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Medical Quiz #8 – Answers

by Suzanne Daniluk, RN on December 7th, 2011

Answers to last week’s quiz on King Tutankhamun and the fatal ailments of ancient Egypt.

True or False?

1.  King Tut died of a fractured leg.

True. Since King Tut was only 19 when he died, one theory held that he was murdered. However, new genetic testing done in 2010 on King Tut, as well as his mummified relatives, revealed that he had a bone disorder which caused poor blood supply, leading to bone necrosis and destruction. A femur fracture, possibly from a fall, may have proved fatal in conjunction with the malarial infection also found in King Tut’s DNA tests. Medication and canes to assist ambulation in the afterlife were among the tomb’s artifacts.

2. Howard Carter, who discovered King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, died of the “Mummy’s Curse”.

False as to Mr. Carter, but others may have succumbed. British archeologist Howard Carter died of natural causes at age 65, 17 years after his fortuitous find. The canary that accompanied him into the tomb didn’t fare so well, expiring from a cobra bite. Subsequently, about a dozen people connected with the 1922 discovery died of various unnatural means, and by 1935, according to tabloid media, still more untimely deaths followed – all ascribed to the tomb’s hieroglyphic warning:  “Death comes on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the King”. Though modern medical experts dispute any curse, they do have an explanation. Toxic, airborne mold spores disturbed upon opening tombs or handling artifacts and inhaled or absorbed, may have caused fatal illness, particularly in those with weakened immune systems.

3.  Cleopatra died of a snake bite.

False. Though consistently portrayed in art (including by Shakespeare and the late Liz Taylor) as dying from an induced asp bite, Cleopatra drank poison consisting of hemlock, opium and wolfsbane, following Mark Antony’s death by suicide.

References:
http://www.livescience.com/8093-killed-king-tut.html

http://www.unmuseum.org/mummy.htm

King Tut exhibit at MFAH: http://mfah.org/

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