It could have been epilepsy that killed King Tut, if a surgeon at Imperial College London is to be believed. The surgeon, Hutan Ashfarian, based his theory on Tut’s family history, as well as his propensity for religious visions.
Ashfarian analyzed ancient images of pharaohs who are thought to be Tutankhamen’s immediate predecessors, and discovered that they, just like the fabled pharaoh, died at young ages with feminized features (both signs that his theory is correct), reports Newser.
Many of Tut’s supposed predecessors also experienced hallucinations or religious visions, including Tut, which are often experienced by those who suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy.
Ever since King Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 1922, nearly intact and lavishly furnished, the cause of the young king’s death more than 3,000 years before has been the focal point for intense debate, notes The Washington Post.
The many theories about his death include murder, leprosy, tuberculosis, malaria, sickle-cell anemia, a snake bite, and even a suggestion that he died after a fall from his chariot.
All of these theories, according to Hutan Ashrafian, have missed the vital point that Tutankhamen died young with a feminized physique, along with his immediate predecessors.
Smenkhare is thought to have been Tut’s uncle or older brother, while Aknenaten is thought to be the boy king’s father. Painting s and sculptures that show the two appear to show feminized figures, including large breasts and wide hips.
The two pharaohs before Akhenaten (Amenhotep III and Tuthmosis IV) appear to have had similar physiques. This, combined with the fact that all of them died young and mysteriously, lead Ashrafian to believe that they died from an inherited disorder.
Ashrafian also notes that each pharaoh appears to have died slightly younger than his predecessor. Historical accounts hint at what that disorder may have been as well. Ashrafian stated that, “It’s significant that two [of the five related pharaohs] had stories of religious visions associated with them.” This is because people with temporal lobe epilepsy have been known to experience hallucinations and religious visions after exposure to sunlight.
This form of epilepsy also contributes to the pharaohs’ more feminine features, as the temporal lobe is connected to parts of the brain that release hormones, altering the levels of hormones involved in sexual development.
Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has stated that Ashrafian’s theory is “a fascinating and plausible explanation.”
While Hutan Ashfarian’s theory about how King Tut died could be true, we may never know, as there is no genetic test for temporal lobe epilepsy.