Was King Tut killed by a hippo? The father of Egypt’s New Kingdon executed? Week of Egyptian events kicks off in Toronto

Toronto is the place to be this week for fans of ancient Egypt. Especially if youre interested in the gruesome ways that two of its pharaohs might have died.

King Tut: Death by Hippo?

This Wednesday, at 7 pm at theU of Tcampus, Dr. Benson Harer of California State University at San Bernardinowill argue that King Tutwasmauled to death by a hippo his lecture istitled”What really killed King Tut: The Hippo Heresy.”

Dr. Harer is a medical doctor and adjunct professor of Egyptology atCalifornia State so he brings a unique perspective to this issue.

Indeed, the death of King Tut is a controversial subject. A combination of a broken leg and malaria seems to be the top candidate at the moment. A medical re-examination of his body – published last spring – shows that he suffered from an array of ailments including club foot, a cleft palette, abnormal curvature of the spine andmalaria.

So what is the argument for the hippo mauling theory?

New analysis of CT scans of 2003 shows that Tutankhamun was embalmed without his heart and anterior chest wall and confirms that these structures could not have been removed by either tomb robbers or Howard Carter, reads the lecture abstract.

The condition of the corpse must have dictated this radical and unique departure from the norms of the day. In a prior publication, Dr. Harer suggested that a crushing injury to the chest was the most likely explanation. Further study now indicates that a more likely cause for an extensive crushing and tearing injury might be the bite of a hippopotamus.

This explains why Tut was embalmed without his heart or chest wall.

The political and religious implications of death by hippo [a form taken by Seth] in the unstable post-Amarna Period would inhibit making this cause of death public. However, it would account for the extraordinary status of the corpse and its unique preparation for eternity.

Update:More about Dr Harer’s ‘What Really Killed King Tut: The Hippo Heresy’ lecture

The lecture by Dr. HarerthisWednesdayis only the start.

On Saturday there is a symposium on Amenhotep III, the 18th dynasty pharaoh who ruled more than 3,300 years ago. Its geared towards a general audience, but there is a cost see the Royal Ontario Museum’s website for details. Among the speakers is Dr. Catharine Roehrig who is conducting excavations at the pharaohs palace at Malkata.

Was the father of Egypts New Kingdom summarily executed?

More finds will be discussed Friday and Sunday at the free scholars colloquium. Fridays portion goes from 9am – 5 pmand is held at the Royal Ontario Museum, while Sundays goes from 1 pm 5 pm and is held at 5 Bancroft Avenue on the U of T campus.

At this symposium the death of another Egyptian leader, Seqenenre Tao II, is going to be called into question. Although Tao isnt nearly as well known as Tut, he plays an important role in Egyptian history.

He ruled during the 17th dynasty, a time nearly 3,500 years ago when parts of northern Egypt were occupied by the Hyksos, invaders from Asia. Tao ruled from the south and is credited with starting the final campaign to drive the Hyksos out. His son,Ahmose, would become the ruler of a united Egypt. Thismakes Tao, ina sense, the father of Egypt’s New Kingdom era.

Taos mummy was discovered more than 100 years ago and has extensive evidence of battle wounds. Gaston Maspero wrote backin the 19th century that:

“The most likely cause of Seqenenres death is ceremonial execution at the hands of an enemy commander, following a Theban defeat on the battlefield.

The appearance of his mummy proves that he died a violent death when about forty years of age. Two or three men, whether assassins or soldiers, must have surrounded and despatched him before help was available. A blow from an axe must have severed part of his left cheek, exposed the teeth, fractured the jaw, and sent him senseless to the ground; another blow must have seriously injured the skull, and a dagger or javelin has cut open the forehead on the right side, a little above the eye…

Ouch! That he died violently there is no question, but how exactly did this gory end happen? Was it on the field of battle with his troops?Was he assassinated while sleeping? Or did it happen some other way?

Dr. Garry Shaw believes that he was executed by the Hyksos after losing a battle against them. By combining all of the available evidence, it is argued that the most likely cause of Seqenenres death is ceremonial execution at the hands of an enemy commander, following a Theban defeat on the battlefield, he writes in his abstract.

That lecture will be given on Sunday at 3 pm.

Was an Old Kingdom fortress in the Sinai burnt to the ground?

Archaeologists have beenexploring the site of Ras Budran for nearly a decade. This Old Kingdom fortress, out in the Sinai desert, served as a buffer between Egypt and those crafty “Asiatics” whom they despised.

The most recent digs have yielded a host of interesting finds.

Long-term storage places under an awning, food processing, baking and consumption zones, potential beer production, copper and turquoise working areas, and other activity zones. The 2008 season in particular yielded some evidence for an earlier occupation at the fort, which may pre-date or date to the initial construction and occupation of the fort… writes Dr. Gregory Mumford of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The discoveries call into question the idea that the fortress was abandoned willingly around 4,200 years ago. It is increasingly uncertain now whether the fort was “abandoned” owing to its proximity to a stormier coastline than originally anticipated, or if a “destruction” is indeed indicated by the deep levels of burnt debris associated with broken in-situ pottery vessels (versus debris from cooking and baking activites), Dr. Mumford said.

Does this mean that there was an Egyptian last stand at this site? A final battle, perhaps, for control of part of the Sinai?

This talk takes place Sunday at 3:30 pm.

Deciphering a muddled star table

Dr. Sarah Symons is an Astronomy and Physics professor at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario. Shes been analyzing an astronomical diagram found on a 30th dynasty (more than2,350 yearsago)bull sarcophagus. It contains a unique table depicting the changes in orientation of certain circumpolar stars over the course of the year. However, the table appears muddled, she says in her abstract.

This talk discusses what the table tells us about observational astronomy in the Late Period and offers a reconstruction of the original data showing that the tables disorder may not be random.

Thislecture takesplace Sunday at 1:45 pm.