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Face of ancient Egypt’s king Tut revealed

November 05, 2007


LUXOR (Egypt), Nov 4: The true face of ancient Egypt’s boy king Tutankhamun was revealed on Sunday to the public for the first time since he died in mysterious circumstances more than 3,000 years ago.

The pharaoh’s mummy was moved from its ornate sarcophagus in the tomb where its 1922 discovery caused an international sensation to a nearby climate-controlled case where experts say it will be better preserved.

“The face of the golden pharaoh is amazing,” said Egyptian antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass, pulling back the linen bandages to reveal a body resembling a badly burnt skeleton.

“It has magic, it has mystery, it has beauty and his buck teeth are similar to the rest of his family’s. Putting the mummy in this case will make the golden king live forever.” Made pharaoh at the age of nine, Tutankhamun became famous with the discovery of his tomb and the treasures within by Briton Howard Carter.

His iconic solid gold burial mask weighs 11 kilograms, encrusted with lapis lazuli and other semi-precious stones.

The mummy had to be reconstructed after Carter cut it into 18 pieces in order to gain access to amulets and other jewellery, said Mustafa Wazery, director of the Valley of the Kings.

“What you will see is a beautiful face,” Wazery told journalists ahead of the mummy’s displacement. “He’s a good-looking boy, with a nice smile and buck teeth.” Every day hundreds of visitors file through his tomb in the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile in the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, bringing with them into the royal tomb bacteria, humidity and other pollutants.

“The mummy risked being reduced to dust because of the rising levels of humidity due to the visitors,” said Hawass, who heads the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

“The mummy was already damaged by Howard Carter, who used sharp tools to remove the golden mask,” said Culture Minister Faruq Hosni.

He said Carter damaged the mummy by “exposing it to burning sunshine for many hours” in the desert landscape.

A silicone representation of the face of the legendary pharaoh, who died around 3,300 years ago at the age of just 19, was reconstructed in 2005 using images collected through CAT scans of his mummy.

Egyptian, Swiss and Italian experts have deduced that Tutankhamun died after an injury to his left leg led to rapid gangrene, rejecting a previously popular theory that the king had been killed by a blow to the neck.

When the tomb was discovered, the pharaoh’s embalmed body was encased in three sarcophagi, one of which was made from solid gold.

Tutankhamun, the 12th pharaoh of the 18th dynasty, reigned for 10 years.

Theories that he was assassinated stemmed from the fact that he was the last ruler of his dynasty.

The pharaoh Akhenaton the Heretic was thought to have fathered Tutankhamun, but the identity of his mother is not known for sure. It may have been Nefertiti, a foreign princess, or his wet nurse Maya.

The high priest Ay succeded Tutankhamun for four years — also marrying his widow Ankhesenpamon — and he was followed by the military leader Horemheb who ruled for 26 years until he ceded power to Ramses, founder of the 19th dynasty.