King Tut Abstract: New methods, confirm some old ideas
Black Perspective on the King Tut Abstract
In a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published Feb. 17 by a team led by Zahi Hawass, investigators have constructed a five-generation family tree for King Tutankhamun (King Tut) and added more information to the knowledge base that has been accumulated about the so-called “boy king.”
Hawass is an archaeologist and Secretary General of The Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt.
Among the findings of the two-year research project, which was conducted between September 2007 to October 2009, was the identification of the parents of King Tutankhamun as well as his grandmother Queen Tiye.
Additionally, the researchers believe they have pinpointed one of the key factors that combined with some of his physical illnesses could have potentially contributed to King Tutankhamun’s death at age 19—malaria. (See side bar).
Other findings included details about King Tut’s “club foot” and a conclusion that despite the depiction of the King in a manner that researchers called stylized, they concluded “it is unlikely that either Tutankhamun or Akhenaten (his father) displayed a significantly bizarre or feminine physique.”
The effort that yielded these findings was conducted using what is essentially state-of-the-art archaeological x-ray equipment.
While some of the information found has added to the body of knowledge about King Tut and his family, a number of African American scholars question the value.
Richard Meri Ka Ra Bryd, founder of the KRST Unity Center of African Spiritual Science in Los Angeles, who has studied Black history more than four decades, pointed out that much of the information published in the JAMA report was not new.
“ . . . for me, it’s a public relations story more than anything else,” said Bryd, who noted that because King Tut is a big part of the $10 billion a year tourism business in Egypt, keeping interest alive is important.
“It’s kind of a necessity to trot out something on King Tut every so often, even if it is old information; even if they are not covering any new ground with that scholarship.”
While Bryd acknowledges that the malaria findings are a new development, he also noted that “all of African people to this very day have antigens to malaria; genetically speaking we develop antigens to combat malaria.”
Ashra Kwesi, who has led historical expeditions to Egypt and Africa for 30 years and apprenticed with renowned scholar Yosef Ben Jochannan, too, calls most of the information published in the JAMA report “not really new discoveries” and believes that they are still speculation.
He also looks at the situation from a different historical context.
“This is the continuing plundering and pillage; that is the foremost way you have to look at it,” said Kwesi, who believes that the excavation efforts are also a continuation of racist attempts to remove Tutankhamun and his family from what he calls the “Africoid” ethnicity.
“If you’re looking at his identity; he left busts, gold masks; he left enough images to clearly see what he looked like,” said Kwesi, who noted that this reality did not prevent National Geographic from coming up with a “Boy Georgeish” image of King Tut in a 2005 forensic reconstruction.
Kwesi also pointed out another instance where the same magazine in February 2008 said that the 25th dynasty of Nubians, the Kushites, belonged to the Caucasian race.
The historian also pointed out that there would be no way America would allow the grave of someone like George Washington to be continually dug up just to determine his ethnicity.
Kwesi also noted that when he takes people on tours of Egypt, they experience the same thing that happened to President Barack Obama during his trip to the country—they will often find ancient images or masks that show a startling resemblance to themselves or relatives.
“All Egyptians come from the Nile Valley, and like African Americans here today came in variations of colors . . . there is no one prototype that defines African facial characteristics. In my travels through Africa—to Egypt, the Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria—I have seen all types of various facial characteristics: Wide noses, thin noses, thick lips, thin lips.”
This goes back to the people who conquered the country—from the Romans, to the Greeks, to the Syrians and Arabs as well as the French and British, Kweski said.
He also said the push to “Whiten” ancient Egypt can also be traced to the people who have controlled it over the years.
Ancestry and pathology in the family
On February 17, 2010, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) printed a 13-page abstract consisting of the following data gathered from 11 Egyptian royal mummies (circa 1410-1324 BC) of the New Kingdom. The Egyptian scientists involved were searching for inherited disorders (DNA analysis), infectious disease (trace chemical evidence), and pathological features (macro/microscopic) morphological observation.
The test subjects were studied using cutting-edge methods in anthropological, radiological, and genetic technology in an attempt to discover unknown ancient secrets. However, data from this research was incapable of determining the race of the royal mummies. DNA analysis does not determine race only race history.
After OurWeekly evaluated the abstract that was published by JAMA and written by a team of 17 Egyptian doctors ranging from PHD's and MD’s, to MSc (Master of Science), we polled African American scholars and a comparison was made to determine if any more information had been discovered in relation to knowledge already known by African American Egyptologists and historians.
Many of the early morphologic scientific hypotheses surrounding King Tutankhamun’s appearance prior to this abstract were based solely on attempts to interpret paintings and drawings from ancient architecture and art relics found in Egypt. They totally disregarded Egypt's art form of that period known as Amarna, which often featured subjects drawn with a feminine physique.
Scientists then applied their scientific knowledge of cephalic (head shape), thorax (male breasts), and skeletal abnormalities (bone width/length) to the art form hoping to come up with a scientific answer. This method used by individuals in the scientific community led to dead ends and speculation about the young king.
Visual inspections of the mummified Tutankhamun were also misleading or details may have been lost. Several books published on the Tutankhamun discovery included photographs of the original log books belonging to members of the Howard Carter expedition (in 1922 he was the first to excavate the tomb). The log books included sketches of maps of burial chambers and a pencil anatomical drawing of the mummified body of King Tutankhamun with a small attached penis. Yet prior to this investigation, he was often referred to as a hermaphrodite. The abstract in JAMA mentions his well developed detached penis but gives no explanation of why it was not attached to his body.
As a result, the scientific community came up with theories that King Tutankhamun suffered from gynecomastia (male breasts), craniosynostoses (early infant skull fusion prevents normal expansion), Marfan syndrome (people are very tall, slender, loose jointed, with long thin fingers and toes), and possibilities of him being a hermaphrodite.
The JAMA abstract proved all the syndromes and disease theories false based on findings of the DNA analysis.
The Egyptian team of scientist’s newest discoveries is that King Tutankhamun was plagued with malaria and a foot abnormality known as Kohler disease II.
This new information was mentioned to Kemetologist Ashra Kwesi who stated he has not had time to read the report, however he had discussed the article with a couple of colleagues. His response to the findings was that it is well known by African American researchers that malaria originated in Africa. He also stated that King Tut was entombed with a very large collection of walking canes, some with worn tips, indicating a walking disorder. He also referenced ancient wall paintings showing the young king seated while in the process of hunting and also seated while driving a chariot. These are activities he should have been depicted as doing in an upright position. Kwesi mentioned pharmacy kits found in King Tut’s burial chamber containing malaria herbs.
The malaria discovery was based on testing for genes specific for Plasmodium falcparum tropica, a molecular protein that was also found in four of the mummies. This protein is very important in the life cycle of malaria; it is responsible for binding the parasite to individual blood cells prior to invading them and multiplying. This leads to microscopic explosions inside our blood vessels.
The foot abnormality was also discovered radiologically using high end x-ray technology. Kholers disease is a condition where a small boat shaped-bone (navicular bone) located in the foot under goes avascular necrosis which prevents the supply of blood on a temporary or permanent basis from reaching the bone. The disease creates dead bone tissue and causes the bone to collapse. This abnormality is, for unknown reasons, common in children. This disease is very painful and results in a limp or dependence on a walking cane.
In the section of the abstract titled DNA analysis, the Egyptian research staff confirmed that in-breeding occurred with the royal family; this was traced by examining the same genetic sequence markers (microsatellite markers) in all the mummified test cases. Kwesi was asked if he was familiar with in-breeding within ancient Egyptian families. He said in-breeding in ancient civilizations has been known, it is not new to researchers or historians; it is documented in ancient tablets, and census manuscripts. He said most of this information is taught in freshman Black studies.
And finally in the last section of the abstract titled “Cause of Death,” the researchers state that although it is speculated that the mummies had malaria, it is not known if it was lethal enough to cause their death. Specifically in regards to King Tutankhamen, the abstract states, “A sudden leg fracture possibly introduced by a fall might have resulted in a life-threatening condition, when a malaria infection occurred.” Throughout the entire abstract there is not one statement documenting the cause death of the Egyptian royal family by the abstract in JAMA.