Weird History
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Facts About King Tut That Sound Made Up - But Aren't

October 19, 2020 1.3k votes 254 voters 45.3k views10 items

List RulesVote up the King Tut facts you totally would have believed were fake.

Tutankhamen, better known as King Tut, died in 1123 BC. He was just a teenager at the time, but the young pharaoh achieved immortal status when his tomb was discovered in 1922, and since then, plenty of true facts about King Tut and his life have fascinated scholars and the general public. Myth and lore surround the pharaoh, with theories abounding about his lineage and enduring curse.

Among the misinformation and outlandish stories are several things about King Tut that may sound fake, but are completely accurate. Mummified appendages, body deformities, and royal inbreeding are just a few amazing aspects of King Tut's real story. 

  • Photo: The New York Times / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    King Tut Spontaneously Caught Fire Inside His Coffin

    As technology advances, researchers continue to learn about King Tut (d. 1123 BC). Most recently, great gains have been made in determining what may have happened to the pharaoh's body once it was sealed in its coffin. For decades, researchers have been aware that King Tut's remains show signs of burning, but it wasn't until 2013 that the likely cause of fire damage was identified. According to Chris Naunton of the Egypt Exploration Society, King Tut's remains were charred when the materials used in mummification ignited.

    Naunton and forensic archaeologist Matthew Ponting analyzed a piece of King Tut's flesh. They found the oils used to embalm the pharaoh mixed with oxygen and linen, creating a reaction that "cooked" his body while it was inside his coffin. The estimated temperatures reached nearly 400 degrees Fahrenheit because of a possible "botched mummification" that resulted in the body "spontaneously combusting shortly after" internment. Naunton called the findings "entirely unexpected, something of a revelation."

    Embalming materials used by ancient Egyptians included plant-based extracts, gums, and resins. The mummification process involved the removal of internal organs, drying out the body, and applying embalming oil to seal the remains. The body was then wrapped in linen, perhaps layered before the oil had time to dry. At some point in King Tut's process, things went awry. 

    Another potential cause of the charred remains, however, could be a layer of dark liquid placed on Tut's body as he was mummified to look like the god of the underworld, Osiris. 

    Another factor might have been Tut's speedy interment. King Tut's tomb shows signs of quick preparation, so much so that "the painted wall was not dry when the tomb was sealed," said Harvard microbiologist Ralph Mitchell. 

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    He Was Mummified While Aroused - Then His Penis Vanished

    After archaeologist Howard Carter opened King Tut's sarcophagus, he stripped off the layers of linen on the mummy - and found an erect penis, which apparently had been mummified at a 90-degree angle. Because no other mummy has been discovered with such an attribute, scholars can only theorize as to why this was the case.

    One interpretation involves the religious realignment Tut attempted to bring to Egypt. In the aftermath of the efforts of his father, Akhenaten, to steer Egyptians toward worshiping Aten, Tutankhamen revitalized the worship of traditional deities. One of these included Osiris, the god of the underworld.

    In Egyptian myth, Osiris was slain by his brother, dismembered, and had his body scattered throughout Egypt. Osiris's wife, Isis, gathered up the pieces of her husband - all except his penis. Egyptologist Salima Ikram posits that King Tut was intentionally mummified in a manner that evoked Osiris as a way of making amends for Akhenaten's actions. This is supported by artwork in Tut's tomb and, in Ikram's opinion, explains why Tut's body was covered in a dark liquid. Overall, Tut was made to look like the god Osiris himself.

    By the time Richard Harrison took new X-rays of King Tut in 1968, the pharaoh's privates had apparently disappeared. Largely believed to have been taken, they had been removed and were found in the cotton wool underneath the sand tray," according to Harrison. A later CT scan found the pharaoh's genitals, confirming they were never missing - just located out of the direct line of sight. 

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    King Tut's Tomb Was Built For Someone Else Originally - Possibly A Queen

    King Tut was only a teenager when he passed, apparently a surprise to his subjects. Scholars continue to debate the exact cause of Tut's demise, but the haste with which he was put to rest is clear. Tut's tomb was relatively small for someone in his position and, according to Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves, "almost all the burial equipment for Tutankhamen was originally made for Nefertiti."

    Reeves bases this assertion on several factors. He believes that some of the gender-neutral aspects of Tutankhamen's interment - including one artifact that shows the pharaoh with breasts - reveal that the resting place "began life as a queen's tomb." Reeves thinks Tut's mask was adapted to fit Tut, and his placement within the tomb complex indicates a structure built for a queen. The chambers of pharaohs are usually placed to the left of an entrance, while queens - and Tut - are found to the right

    If Tut's tomb was meant for Nefertiti, Reeves believes the queen may still be in one of the rooms within the tomb complex.

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  • Photo: Harry Burton / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    His Sandals Were Orthopedic

    Examinations of King Tut's remains reveal the pharaoh suffered from numerous ailments and deformities. One of the most notable was his clubbed left foot, an affliction that hindered his ability to walk and led him to use a cane. Over 100 walking sticks were found in his tomb, along with shoes that indicate the pharaoh wore special footwear to help him. 

    Researcher Andre Veldmeijer looked closely at King Tut's shoes and said he found "a fastening which we don’t know from ancient Egypt. There are shoes with a small band that goes over the toe, something we have not seen anywhere else. We know recently that Tutankhamen had deformed feet. This suggests a solution to his condition."

    Some of King Tut's shoes also featured straps, pads, and elaborate ornamentation. There are indications the young pharaoh actually wore the shoes, including "the print of Tutankhamen's foot on the sole," Veldmeijer said.

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