Monday, April 26, 2010

Did frail feet fell the Tutankhamun?

Em Hotep (Keith Payne)

This analysis references the JAMA and other reports, and looks particularly at the claims for Freiburg Kohler disease found in the Pharaoh's foot and the implications of this on his reign.

Was King Tut a warrior king or “one sick kid”? Even as the Family of Tutankhamun Project was publishing its findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the Boy King was a frail young man who needed a cane to walk, Egyptologist W. Raymond Johnson was publishing his evidence that Tut was an active young man who rode chariots into battle.

So which is the true Tut? What if both versions are accurate? Could this perfect storm of physical challenges and adventurous behavior have led Tutankhamun to a heroic but early grave?

There's an update in a post two weeks later:

Two weeks ago I posted my article about the JAMA* report’s analysis of King Tut’s foot problems and how they might have potentially led to his downfall (no pun intended). One of the elements of my argument was that Tutankhamun was missing a toe bone in his right foot. But he wasn’t (and probably still isn’t).

I had based my contention on a typo in one of the tables in the JAMA report, a typo that is contradicted in numerous places throughout the rest of the article, a series of dots which I somehow failed to connect. As a result, Gentle Reader Monica gently but concisely took me to task for my mistake in the Comments section of the article.

Now a writer for a much more high-profile (at least for now) outfit than Em Hotep has made the same mistake. So shamey-shamey on us. But how did the same mistake make it past the editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association?

It seemed like a pretty good thesis at the time: the combination of a painful foot condition in Tutankhamun’s left foot, a right foot weakened by a missing toe bone, and a brash young prince given to occasional risky behavior led to a traumatic fall and an untimely death.

It’s still a pretty good thesis, for the most part. . . . .

In another post on Em Hotep there is a round up of all the main responses to the JAMA article.
So much for the evil god Set keeping his mouth shut—people just seem to insist on questioning authority. The JAMA article is jammed with answers, but queries continue. Assembled here for your pleasure and edification are the best examples of critical questioning culled from the Egyptological blogosphere.

Tangled roots, the passed-over prince, aging them bones, lack of control, and Kate Phizackerley’s Quest for Accuracy.


Gordon Napier said...

Tutankhamun could have been an active leader despite crippling illness. I'm reminded of another boy-king who led victorious armies despite suffering from leprosy, namely Baldwin IV of Jerusalem.

Keith Payne said...

Hi Andie,

Thanks for the mention! Any time Em Hotep is mentioned on Egyptology News I always gain new readers, its sort of the "Big League" of online Egyptology!

Thank you for all that you do to keep us informed, I know it is no easy task.

Keith Payne said...

I think that is truly within the realm of possibility, Gordon. Although I try not to project too much where the historical record is vague-to-nonexistant, or even contradictory, it is very tempting to imagine Tutankhamun as a frail young man with with an attitude of "I have to exert myself." He may very well have felt he had much to prove.

Youthful indiscretion is hardly a product of culture! In addition to his physical challenges, Tutankhamun had to disassociate himself from his predecessor, Akhenaten, and had to deal with the intrigues of a "pezzonovante di pezzonovantes" such as Ay!

Of course all of this is just speculation, but it is easy to imagine him swatting away his fretting handlers insisting with adolescent indignity "Leave me alone! I can do this by myself!"

Andie said...

Hi Keith
Thanks very much for the comment - I've been wading through my emails trying to find your email and thanks to your reply to Gordon today I've realized why I couldn't find it! I wanted to talk to you about something so I'll email you if I can find an address. Failing that I'll post a comment on your site.