February 16, 1923: King Tut Discovered: Incest and Mystery!

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A Brief History

On February 16, 1923, King Tut’s burial chamber was entered for the first time in over 3,000 years!

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, we find King Tutankhamun becoming “The Boy King” at age nine in 1332 B.C. and reigning over Egypt until his death in 1323 B.C. at age nineteen rediscovered in 1922 A.D. by Howard Carter.

A tremendous amount is known about Tutankhamun, who is usually referred to as “King Tut,” largely due to the wealth of information gathered from his tomb which is the least disturbed of any tomb yet found.  Techniques for discovering information about Tut include analyzing the hieroglyphics in the tomb.  Other techniques applied to researching Tut involve x-rays and CT scans of his mummy and objects from the tomb, as well as DNA tests of his mummy and possibly related mummies.

Mummy of Tutankhamun


From this intensive and extensive research, it is believed that Tut came from a line of incestuous royal predecessors and that he had married his half sister, perhaps fathering the two fetal mummies also located within his burial chamber.  Incest can result in a high incidence of unsuccessful pregnancies.

King Tut was also determined to have suffered from several malarial parasites and may well have been sickly because of that.  He had broken a leg not long before he died which had become infected and which was originally believed to be his cause of death, although modern researchers now believe he may have died from any number of other causes.

His DNA shows that Tut was fathered by Amenhotep IV (a.k.a. Akenaten), and Nefertiti appears to be the mother of his wife.  Since Amenhotep IV was married to his own sister and since incest had been practiced for generations before the birth of Tut, it is not surprising that Tut should suffer from a variety of congenital defects, of which one may have been a partially cleft palate, another common sign of incest, and he bore the family trait of an elongated skull, sometimes exaggerated in depictions of him.

Unfortunately, there is also much that is not known, especially the exact cause of Tut’s death.  Assassination, broken leg, hunting accident, malaria, epilepsy and congenital diseases are some of the possibilities that have been put forth by researchers.  No one knows as no records about Tut’s death or final days have yet been found.

Most archaeologists today discount the popular idea that Tut’s tomb is cursed and that those who enter it die as a result.  Howard Carter, among others, lived many years after entering the burial chamber.

Howard Carter and associates opening the shrine doors in the burial chamber (1924 reconstruction of the 1923 event)


King Tut is a popular figure today, his relics in Cairo are a great attraction, and traveling displays have been seen by millions.  Much has been written about Tut, both academic and popular works including a National Geographic Magazine (September 2010) article and numerous other literature and books.  Portrayed in numerous movies and television productions, Tut has also appeared in comedies, such as in short films featuring The Three Stooges.  A truly memorable reference to King Tut is the 1978 song and video by Steve Martin appropriately called “King Tut,” which reached #17 on U.S.charts!  Not cracked enough?  Try a hot dog at King Tut’s Wiener Hut in North Carolina.  Perhaps most cracked of all King Tut references were the television commercials that appeared in 1988 for King Kuts Dog Food which featured an Egyptian motif! (See it on Youtube.)

Historical Information

The discovery of Tut’s tomb ranks seventh on a list of the Top 10 Most Important Historical Finds.  For more information on this incredibly important find, please read the below listed books.

Carter, Howard and A. C. Mace.  The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen.  Dover Publications, 1977.

James, T. G. H.  Howard Carter: The Path to Tutankhamun.  Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2001.

Meyerson, Daniel.  In the Valley of the Kings: Howard Carter and the Mystery of King Tutankhamun’s Tomb.  Brécourt Academic, 2009.

You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube:

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.