Scientists in 2005 carried out the first ever
facial reconstructions of Egypt's most famous ancient king,
Tutankhamun. Three teams of forensic artists - French, Egyptian,
and American - built separate but similar models of the king's face
using scans of his skull.
The French and Egyptians knew who they were
recreating, but the Americans were not told where the skull came
from. The models of the boy king, who died around 1324 BC, reveal
a young man with plump cheeks and a round chin.
The models bear a striking resemblance to the mask
which covered the mummified face of Pharaoh Tutankhamun when his
remains were found by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922, along
with bearing a resemblance to other ancient portraits.
The shape of the face and skull were remarkably
similar to a famous image of Tutankhamun as a child where he was
shown as the sun god at dawn rising from a lotus blossom. Zahi Hawass,
secretary-general of the Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, was
quite clear about this assertion.
Using high-resolution photos of the CT scans the US
team correctly identified the skull as coming from a Caucasoid North
African. A CT or 'Cat' scan involves the use of x-ray technology. The
Egyptian team was able to work directly from the scans, which could
distinguish different densities in soft tissue and bone.
The results of the three teams were identical or very
similar in the basic shape of the face, the size, shape, and setting of
the eyes, and the proportion of the skull.
The primary differences were in the shape of the
end of the nose and ears. The French and American versions had similar
noses and chins, but the Egyptian team gave their reconstruction a
stronger nose, according to the council.
Murder ruled out
The CT scans - the first ever carried out on an
Egyptian mummy - took place in January 2005.
They suggested that the king was a slightly built,
but healthy man of nineteen years of age when he died, but that
he most likely died of complications from a broken leg, rather than
being murdered as long suspected.
When the body was x-rayed in 1968, a shard of bone
was found in his skull, prompting speculation that he was killed by
a blow. Little is known about Tutankhamun's ten-year reign after he
succeeded Akhenaten, who had abandoned Egypt's old gods in favour of
Some historians had argued he was killed for attempting
to bring back polytheism. Others believed he was assassinated by Ay,
his second-in-command and the man who succeeded him. But Mr Hawass
stated that he was confident that Tutankhamun was not murdered.