose of the CT scan (in 2005) was to see if he was murdered, because earlier X-rays had found there was a hole in his skull," Hawass said. "But we found the hole was made during mummification. However, we did find a large fracture in his left femur that probably contributed to his death."

Hawass theorized a fall could have hastened Tut's death. But DNA testing also showed evidence of plasmodium falciparum, a protozoan parasite that causes malaria in humans. The parasite has been found in many other mummies, as well. Hawass said he believes the combination of the serious fracture and the deadly parasite killed the young king.

"This is very exciting that we can take modern technology and learn more about Egyptian history," said Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan's Center for the History of Medicine.

"Mummies are very powerful tools," he said. "We can learn a lot from the dead, how illnesses evolve."

More coverage at Guardian.co.uk: Frail boy-king Tut died from malaria, broken leg

Frail - my ass!  This kid was not frail in any sense of the word other than having a severe physical disability and genetic disorders due to inbreeding.  Both things he was born with, both things he could not help - and certainly he seemed to have overcome to the best of his ability, given the constraints of medical treatment and medical knowledge at the time.  Who the hell can fight a genetic disease?  No one. We're in the 21st century and we still cannot save people with genetic diseases.  In many cases, we can't even make their lives much more comfortable for the time that they are with us.  So, Tut stands as an example to all of us.

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