Full Episode
Ultimate Tut

More than 90 years ago, in 1922, in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter made the greatest archaeological find in history: the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb and its golden treasures worth nearly a billion dollars. Carter’s find made Tutankhamun the most famous pharaoh in ancient Egyptian history. But the real story of King Tut has become shrouded in myth, with many mysteries around his tomb unsolved to this day.

In Ultimate Tut, a special two-part Secrets of the Dead, Egyptologist Chris Naunton mounts the most comprehensive investigation ever undertaken to build the ultimate picture of Tutankhamun. Naunton takes a 21st century approach to ancient history, bringing together the latest evidence from a team of archaeologists, anatomists, and geologists; and blending 3D graphics, stylized reconstruction and action-adventure forensic investigation, to offer fresh insights into how Tutankhamun was buried, why his tomb was the only one to remain intact, and the enduring enigma around how he died.

A Blink and Handel Productions Production produced in association with THIRTEEN and WNET, Shaw Media and National Geographic Channels

Narrator: Jay O. Sanders
Writer/Director: Sean Smith
Executive Producers, Blink: Justine Kershaw, Alan Handel
Executive in Charge: Stephen Segaller
Executive Producer: Steve Burns

©2013 Blink Films and Handel Productions (TUT) Inc.

Transcript Print

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, a groundbreaking investigation is changing everything we thought we knew about Tutankhamun.

WOMAN: 9 years old, and he is sitting on one of the greatest thrones in the ancient world.

Tut was a warrior.

These are battles that he was involved in.

ANNOUNCER: The most advanced scientific tests uncover how the young Pharaoh died.

He fell down from the chariot.

MAN: The heart was badly crushed.

They couldn't even use that as part of his passage to the afterlife.

ANNOUNCER: A new analysis of his burial reveals what happened to Tut after he died.

WOMAN: So there are just so many things wrong in terms of royal mummification.

WOMAN: The face was cut off and replaced with the face of Tutankhamun.

MAN: This is definitely an explanation for the charring on the mummy.

ANNOUNCER: And a surprising theory explains the survival of Tut's tomb.

WOMAN: Every royal tomb had been robbed.

Tut's still remained relatively untouched.

ANNOUNCER: 'Ultimate Tut' on 'Secrets of the Dead.'

WOMAN: This is the enduring mystery of Tut.

'Secrets of the Dead' was made possible by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.

Thank you.

NARRATOR: In 1922, workmen stumbled upon the greatest archaeological find in history... the tomb of Tutankhamun... the most famous Pharaoh of ancient Egypt.

His life and death are shrouded in mystery.

Now Egyptologist Chris Naunton is reexamining the excavation's original notes and photographs.

His mission--to reveal the boy king's ultimate secrets.

NAUNTON, VOICE-OVER: I want to be able to separate the myth from the real story.

I really want to get to the bottom of this.

NARRATOR: Helping his quest are leading forensic scientists... That is a lot of smoke.

This is absolutely incredible.

NARRATOR: cutting-edge computer software, and the latest high-tech imaging equipment.

In the most comprehensive investigation ever done, the team will reassess the data from every angle.

There is a whole new story that has not been seen before.

[Horses neighing] NARRATOR: The search will reveal amazing answers to the enduring questions who was Tutankhamun... why was his tomb found virtually intact, what makes his mummy unique, and how did he die?

Egypt, land of Pharaohs.

It was here more than 90 years ago that Howard Carter made his sensational discovery... the tomb of Tutankhamun.

What Carter discovered was worth a staggering sum, nearly a billion dollars.

The world was enthralled with Egypt's Golden Pharaoh, yet nearly a century later, the exact circumstances of Tut's life and death remain a mystery.

For Egyptologist Chris Naunton, this enduring puzzle has fueled a lifelong fascination.

In his attempt to finally answer the questions surrounding the boy king, he has gained access to Carter's original notes and photographs.

NAUNTON, VOICE-OVER: The main reason why there are still so many unanswered questions about Tutankhamun and his burial are that ultimately the immensity of the discovery defeated Carter.

In the years remaining of his life, he spent all of his time documenting the objects, but then he died not having got to the point of final publication.

His notes were simply boxed up and put away and almost forgotten, and people simply haven't looked at that material and tried to answer these questions.

NARRATOR: Scouring Carter's material, Chris is now discovering a number of clues that suggest something out of the ordinary in Tutankhamun's burial.

Certain aspects of the burial are anomalous.

So for example, objects in great quantities deposited in the tomb in a somewhat disorganized manner.

We can see that from the drawing here.

NARRATOR: Despite all of the items inside, the tomb itself is tiny.

Other royal tombs Carter studied at the time contained long entrance corridors and large burial suites, often with pillared halls.

There is nothing like this in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

The tomb of Tutankhamun is substantially smaller, and it's much, much simpler, as well.

NARRATOR: There is also something mysterious about the mummy itself.

NAUNTON: The photographs that we have of the mummy show that it seems to have been in a pretty unhappy condition when it was discovered, and Carter notes that 'Here and there were a number of lightly wrapped pads of linen, the linen being reduced to the consistency of soot.'

There are lots of unusual aspects to this burial, lots of questions still unanswered, in fact.

NARRATOR: With these first clues and other details gleaned from his study of the notes, Chris begins his quest to solve the mysteries of Tutankhamun.

He starts at the spot where Carter made his momentous discovery-- Egypt, the Valley of the Kings.

Beneath the valley lie tombs belonging to ancient Egyptian Pharaohs.

Many are vast and complex, consisting of a warren of interconnecting chambers... like the tomb of Ramses VI carved into the hillside just above Tut's tomb.

At the base of the valley is KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun, a modest affair with just 4 chambers.

One of the most popular attractions in Egypt, it receives thousands of visitors a day.

To Chris' trained eye, nothing here makes sense.

These bizarre features are vital clues to the real Tutankhamun story.

The first thing that strikes you about the tomb is that it's really not very big at all.

It's not the kind of size of tomb you'd expect a king to be buried in.

In fact, it's a bit more like the tomb of a noble.

NARRATOR: But Carter and his benefactor Lord Carnarvon found a treasure trove crammed into an impossibly small space.

In the antechamber, they discovered goods the king would need in his afterlife-- chariots, weapons, couches, and chests.

In the annex, they found more of the same.

In the burial chamber, they found a nested set of 4 shrines.

Within the innermost shrine was a stone sarcophagus.

It contained 3 nested golden coffins and the mummy of the boy king.

Well, this chink here in the wall was the result of the very large series of shrines being moved into the burial chamber as these shrines are enormous.

There was only 30 centimeters' gap between the outermost shrine and the wall, so the people responsible for the burial would have had a devil of a job to get all this material in there, and in fact, the only way that they managed to do it was by removing this chunk of wall.

It shows that this tomb was not designed to house these shrines.

They were meant for somewhere much larger, they were meant for somewhere else.

NARRATOR: Chris also notices the lack of embellishment on the walls themselves.

NAUNTON: The decoration in the tomb is really very sparse.

The burial chamber is the only part of the tomb that is decorated.

The figures are very large.

There's quite large areas of undecorated wall space in between them.

Normally in the tomb of a king, you would expect a large quantity of very esoteric religious texts relating to the passage of the king from life to death.

NARRATOR: Nothing in the tomb seems fit for a king.

And there is something remarkable about the coffin, too.

The feet have been hacked off to fit it into the sarcophagus.

And Tutankhamun's tomb is not the only part of this mysterious burial with a hidden story.

Inside the sarcophagus, Carter found the most iconic object, Tut's death mask... but even this treasure has a dark secret, which archaeologists are only just beginning to reveal.

To find out more, Chris is meeting with Yasmin El-Shazly of the Cairo Museum.

So this is one of the most iconic objects in the world.

People come to see this in the thousands every year, but there's more actually than meets the eye, I gather.

Exactly. It's a very famous piece.

People look at it for its glamour, and they rarely really study it, and in fact, it's only recently been properly studied.


If you actually look very closely at the object from over here, you'll see signs of riveting and soldering.


NARRATOR: Inside the mask, where few people look, is a vital clue for the investigation, evidence of how the ancient craftsmen joined the front face, the image of Tutankhamun, to the headdress behind.

You can also see them here where the face attaches to the nemes headdress.

Oh, you can see that really clearly.

Yeah. Right along the line there, right.

So these are-- these were actually separate pieces.

This is not one single thing. Right.

Yes, yes. Exactly.

NARRATOR: A closer look at the mask shows that the headdress was made separately from the face using different materials.

Other interesting things about this object are that the inlays in the nemes headdress are made out of colored glass while the blue inlays in the eyebrows and cosmetic lines are made out of lapis lazuli.

Looks very similar, actually different materials.

Different material. Right. OK.

Which is very unusual... Yeah, right.

because usually when you have one object and you're inlaying it with a certain color, it's usually-- you usually use the same material.


NARRATOR: This unusual use of lapis and glass tells Yasmin that the headdress and face were made at different times.

Another thing is that the ears are pierced.

We know that only women and children wore earrings from the art, the surviving art from ancient Egypt.

Adult kings did not. Really?

Yeah. Right.

NARRATOR: Whoever buried Tut tried to pass the headdress off as a man's.

When this was found in the tomb, the earlobes were blocked with gold leaf.

Putting all of these things together, what does this tell us?

OK. The theory is that the mask wasn't originally made for Tutankhamun... Really?

and that the face was at some point cut off and replaced with the face of Tutankhamun.

Right. OK. So everything other than the face may belong to somebody else, and it's just that they put his image on over the top, and hey, presto, we think of this as being Tutankhamun, but it's not.

Exactly, and it was a woman because we know that only women and children wore earrings.


Adult kings did not.

Really? Wow.

NARRATOR: The headdress of Tut's famous death mask with its pierced ears was made sometime before the face itself and was originally designed for a woman.

Some Egyptologists believe that his middle coffin was actually made for his stepmother, the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.

It's a theory that's never been tested until now.

In Riverside, California, Professor Amit Roy-Chowdhury works at the cutting edge of facial recognition software, developing programs for security firms and the military.

Using the latest technology, he aims to determine whose face is represented on the middle coffin.

ROY-CHOWDHURY, VOICE-OVER: So the question that we are going to answer is do the features of the middle coffin match the Nefertiti mask better or the Tutankhamun death mask better?

NARRATOR: To compute the similarity between two faces, the software identifies and maps the facial features of both individuals.

Professor Roy-Chowdhury starts with Nefertiti.

ROY-CHOWDHURY: So this is a face mesh in blue, and on this mesh, we have marked the features that are of interest-- the corners of the eyes, the mouth, and so on.

And when the mesh is completely aligned with the face, the computer now knows where those feature points are on top of the face.

NARRATOR: From the mesh, the computer identifies crucial areas of the face, giving a signature pattern.

The process is repeated with the Tutankhamun death mask.

Now Professor Roy-Chowdhury has a unique pattern for both faces.

The purpose of doing this is to come up with an objective measure and a number.

This number cannot be obtained just by staring at those faces.

We can have some idea that they're similar, but by doing this process of coming up with the signature, you are coming up with a number.

NARRATOR: The distances between the signature points are tiny, ranging from 2-4 millimeters because essentially most faces are similar.

For the computer, these differences are statistically significant.

So how does the Tutankhamun mask compare with the middle coffin?

ROY-CHOWDHURY: The middle coffin shows a 65% or even lower similarity with Tutankhamun, which is what you would probably get if you just take two completely unrelated people.

You might still get a 60%-65% similarity.

NARRATOR: So what about the Nefertiti bust?

How does that compare?

ROY-CHOWDHURY: We see actually that the middle coffin shows an almost 85% similarity with Nefertiti.

This gives us a very high level of confidence in saying that the representation in the middle coffin does indeed resemble the representation of Nefertiti that we had started off with.

So these results are great, and they provide solid numbers to stand behind those theories.

NARRATOR: The work at Riverside is the most convincing evidence yet that Tutankhamun was buried with secondhand grave goods.

And one treasure found in the tomb reveals that Tut's identity changed even during his lifetime.

This throne found in the antechamber bears a different name.

The hieroglyphs spell out the name Tutankhaten.

At some point during his life, Tutankhamun changed his name.

And why would he be buried in his stepmother's coffin in a tomb unfit for a Pharaoh?

Had he fallen from grace with the priesthood, guardians of the sacred afterlife?

To answer this question, Chris needs to investigate Tutankhamun's early years.

Chris is heading south to Luxor.

He wants to learn more about Tut's childhood, which coincided with the greatest political storm of ancient Egypt.

Melinda Hartwig is an expert on this period in Egyptian history.

HARTWIG: It is a time of shifting loyalties and religious upheaval, of civil sort of unrest, of wars being fought.

This is the enduring mystery of Tut that continues to hold our fascination.

NARRATOR: Melinda is going to show Chris around Luxor Temple, the heart of ancient Thebes, Egypt's religious capital for more than 1,000 years.

It was a sacred site that Tutankhamun's father destroyed.

Akhenaten's generally accepted to be the father of Tutankhamun.


What's also fascinating about Akhenaten is that he proclaims this new religion focusing on one sole god.

NARRATOR: Akhenaten was one of the most controversial figures in Egyptian history.

He banned the worship of Egypt's most popular god Amun.

Then he ordered Egyptians to worship a new god, the sun disk Aten, and he even named his son after the deity.

HARTWIG: Chris, I want to show you something here.

This throne... Mm-hmm.

Was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, but what's interesting about it is that it is inscribed with the name Tutankhaten, and this name was given to his son by Akhenaten.

NARRATOR: Thebes was the spiritual home of the god Amun, previously head of the Egyptian pantheon, but after banning the worship of Amun, Akhenaten had the Amun priests arrested.

Evidence of this moment in history has been preserved in the stones of Luxor Temple.

You can see here it's very, very well kind of shown where he completely hacks out the name of Amun.

So, I mean, it's clear that it's really-- it's a vendetta almost against the god.

Yeah. Absolutely.

NARRATOR: To create a clean slate for his new religion, Tut's father moved the capital 200 miles downstream along the Nile to a deserted stretch of desert now called Amarna.

Here he constructed a monumental new city from scratch.

HARTWIG: Akhenaten was charismatic, but when you start looking at the whole Aten revolution, you realize how narcissistic it actually was.

I mean, here you have a king who is really the sole focus of a religion and that the religion is not only about the Aten but it's also about the power of the king.

NARRATOR: In just a few short years, Amarna came to rival the greatest cities of the age.

Akhenaten imagined these changes would last for centuries.

He even named his son Tutankhaten-- Living Image of the Aten.

For several years, the boy prince must have had a carefree childhood, spending time with his sisters, including Ankhesenamun, 4 years older than him, who he would eventually marry.

Then his father Akhenaten died.

[People chanting in foreign language] Tut's story now turns to the ruins of the city at Amarna, which showed the moment when the boy prince took up his birthright.

This signet ring was engraved with the throne name of Tutankhaten, and it was found at Amarna, which would indicate that the king was crowned while he was at Amarna because he would not have received his throne name unless he was crowned.

OK. So this suggests that he became king while the capital city was still where Akhenaten had wanted it to be.

Exactly, exactly.

Wow! Interesting.

NARRATOR: In his father's city at Amarna, the young prince was crowned Pharaoh.

HARTWIG: So at the moment of Tutankhamun's corronation he is all of 9 years old, and he is sitting on one of the greatest thrones in all of the ancient world.

That's quite a tall order for a young boy.


NARRATOR: And things were not going well in Akhenaten's brave new world.

At Amarna, burials have been found of ordinary people with severe malnutrition, spinal injuries, and stunted growth.

The average age of death was 22.

There is even a suggestion the city was struck by a plague.

For the rank and file, the experiment in Amarna wasn't working.

Akhenaten's dream had become a nightmare.

HARTWIG: You have to think about this poor little boy.

His father's utopia is sort of crumbling around him, and he is watching perhaps a plague coming through Amarna that's taking some of his family members.

You know, this huge burden now rested on his 9-year-old shoulders... and of course, he's feeling isolated, and what else would he do but turn towards his trusted advisors?

NARRATOR: Tutankhamun's chief advisor was his vizier Ay.

HARTWIG: Ay would have been 61 at the time that Tut was crowned king.

He served in the court of Amenhotep III.

Then he served under Tutankhamun's father Akhenaten, and then of course, he is the very, very close advisor to Tut during Tut's life.

Egypt is in a state of economic as well as religious turmoil, and so we are pretty sure that Ay was pulling the strings and really pushing Tut towards this ultimate conclusion, which was the Aten religion did not work.

The only way to continue Egypt was to follow the continuity of the old gods, and this is what Tut did.

NARRATOR: Shortly after becoming Pharaoh, young Tutankhaten made one of the defining decisions of Egyptian history.

He abandoned his father's city at Amarna and moved the center of worship back to Thebes, modern-day Luxor.

Today, all that remains of Akhenaten's once proud city is a bunch of mud bricks, some temple foundations, and a carved stela marking the boundary.

Tut's move signaled a return to the past.

His father's reforms were abandoned.

For Tut, it must have been extraordinarily difficult for him to turn his back on what his father had done.

I mean, as a 9-year-old boy, you hold your father in such high regard, and to completely turn your back on those policies, to go back to the enemies of your father and say, 'Well, let's go ahead and make up,' it must have been extraordinarily difficult.

NARRATOR: But Tut went further than just making peace with the priests of Amun.

Radically, he changed his name to show the depth of his support.

Tutankhaten means the Living Image of the Aten, and he changes his name to Tutankhamun, which means the Living Image of Amun.

That's a pretty close name to the god Amun if you're trying to show an allegiance to him.

NARRATOR: By adopting the name we are familiar with today, Tutankhamun, the young king allied himself with the god Amun, but that wasn't all he did to show his support for the Amun religion... as this corner of a Karnak temple testifies.

Here we have the statue of Amun and yet with the features of Tutankhamun, which pretty much shows just how far Tutankhamun has come, completely embracing the old god Amun Ra to the point that he's actually representing his own face on the statue of the god Amun.

NARRATOR: Tutankhamun had reinstated the priests, restored stability to the country, and was represented as the supreme god of Egypt.

He would have been a hero to the nation, so why instead of having a magnificent tomb like Ramses VI was Tut hidden away in a few rooms at the bottom of the Valley of the Kings with a bunch of secondhand grave goods?

Can his mummified remains provide the answer?

[Indistinct chatter] In 1968, Tutankhamun's skeleton was x-rayed by a team from Liverpool University.

To their surprise, they found loose bone fragments inside the skull.

They also saw a thinning of the bone they believed was evidence of a brain hemorrhage at the base of the skull.

And this could have been caused by a blow on the back of the head, and this in turn could have been responsible for death.

NARRATOR: It appeared Tut was the victim of a brutal murder... but in 2005, new tests were performed.

The 3,000-year-old mummy was given a full CT scan.

The team, led by radiologist Dr. Ashraf Selim, were looking for further clues to support the idea of a blow to the head.

Now Chris is in Cairo to meet Dr. Selim.

He wants to see if the CT scan results verify the 1968 conclusions.

SELIM: This was the main objective, looking for the depressed fracture, which actually we couldn't find any depressed fractures in the skull.

NARRATOR: The 2005 team found no evidence of a blow to the head.

As for the bone fragments inside the skull, they discovered that they had been broken away from the neck vertebrae during the excavation when Carter dismembered the mummy.

They somehow then got into the skull when the head was reattached to the body after the removal of the golden mask.

Murder didn't seem to explain how Tut died, but they did find something else.

SELIM: We noticed a peculiar fracture that we saw in the lower part of the thigh bone on the left side.

The edges of the fracture are coated by a thin layer of resin.

So we started to think, 'How could resin get inside the bone and coat it unless he suffered from an open wound fracture?'

And when it comes the day of the mummification, they rinse all the body with resin.

Some the liquid resin got inside the wound, down to the bone, and coated the edges of the fractures.

NARRATOR: The wound was still open and bone exposed when Tut was mummified.

Tut clearly suffered some sort of traumatic impact.

It has to be a severe trauma, like for example riding a chariot, and he fell down from the chariot.

Yeah, this is an assumption, but it seems logical because at that time a king would be fond of riding chariots, and he fell down from it.

NARRATOR: Now a dramatic discovery among the carved blocks at Luxor Temple provides an exciting new clue that may explain Tut's death.

These pieces of a carved relief broken and reused in the years after Tut have been pieced back together.

They reveal a new image of the boy king and provide a missing piece of the puzzle.

The key block is the one that we see right here, and that shows Tutankhamun with his hand drawn back ready to shoot a bow, and we can see that, in fact, this is part of a huge battle narrative showing that he was not alone.

Tut was, in fact, part of a larger scene that shows him in full battle.

[Neighing] [Men shouting] In these reliefs, you see some very specific details like the hands of enemies that have been skewered through spears almost like shish kebabs.

You can see people falling off a citadel, and in fact, on a boat, you can see the image of a caged Asiatic, who is just being literally suspended on the prow of a boat.


But what is really interesting about these is vivid details of the battle carnage, as we see here, indicate that these are actually historical events as opposed to more imaginary events.

[Men shouting] It would make you think that Tut was a warrior and that these are battles that he was involved in himself.

Hmm. Mm-hmm.

NARRATOR: For the first time, we have evidence Tut was a warrior fighting in battles.

[Neighing] Could the carvings explain his death?

These blocks may show us that Tut did die in battle and that the wounds that were sustained during that battle led to his death.


NARRATOR: But is there evidence in the mummy to support this theory?

What sort of battle injury could have caused his death that wouldn't have been obvious?

Dr. Robert Connolly of Liverpool University worked with the team that x-rayed Tut in 1968.

He has recently gone back to the original plates and discovered something extraordinary about Tut's body that seems to have been overlooked at the time.

This x-ray is of Tutankhamun's chest.

Several immediate features.

First of all, there is no sternum or breastbone.

That is completely missing, and many of the ribs on the left-hand side have been broken away.

Some of the ribs on the right-hand side have been broken.

Others have been cut.

One interesting thing is there is no heart.

This is almost unique as far as I know in royal embalming.

The heart was always replaced, it was always carefully mummified, and there was usually a heart scarab associated with it.

There isn't in Tutankhamun, so I suspect that the heart was exceedingly badly crushed, and so they couldn't even use that as part of his passage to the afterlife.

NARRATOR: To pull these threads together and try to solve this puzzle, Chris has come to England.

He's at Cranfield University's forensic department.

Here a team of scientists is combining all the data from the original scans and x-rays from the last 90 years.

They have created a simulation of Tut's body in a virtual autopsy using this unique technology.

It is a medical image display system.

NARRATOR: This will aid the most comprehensive assessment ever carried out into Tut's death, and the team hopes to solve the mystery once and for all.

This allows us to kind of explore the body as if it was really here.

Can we see inside? Can we get a sort of better look at that?

Yes. We can do that.

We can demonstrate some of the damages.

Rib cage removed and pelvis removed.

Right. Can you explain what's going on here where these are missing?

I mean, what kind of caused that, how's that happened?

So it looks like there's a lot of damage on the left-hand side in particular.

we've got really quite extensive damage to the rib cage on the left-hand side, which is where the heart is... Right.

but the skull and interestingly the left clavicle is still intact. Mm-hmm.

We also have damage here.

The whole of the left ilium, the iliac blade, is missing. Right.

So could I draw on where it should be?

This part of the pelvis is missing.

OK. So of course it should match this side... It's symmetrical, exactly.

but it's just gone completely. Right.

And we have a fracture to his left knee, as well, just above the knee.

And you mentioned that the heart would be-- it would be around here, did you say?

Yes. Shall we draw it on?

Yeah. Could we?

OK. So the heart would be about here.

Right. And that's right in an area where we've got a bit of damage actually.

The damage is concentrated over that point, yeah.

The heart actually was missing in the mummy of Tutankhamun, which is very, very unusual, so why would it-- why would it be?

I mean, that corresponds to the damage.

Perhaps the heart itself was damaged.

It's very likely that if there was serious damage before death focused on the left-hand side that his heart would have been damaged.

For example, if he received force coming from the front of his rib cage, it's likely that ribs would splinter and could pierce his lungs and possibly pierce his heart, and therefore, it could be quite easily damaged, and, yes, I would presume likely to be removed by embalmers.

OK. If that hypothesis is right and the heart was badly damaged enough to have been taken away, it would have had to have been a really serious-- The damage would sort of be extensive.

So why is it that all the damage is on this sort of narrow strip here?

I mean, what-- what could that have been?

I don't know if it's far-fetched, but could it be a wheel running down on that side of the body?

NARRATOR: The only wheeled vehicles in Tutankhamun's time were chariots.

Could a flimsy wooden wheel really cause the damage seen in the virtual autopsy?

Chris is meeting Mike Brown from Advanced Simtech.

They specialize in computer modeling of traffic accidents for court cases and auto safety investigations.

With detailed CGI models, they can chart the forces operating on a human body in a number of catastrophic accident scenarios.

[Tires squeal, [Glass shatters] The software is the linchpin to this.

We use the software to help us understand this initial problem and then to come up with a scenario that would match all the evidence.

NARRATOR: For the first time ever, Mike plans to see if the same software can analyze the scenarios involving a chariot crash.

Maybe these tests will shed light on what happened to Tutankhamun.

The first thing Mike needs to do is understand how a chariot moves.

Are you trying to stand over the axel... Over the axel you're gonna be, yeah.

or are you gonna be forward?

How will you spread your weight?

You're gonna have most of your weight over the axel.

NARRATOR: He's come to meet a group of stunt riders who have a replica Egyptian chariot he can use for his virtual reconstruction.

I'll let you know just before the scanner comes across onto you.

NARRATOR: With a laser scanner, he builds a 360-degree image of the chariot with a driver and then inputs it into the software.

BROWN: All right. It's just about to come back onto yourself, Jack.

NARRATOR: He also attaches an accelerometer to measure the chariot's speed.

[Indistinct] NARRATOR: Mike films the movement and records the data as the chariot is driven on a number of different surfaces.

BROWN: Initially, I'm quite happy with what I can see.

I'm looking at some of the acceleration pulses, I'm looking at the change of motion, and, yeah, everything seems quite interesting.

Hopefully what we'll do now, we'll take this data back to the office, we'll interrogate it and get it ready so we can take it directly into the software and then see what we can reproduce for Tutankhamun's reconstruction.

NARRATOR: Using the information, he wants to re-create an accident that matches the trauma pattern in the mummy.

With the same precision he would use for a car crash, he runs a number of simulations.

Modeling the chariot scenario.

If I can just show you some of the work that we've been doing.

The first example is the rider standing on the chariot.

The chariot strikes an object on the ground.

Whether it's a broken bit of something else or a rock, it's just sufficient to tip the chariot over.

The rider's unbalanced.

He's then thrown straight out of the chariot and effectively then just travels across the ground until he loses his forward momentum.

There's quite a major level of injury we'd expect from a scenario such as that.

The predominant injury is a head injury.

We're also getting general trauma right across the body, but the head injury's the critical thing.

OK. And that doesn't match of course with what we're seeing here.

In the mummy of Tutankhamun, there's no damage to the head.

NARRATOR: Simply falling from a chariot couldn't have caused the injuries seen in the mummy.

The next model shows Tut lying on the ground and being run over, but whichever way the chariot struck the body, it didn't produce the specific straight line injury pattern to the pelvis and torso displayed in the mummy.

For Mike, there was one last scenario to try.

BROWN: The scenarios we can see here has the rider on the ground, not lying as he was earlier.

He's now on his knees.

Whether he's attempting to get up or look around we're not too sure, but what it allows us to do is to get a direct impact of blunt trauma across the main torso.

We have the wheel coming into impact on the left-hand side of the pelvis and the left-hand side of the chest.

We've carried out several different variations on this.

What we're seeing here is the scenario that we believe matches the closest.

So are you both happy that this kind of blow gives you the trauma that we see in the right places but also misses the parts of the body that are apparently untouched?

It's a very good combination of injury.

It fits the facts and the symptoms we see here, and it also is severe enough to cause death.


Wouldn't you say, Mike?

That's a good question. I mean, is it enough?

Is this a serious enough accident?

Everything's in the right place, but is it enough to kill somebody?

You've got critical organs behind the rib cage, the level of trauma, the force that's being applied directly onto the chest, we're compressing the ribs, possibly breaking the ribs, and hence behind there, we have the lungs, the heart, organs that are critical to survival, and hence this person in the modern world would be hospitalized and would then need treatment.

NARRATOR: Mike has produced a simulation that replicates the injuries seen in the mummy... [Men shouting] and it fits perfectly with the battlefield scenario of Tut kneeling to get up if his own chariot was damaged and then being mowed down.

Now Peter Zioupos wants to do a real-world bone test to see just what sort of damage would be caused by the forces seen in Mike's model.

What do we have here then?

This is a drop tower. OK.

So what we've got here is a machine that can move at high speeds, and what we have done here is we have programmed it based on the parameters that Mike has created in his simulation model.

Ah, OK.

NARRATOR: The machine drives a bar downward with the same force a chariot wheel would have traveling at 26 miles per hour.

To simulate Tutankhamun's ribs, Peter is using a rack of pig ribs, similar in size and strength to human ribs.

Let's... Wow. That's-- Clean cut through.

Pretty comprehensively broken, isn't it?


What would this do to the tissue that's behind the ribs?

Oh, it would perforate through the lungs.

It would go straight through.

There's no doubt about it.

And so that would be enough to get behind the lungs, say, to the heart.



NARRATOR: The results are analyzed by impact trauma expert Ian Horsfall.

You can see here the load is about 800 Newtons.

That's about 80 kilos load, and they've displaced about 12 millimeters, about 1.2 centimeters, then fractured quite cleanly and been pushed back into the support behind.

So what would the result of an injury like this be?

I mean, how serious is this?

Well, potentially quite serious because those are going to push through into the lungs, so there's a fairly good chance that that would cause the lungs to collapse later on, added to which any other organs that were struck, such as the heart, could be damaged.

There's also a danger of tearing major blood vessels such as the aorta inside the chest, which would cause very quick death.

So there's not much chance that somebody suffering an accident like this would come out of it alive?

Is that fair?

I think there's a fair chance they would die from this, yes.

[Men shouting] NARRATOR: The evidence from Cranfield suggests that Tutankhamun could easily have died on the battlefield.

Like all Egyptian kings, he was then prepared for mummification, and the missing heart in the mummy adds weight to the suggestion the torso was severely damaged.

According to Egyptian mummification expert Salima Ikram, the embalmers would only have removed the heart if it were badly damaged.

It must have been crushed beyond recognition.

IKRAM: For the Egyptians, the heart was the most important thing because they believed that was the seat of intellect, of emotion, of character, of your soul, and so the heart was left in the body because it was needed in the afterlife when you would face the gods and they would judge you.

Tutankhamun is probably unique in being the only royal mummy not to have a heart intact, so it is very peculiar that the heart is not there, and it is very significant because this is something, a key piece of your body that you need for survival in the afterlife.

The Egyptians mummified their dead because of course they believed that you live forever, and the afterlife is an eternal life, and so you needed to have your body preserved as well as possible because your soul had to reenter it so you could reanimate it.

So you lived on a very physical level in the afterlife, as well as on a spiritual level, and so the Egyptians came up with mummification, which preserved the body, which served as a repository for the soul.

NARRATOR: Mummification was a ritual process that involved drying the body with salt, anointing it with oils and resins, and then wrapping it in linen bandages.

The mummies of the 18th Dynasty, Tut's immediate predecessors, are considered by many to be the finest examples of embalming ever produced... but according to Howard Carter, the mummification of Tutankhamun did not match the standards of the day.

Not only was the heart missing, but Carter described him as a 'charred wreck.'

He offered no explanation for this conclusion, and no further analysis was done.

So was Tut's mummy burnt, and if so, how?

The mystery has remained unsolved until now.

Buried amongst the books in Robert Connolly's office is something extraordinary, a piece of Tutankhamun's flesh.

It's the only piece outside Egypt and has laid untouched for decades.

CONNOLLY: We do have some very, very small fragments of Tutankhamun's tissue given to us in 1968 for blood grouping purposes, very, very, very blackened like you see there.

NARRATOR: Robert wants to do a chemical test to see if he can find what has caused the blackening.

As a control, he is also taking a sample from this mummy so he can compare it with his findings from the Tut tissue.

CONNOLLY: This mummy is a very good comparison for work with Tutankhamun.

It is almost certainly 18th Dynasty and so therefore roughly the same age as Tutankhamun.

And I can just ease a little piece out.

NARRATOR: Robert puts the tissue samples under a scanning electron microscope to determine their chemical composition.


I have a sample for you.

The microscope works by firing electrons at the sample and measuring how they scatter.

The pattern of scattering indicates what chemical elements are present, as well as the proportions of the different elements.

This is, as far as I know, the first time that an ancient Egyptian mummy has been analyzed by this spectroscopy method.

NARRATOR: The first sample to be tested is the Liverpool mummy.

Helping Robert with the analysis is forensic archaeologist Matthew Ponting.

We have a major peak of carbon and a slightly lower peak of oxygen and just some other traces of calcium, chlorine, sulfur, et cetera.

NARRATOR: These are the elements one would expect in a piece of mummified tissue.

Carbon and oxygen dominate the spectrum while other elements appear in smaller amounts.

The next sample to be tested is from Tutankhamun.

This is a fragment of skin taken from the shoulder, and it's very black.

So we'll look at the outer surface, see what's that like, see if it in any way reflects the spectrum which we saw from the Liverpool mummy.

We'll find out very soon.

How's it doing?

Nearly there.

Well, there's the carbon and oxygen again as one would expect, but the major difference here is in the levels of the carbon and oxygen.

There's a much stronger carbon peak.

Yeah. This is a spectacular peak of carbon, isn't it really?

There's considerably more free carbon present in this sample.

This would indeed be consistent with charring of the body during mummification or immediately after the mummification process.

NARRATOR: Robert has found evidence that the blackening of Tutankhamun's flesh is indeed due to burning.

It is possible Carter's team caused the charring, but Robert and Matthew don't believe this is the case.

It is true that Howard Carter roasted the mummy of Tutankhamun on a row of primer stones to get it off the base plate.

Not hot enough.

A couple hundred degrees Celsius I would have thought, I mean, but to produce the sort of charring you're seeing on the surface of the mummy, I would have thought you're looking at considerably higher temperatures.


I mean, cooking temperatures, if you like.

How hot does it have to be to char the surface of... Of meat, yes?

I mean, 450 F in an oven.

NARRATOR: Tutankhamun's mummy is the only royal mummy known to have been charred.

Somehow the mummified body got very hot but wasn't entirely destroyed.

What mysterious process could be responsible for the burnt tissue?

For Chris Naunton, the puzzle of Tut's death may finally be solved, but an even greater mystery remains-- what happened to his body and who is responsible?

ANNOUNCER: Coming up on 'Secrets of the Dead'... NAUNTON: It's indescribable really.

I mean, this is everything an archaeologist would hope for.

ANNOUNCER: A groundbreaking investigation is changing everything we thought we knew about Tutankhamun.

This tomb was prepared in a hurry and became an incubator.

ANNOUNCER: A new analysis reveals what happened after he died.

HARTWIG: Literally every royal tomb had been robbed.

Tut's still remained relatively untouched.

ANNOUNCER: 'Ultimate Tut' on 'Secrets of the Dead' next on PBS.

This PBS program will return in a moment.

'Secrets of the Dead' was made possible by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.

Thank you.

We now return to 'Secrets of the Dead: Ultimate Tut.'

NARRATOR: It's a mystery 3,000 years in the making.

Tutankhamun has captivated the world since he first made headline news... yet few know his real story.

Now Egyptologist Chris Naunton is reexamining the excavation's original notes and photographs.

His mission--to reveal Tut's ultimate secrets.

NAUNTON, VOICE-OVER: I want to be able to separate the myth from the real story.

I really want to get to the bottom of this.

NARRATOR: So far, Chris has discovered that Tutankhamun betrayed his father's revolution and died in a battle far from home.

There is a whole new story that has not been see before.

NARRATOR: He was buried in a tiny tomb with used burial offerings, and strangest of all, a chemical analysis of his mummy has proved it is burnt.

What mysterious process could char the skin of a mummy?

That is a lot of smoke.

This is absolutely incredible.

NARRATOR: And just why was Tutankhamun's the only tomb in the Valley of the Kings to survive virtually intact?

The next step in Chris Naunton's quest to reveal the ultimate secrets of Tutankhamun is to find out what might have caused the mummy to burn.

Howard Carter notes the charring on several occasions, describing the bandages next to the skin as 'like soot' and 'charred powder,' but no one has investigated this until now.

Armed with the results from the mummy's chemical analysis, Chris is heading to BRE, the Building Research Establishment in Watford, England.

Hi, David. Hi, Chris.

Pleasure to meet you.

Nice to meet you.

Welcome to the lab. Thank you.

Give you one of these first. OK.

NARRATOR: David Crowder, the lab's chief analyst, is going to help with the investigation.

So this is where the magic happens?

Yes. Got a variety of rigs here.

There's a representation of a house on the right.

So, David, this seems like a pretty extraordinary situation to me.

Have you got any idea how an Egyptian mummy could come to be charred?

Well, we know that there's various oils used in the mummification process, and in the fire investigation community, we know that linseed oil can produce self-heating.

NARRATOR: Linseed oil, probably used during Tut's embalming, is just one of a group of a vegetable oils capable of generating heat when mixed with oxygen.

A heating reaction is accelerated when the oil is spread over a large surface area such as rags or the bandages used in mummification.

Could this char a mummy?

So what we've prepared here is some quantities of rag and linseed oil.

What we want is to maximize the surface area of the linseed oil that's actually adhering to the rags so that that reaction can occur with as much access to air as possible.

NARRATOR: The more the wet oil and oxygen react, the more opportunity for spontaneous combustion.

And it's important obviously that the oil hasn't dried, that it is still wet for this to occur.

Yes. If the oil had already finished its reaction, then there would be no more heat thrown out.

But if the oils on the body were still wet at the time the bandages went on, then it's possible?


NARRATOR: Like the wrappings on a mummy where the oil is still wet, rags are soaked and bundled up tightly so the oil doesn't dry out too fast.

Then they're covered in more cloth just like layers of mummy bandages.

So this is our test area where we're going to set down our samples.

What I've got here is thermocouples.

We'll just enter these into the bundles, and what that means is that we can monitor the temperature within the bundle as it occurs.

If we go outside and have a look at the logging equipment, we can see what sort of temperatures we're achieving.

NARRATOR: A thermocouple is a wired thermometer that sends a reading back to a computer in the lab's control room.

For half an hour, Chris and David watch the readings as the temperature rises slowly.

Nothing much seems to be happening with the samples.

Then as the temperature continues rising, smoke begins to appear.

The reaction is approaching runaway speed.

We've actually got temperatures, as you can see, of 324 and nearly 360 degrees in those two.

You're kidding me. In that short time... Yes. This has been going for... we've gone up to over 300 degrees centigrade.

That's absolutely incredible.

Just the simple process of linseed oil plus wrappings and air, and you sort of sit back and watch, and off it goes.


Absolutely amazing.

NARRATOR: In recent years, this type of reaction has a caused a number of high-profile fires, including this one in Philadelphia.

It started when a cleaning crew left behind a bunch of oil-soaked rags.

And in Watford, it's time for Chris to actually see the results of David's experiment.

OK. Well, it's produced a fair bit of smoke.

I think we should leave it a minute just to settle down.

We'll leave the door open... OK.

and let some fresh air get into it and let some of the smoke escape.

That is a lot of smoke.


And that's all just coming from those 4 samples.

That's just from those samples, yeah.

It does produce a lot of smoke.

My goodness me. Wow.

I can't believe that those samples are now so hot that they're producing this much smoke.

NARRATOR: These wrappings in the open air have burnt quickly because there's lots of oxygen, but for Tut encased in his coffin, the reaction would have been much slower, charring the skin over days or even weeks with little smoke and no flame.

All of that's just coming from the 4 samples?

For Chris, this is a revelation.

This is absolutely incredible.

I mean, we can see from this that just the process of oil plus mummy wrapping plus air brings about spontaneous combustion.

This is definitely an explanation for the charring that Carter observed on the mummy.

NARRATOR: Armed with this explosive new evidence, Chris is back in Cairo to discuss these findings with mummification expert Salima Ikram.

For spontaneous combustion to take place, something must have gone terribly wrong with Tut's mummification.

IKRAM: Normally you have 40 days of desiccation and the 30 days of the application of these oils and unguents and resins and wrapping.

So it is possible that this sort of combustion occurred because they hadn't sort of paced their oils and drying time properly, and it was just sort of a rushed kind of thing... Right.

but look at what it did.

I mean, the poor thing's completely destroyed.

Poor guy.

So is there anything else like this that is a bit out of the ordinary.

Well, the embalming incision is also a bit odd.

We've got these photographs.


You can see over here-- Oh, that's actually it there?

Yeah. That's the embalming.

That's where they go in.

Mm-hmm. That's where they go in.

So instead of having a nice, neat thing going like this... Right.

or like this, this one sort of goes eep in towards the navel and is really quite large and kind of brutal and very unusual.


Also the arm positions because instead of being crossed high up on the chest... Right.

they're quite low down here.

Yeah. That doesn't seem--that's not the Osiride pose you'd expect at all, is it? No.

They're much, much lower.

Much, much lower, much more relaxed.

So in the hierarchy of mummification, if we can speak of that, where does this body fit in?

It's peculiar for a king to be mummified like this because generally in the hierarchy of mummification you have something that is superb, which is the king, and then the elites going down one step, and then sort of common people, who sometimes don't even get mummified.

So there's just so many things here that are all basically wrong in terms of royal mummification.

NARRATOR: Things were not going well in preparations for the young king's afterlife.

The grave goods were secondhand and stuffed in a tomb not designed for royalty.

The mummification was rushed, and there is one more clue to suggest someone wanted him in the ground fast.

Camouflaged among the crude paintings on the wall of the tomb are mysterious brown spots that appear nowhere else in the Valley of the Kings.

The spots are the subject of an investigation being carried out by the Getty Institute in Los Angeles, California.

It's part of a conservation program focusing on the preservation of mankind's most iconic cultural heritage.

Our project is the conservation of Tutankhamun's tomb.

There's concern about the impact of visitors, the amount of sweat and humidity on the wall paintings, on the tomb itself.

There had been rumors that the spots were growing, that the tomb was in dire straits.

NARRATOR: Fearing an infestation, the Getty team analyzed the samples in a mass spectrometer to learn their chemical makeup.

Harvard microbiologist Ralph Mitchell is analyzing their results.

You see this big peak.

That peak says a lot of malic acid.

Malic acid is a common metabolic product of microbes, so what it said to us was-- ha--those spots are microbial in origin.

NARRATOR: The investigators now need to know if these microbes are growing.

Are they really engulfing the tomb?

MITCHELL: So we took a tiny piece of the all, and we put it under a scanning electron microscope, and what you're seeing here is a piece of the stone from the tomb magnified thousands of times and showing that there are, to our amazement, no living microbes on that stone.

Normally we would have expected to see mold growing all over that piece of wall, and what you're seeing here is a scanning electron micrograph from a normal surface growing mold.

Here you see the threads of the mold growing.

It's what was missing from that King Tutankhamun wall.

NARRATOR: Chris is faced with another mystery.

The chemical trace of malic acid shows evidence of microbial action, yet no living microbes were found.

Further, a study of Carter's original photographs showed the spots were the same as they are today.

Living microbes didn't cause them, nor modern tourists, so how did they get there, and why are they unique to Tutankhamun's tomb?

Ralph Mitchell has now identified some modern microbes that match the chemistry of the ancient ones which produced the spots.

MITCHELL, VOICE-OVER: We've identified a small number of fungi that may be the cause of the brown spots in the tomb.

So what we'd now like to know is what sort of environment would make those fungi grow and produce the brown spots, so we ran a simulation experiment.

NARRATOR: Ralph knows moisture is the key to fungal growth.

He thinks Tutankhamun's tomb, unlike others in ancient Egypt, had damp walls, which allowed fungi to grow.

To test this, he swabbed a sample of the fungi on wet and dry pieces of stone and fabric and left them for a week to see what would happen.

As expected, the dry specimens show very little growth, but what about the damp ones?

MITCHELL: And you can see after one week both the stone and the canvas have extensive fungal growth.

NARRATOR: With these results, Ralph believed the environment inside Tutankhamun's tomb was damp when it was sealed, evidence of the circumstances of his burial.

This tomb was prepared in a hurry.

It was painted in hurry.

The Pharaoh was buried in the tomb, the tomb was sealed.

You had the moisture because the paint hadn't dried.

The tomb now became an incubator.

NARRATOR: Ralph's research has shown that the tomb, like the mummy, was finished in a rush, but who would be able to hurry the sacred process of burial and why?

Egyptologist Melinda Hartwig believes the answer can be found in the tomb itself.

HARTWIG: We know that Tutankhamun was buried in a hurry, which means that he was buried by somebody close, somebody high up and official, and we have a clue to who that person might be.

Ay the vizier is represented here performing the opening of the mouth ceremony.

NARRATOR: The ceremony was performed with a ritual adz.

[Speaking foreign language] It was meant to restore the physical senses to the mummy so the soul could keep using the body in the afterlife.

HARTWIG: Now this was usually performed by a son on his deceased father, but here we have the only instance of an official performing this ritual on the deceased king.

Likely it was because Ay wanted to legitimize his claim to the throne.

NARRATOR: Ay was Tut's vizier from the time of the boy's coronation.

He also served as an advisor to Tut's father and grandfather.

When Tut died, Ay might have felt it was his turn to rule, but Tut designated someone else to succeed him on the throne.

Tut wanted Horemheb, his general, to be his successor, but Horemheb was off fighting war in Syria, leaving a power vacuum.

Now that the other thing is that the two children of Tut and Ankhesenamun were deceased, so there was no legitimate successor, leaving a power vacuum in which Ay could step in.

NARRATOR: Being vizier meant Ay could seize the throne for himself while Horemheb was still at war.

You also have to bear in mind that a Pharaoh when he died would become a god, so on both counts, both living and dead, it was a win-win situation for Ay to take over as Pharaoh of Egypt.

NARRATOR: To further consolidate his position, Ay forced Tutankhamun's widow Ankhesenamun to marry him.

HARTWIG: We have the evidence of a signet ring that has Ay's cartouche and Ankhesenamun's cartouche.

It's like a wedding contract, so it really shows that the two of them were married.

Ankhesenamun is sort of the tragic figure in this drama.

Not only has she just lost her husband, but she also gave birth to two stillborn children, so there is no heir, leaving Ay to be able to fill that place, but I'm sure she didn't want to marry a 70-year-old man, and that's exactly what happened.

NARRATOR: But Ay did not enjoy the throne for long.

He survived just 4 more years, and his tomb provides a twist to the Tutankhamun story.

This is the tomb of Ay.

It's much larger, contains more decoration than we have in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

However, it seems that this was intended for Tut.

This would have been a tomb that a 9-year-old who was hoping to live a long life would have started.

NARRATOR: But Tut never ended up here.

Ay did.

HARTWIG: And there's an interesting theory that, in fact, the tombs are switched so that what happened is that this tomb, Ay's tomb, was intended for Tutankhamun and that Tutankhamun's tomb was ultimately supposed to be for Ay.

NARRATOR: Ay was buried with all the trappings of a great Pharaoh in Tutankhamun's stolen tomb, and now the peculiar features of Tut's burial are finally explained.

At this death, the boy king was buried in a rush in Ay's cramped chambers.

The necropolis guards then sealed the tomb door, apparently condemning Tut to an eternity of insignificance, yet as fate would have it, Tut's tomb is the only one in the Valley of the Kings to have survived the centuries intact.

Archaeologists are still trying to figure out why.

In November 1922 when its treasures were revealed, it was a global sensation... but its discovery almost never happened.

In 1915, Howard Carter with his patron Lord Carnarvon took over the excavation in the Valley of the Kings despite the previous archaeologists declaring nothing was left.

For 6 years, the two dug throughout the valley.

Carter had suspicions Tutankhamun was there, but they found no trace.

NAUNTON: By spring 1921, Carnarvon had had enough.

They hadn't really been finding very much, and he called a meeting with Carter and told him that he was going to finish the project.

He couldn't afford to fund it anymore.

And Carter was half expecting this, and he agreed that he would fund a season out of his own pocket and that Carnarvon would still be entitled to take his share of the objects.

NARRATOR: Impressed by Carter's commitment, Carnarvon relented and agreed to fund a final season of excavation.

On the first of November 1922, work began on a new sector of the valley.

NAUNTON: Well, very early on in the season, they began clearing what became clear was a staircase.

[Speaking Arabic] [Man continues shouting Arabic] NAUNTON: At the end of the staircase, they found a blocked and plastered doorway with the traces of the oval seals that you'd expect... and so Carter at this point sent a cable to Carnarvon explaining that 'At last, we've made a wonderful discovery.

There's a sealed doorway with seals intact.'

3 weeks after that point, Carnarvon arrived at the excavation, and by this point, the workmen had cleared the passageway down to the second blocked entrance.

With Carnarvon present, they cleared a small hole in the rubble so that they cold peer inside, and Carnarvon says to Carter, 'Well, what an you see?'

And this is the point in which Carter gives us those immortal words 'Wonderful things, strange images, animals, and gold, everywhere the glint of gold.'

NARRATOR: After years of frustration, the pair had literally struck gold.

NAUNTON: I mean, this is-- it's indescribable really.

I mean, this is everything an archaeologist would hope for.

It's an intact tomb exactly as it was left 3,000 years ago.

It's as good as it gets for an archaeologist.

NARRATOR: The extraordinary find made headlines around the world.

Visitors and dignitaries flocked to see the tomb.

NAUNTON: It was the most spectacular archaeological discovery that had ever been made to that point.

It had all the ingredients you would want... exotic creatures, gods and goddesses, the most spectacular objects, the most beautiful objects, 'glinting gold everywhere' as Carter tells us.

NARRATOR: Carter recruited a team to conserve and pack the treasures so they could be moved safely to Cairo.

There were gilded couches and a glorious throne, treasure chests and models.

At the heart of the tomb was a series of coffins, including an inner one of solid gold, weighing 240 pounds, that contained the mummy of the young Pharaoh, but Carter soon realized the tomb was not as pristine as he'd hoped.

NAUNTON: Carter realized that some of the material in the tomb had been disturbed, and this was very significant, so he brought onto his team a guy called Alfred Lucas, who had some experience of crime scene investigation, and, in fact, he had got himself a reputation as Egypt's Sherlock Holmes.

Lucas identified rather a lot of evidence that the tomb had been raided before Carter got to it, and again these photographs of Harry Burton's show very clearly the kind of evidence that Lucas was looking at.

Some of the objects that were placed inside these chests were clearly intended to have been placed elsewhere and probably were.

Lucas also noticed that in one case in particular there appeared to be some footprints on one of the chests.

Perhaps it's evidence of the people going in there and disturbing this material.

NARRATOR: And Lucas noticed something else.

These are rings made of precious materials inside these linen wrappings, and these were found just deposited in the passageway.

So they had got as far as removing these objects from the tomb proper and then simply dropped them on the floor on their way out, which suggests that they were caught.

NARRATOR: There was no mercy for the grave robbers.

HARTWIG: We know that tomb robbers met a rather grisly end because from the papyri, it says, 'Punishment: impalement,' and we have the hieroglyph of impalement, which looked pretty grim.

NARRATOR: With threat of death, any robbery would have been carefully planned.

NAUNTON: The robbers had to be strategic.

They wanted the things that they could remove quickly and that they knew would be of use to them in terms of being able to sell them on.

Removing large objects of course would have been very difficult, would have run a greater risk of getting caught.

The other thing is of course you can't simply go down to the market with the death mask of a Pharaoh who's just been buried.

There aren't many people that would be prepared to take that off their hands, and so they were just looking for the things that they could resell.

NARRATOR: Carter estimated 60% of Tutankhamun's jewelry was stolen, almost certainly by the very workmen who were trusted to build and decorate the tomb, but the big ticket items, the gold coffin and the mask, were untouched, a rarity in the Valley of the Kings.

For some reason, every other tomb in the valley was stripped bare in a crime wave that swept Egypt 200 years after Tut's death.

This is the tomb of Ramses VI, cleaned out by robbers, who even managed to smash his solid granite sarcophagus.

So what changed from Tut's time, and how did Tut's tomb survive unscathed?

HARTWIG: During the 20th Dynasty, things really start to fall apart in Egypt.

The king isn't nearly as powerful, and then here you have the workers, who are operating in the Valley of the Kings, and they're not being paid, and so they have one of the first strikes that we know in history.

As a result, they have to reach to other forms of revenue, which included going into the royal tombs in the Kings' Valley, and from this, we have a number of papyri which detail the robberies of royal tombs.

NARRATOR: One of these remarkable documents tells of a murderous crime spree during those tumultuous times.

Known as 'The Mayer B Papyrus,' it was written almost 3,000 years go and details a tomb robber's trial in the 20th Dynasty.

So what does this text tell us?

This refers to the tomb of Ramses VI in the Valley of the Kings.

We know from the documents that quite often people are involved that work for the tomb builders' community, and 'Mayer B' actually refers to two guys from the workmen's community, and they were actually murdered but the other members of the gang.


So these thieves would go to great lengths actually to cover their tracks.

And do we know anything about what happened to the people who were doing this?

They were obviously caught, and then what happens to them?

Some of the papyri allude to the punishments that will happen and have happened, so 'Mayer A' refers to people that were convicted of crimes.

It talks about put on the stake, so they were actually killed in quite a brutal way.

NARRATOR: Another part of the document shows the quantities of precious metal the robbers stole.

Yeah. So there's an inventory really of the types of objects they took from the tomb made from metals such as copper, gold, and silver, the kind of materials really that these gang members would need to get rid of quickly.

NARRATOR: As law and order collapsed, tomb robbers were now happy to take religious objects and larger goods, not just the rings and bangles you could easily sell in Tut's time.

The thieves developed a network of contacts among priests and high officials, people who could help them fence the loot.

If you had recognizable goods, essentially gold and jewelry that had come from a royal tomb, it was pretty obvious where it came from.

So they had to have accomplices.

They had to have officials who were higher up in the ranks in order to sort of launder the goods that they had robbed from the tombs.

[Speaking foreign language] NARRATOR: During this crime wave, the Valley of the Kings was stripped bare except for one solitary tomb.

HARTWIG: What's remarkable is that in this climate where literally every royal tomb had been robbed that Tut's still remained relatively untouched.

Solving this mystery has been the life's work of geologist Steve Cross.

CROSS, VOICE-OVER: I've been interested in ancient Egypt and specifically the Valley of the Kings since I was 8 years old.

This study originally started by trying to ask a very simple question-- why was Tutankhamun's tomb discovered intact?

When all the tombs were cleared out in antiquity, how come his was left fully intact?

NARRATOR: Steve began his quest by looking at old photographs of Carter's excavation.

This is a photo of the tomb of Tutankhamun taken shortly after the discovery, and we can see here the entrance to the tomb cut into the solid bedrock, and we have Howard Carter, Lord Carnarvon, and his daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert, but notice here this layer stands out.

It's composed of different sized boulders suspended in a limestone matrix.

NARRATOR: Today the Valley of the Kings has been landscaped to make it more accessible for tourists, but there is one place where you can still see this mysterious layer of sediment.

This is the entrance to Tomb 55.

What we're looking at here is the same layer that covered Tutankhamun's tomb, and what we can see is it's identical, all these different sized boulders suspended in this limestone dust matrix.

NARRATOR: Slowly Steve develops a theory, but he needs more evidence.

NARRATOR: He thought he might find a clue off the beaten track just above Tut's tomb.

What we're looking at here is the foundations of an ancient wall.

We call them walls, but they're actually dams.

It would have been at least 3 times higher, and what it was for was to stop ancient floods coming rushing down this side wadi.

The flood would have come from a waterfall over the cliff there, vertically down, rushing down this way, and round and flooded the valley.

NARRATOR: Steve is beginning to wonder if the most devastating force of desert weather might be the key--a flash flood.

Flash floods here-- because the land is so arid-- are absolutely catastrophic.

They move masses and masses of detritus, which tear their way through the valley.

It's an absolute catastrophe.

NARRATOR: Steve found further evidence in one of the previously robbed tombs in the valley... KV5, the burial place of the sons of Ramses II.

Its inner chambers bear testament to the power of floodings through the ages.

CROSS: You can see quite clearly how successive flood layers have filled this chamber almost to the ceiling.

One in particular, this one from here to here, we can see that the layer goes from large stones to progressively smaller stones as we come to the top of the flood layer.

This is caused by the flood as it entered this chamber dropping the heaviest stones first and the lightest stones last as the speed of the flood dissipated.

NARRATOR: Flash floods in the Valley of the Kings require a specific weather pattern, most common in the autumn.

A low pressure system hanging south of the Mediterranean generates an easterly wind over southern Egypt.

This wind will pick up moisture from the broad waters of the Nile.

As the air mass rises over the Theban Hills to the west, the moister is dropped as torrential rain.

[Thunder] And that weather pattern is still active today.

Here we have the tomb of Ramses I and Seti I, and you can see that we've built modern walls surrounding the entrance to the tombs.

That's to protect them from present-day floods, which will happen again, and we can see over here Tutankhamun's tomb is right in the center.

It's at the deepest part possible in the whole of the Valley of the Kings.

NARRATOR: The location of Tut's tomb is crucial to Steve's theory.

Originally the tomb was cut into the bedrock below the level of today's valley floor.

This is a cross section of the central area of the valley based on the 3 different excavation reports, and here's Tutankhamun's tomb descending down into the bedrock.

Above the tomb is one meter of flood layer, and on the east side, there's two meters of flood layer.

NARRATOR: It's this flood layer, first noticed in Carter's original photograph, that Steve believes is responsible for concealing Tutankhamun's tomb.

Yeah. Right, right, right, right.

So it would have been accurate when it filled.

Yeah, yeah.

NARRATOR: Chris has returned to the Valley of the Kings to hear firsthand the theory of the flash flood.

So, Steve, can you just explain to me in a nutshell what your theory is?

Yeah, certainly.

A flash flood at the end of the 18th Dynasty.

It caused 3 streams to all converge.

One stream, flood stream came tearing down here, another one down there, and a third one past Seti's tomb down here.

All 3 steams collided right here in the center of the valley.


When the streams collide, they lose their speed, so they lose the ability to carry the sediment, so they dumped all their load here right in the center of the valley, and they covered and concealed Tutankhamun's tomb.

So the flood layer is just this triangle here right in the center of the valley.

So there's a hug quantity of debris being brought down these 3 channels all at once, high speed, and then all of a sudden, they just stop in the middle there, sediment just drops dead in the middle.

That's correct. Wow!

It's incredible to me to think that somewhere like this, which is visited by thousands of people every day, can still give us new information like this, and it's just a case of looking at it in a slightly different way.

It's a different science, looking at the valley in geological terms rather than archaeological terms.


NARRATOR: It's a great theory, but could a simple flash flood really have sealed Tut's tomb for thousands of years?

At Hull University in England, hydrologist Tom Coulthard has developed a unique method for modeling the movement of sediment.

With a newly developed computer program, he reveals what happened 3,000 years ago with startling accuracy.

COULTHARD: So here we have the Valley of the Kings located right next to the River Nile here, and you can see all the fields next to the Nile, and if we zoom in on the Valley of the Kings, you can see we've got this almost sort of pear-shaped catchment here, and Tutankhamun's tomb is located here, and that means that all the water that might land on here from a thunderstorm, from a flash flood will flow down these hill slopes and congregate in the bottom of the valley round about where Tutankhamun's tomb is.

Now what we can do within the model is we can simulate this rainfall.

So if I click on this button here, we can start to see as rainfall lands we see water build up, the streams get bigger, and the flow congregates around where Tutankhamun's tomb is here with the yellow dot.

So after we've modeled the water, we can then simulate where the sediment goes that would be moved by the water, and that's what we're going to show here, and then as the flood gets bigger and bigger, we can start to see we get a big patch of deposition, a big area of green right by Tutankhamun's tomb, and so by the end of the flood, after the flood has passed, we're left with quite a big area, probably about 20 meters by 20 meters of sediment here that's probably up to a meter deep in places, and so there's a really good chance that anything beneath that or on the edges of it, such as Tutankhamun's tomb, could be buried by this, and maybe the beauty of this is that you'd have effectively a valley floor left with what would look like a natural riverbed.

So it's almost the perfect camouflage for the tomb.

NARRATOR: The computer model supports Steve's observations on the ground.

Using evidence from Tut's tomb, it is even possible to work out how soon after his death the flood might have taken place.

On his body was found a floral collar, this one here, and the flowers that were used were cornflowers and mandrakes.

They only bloom from mid March till mid April, so he was buried in the spring.

As flash floods usually happen in October or November, my theory is that the tomb was only open to view for 7 months of the same year that he was buried.

Steve theorizes that during the summer of 1327 B.C., the year of Tutankhamun's death, the robbers would have entered his tomb and stolen the easily transported valuables.

Soon afterwards, the tomb would have been resealed.

[Thunder] In the autumn of that year, Steve believes a Mediterranean depression moved south.

[Thunder] An easterly wind whipped across the Nile, and thunder clouds formed above the western highlands.

Rain poured down on the mountains above the valley.

Within minutes, torrential streams formed.

In the bottom of the basin, tons of sediment were deposited.

Tutankhamun's tomb was sealed, its treasured hidden for millennia.

Once the stream has finished and the floodwaters have escaped, the Egyptian sun would come out and bake the flood layer as hard as concrete, so anyone coming along later would think, 'That's the natural floor of the wadi.

There are no tombs underneath it.'

NARRATOR: But the flash flood isn't the only reason for Tutankhamun to have remained unknown.

There is another political reason.

There is one last mystery Chris Naunton wants to solve.

A clue is here in the ancient religious center of Abydos.

This is the temple of Seti I with its famous king list, a record of Egyptian rulers from the First to the 19th Dynasties.

NAUNTON: This is Seti I, the builder of this great temple, and standing in front of him is Prince Ramses, his son, who would go on to become Pharaoh Ramses II, and in front of them is a long inscription giving us the names of all of the kings of ancient Egypt beginning with Menes in the top left, the very first rule of the very first dynasty, and then we continue through the names of kings, through the dynasties, and eventually, we come out at the end of the second register in the 18th Dynasty, and this is where you would expect then to see names like Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, Ay, but instead, it jumps straight from Amenhotep III to Horemheb.

There was a very deliberate attempt by Seti I and Ramses II to take them out of history, to pretend that this period never happened, Tutankhamun never existed, an what's happening here is that Seti I and Ramses II are trying to tell you that this is the list of legitimate rulers of ancient Egypt, and they follow this list of legitimate rulers as the Pharaohs themselves, and anybody whose name is not in this list is not considered by them to be a legitimate ruler, and so that includes Akhenaten, Tutankhamun, Ay.

So what they're trying to do is to create an idea that this is a comprehensive list of kings, but these names aren't here because Ramses II and Seti I don't consider them to be legitimate, and instead they have erased them from history.

NARRATOR: This is yet another reason why tomb robbers might not have searched for Tutankhamun's grave.

By the 20th Dynasty, there was no official record of his rule.

NAUNTON: Well, there is an irony in that for the ancient Egyptians what they all wanted to achieve was immortality.

They wanted to achieve an eternal life, and Tutankhamun's successors did their level best to ensure that this doesn't happen in his case, and yet thanks to circumstances, he is the one whose name lives on more than any other ruler.

NARRATOR: For Chris, it's the end of his journey and chance to reflect on what he's learned.

NARRATOR: I feel as though I know a lot more about him than I did, and it's incredibly rewarding to have been able to take such a close look at the evidence.

I feel closer to him.

I feel as though we're a little bit closer to knowing the real person.

He is the boy king of the Amarna Period.

He died young, he died suddenly.

He was interred in a tomb which was never made for him.

His burial equipment was, in fact, gathered from equipment that was already in use for other people.

The tomb is then sealed... and thanks to a natural act of God, it's then covered completely, and then very shortly after that, his successors did their level best to erase his name from history.

So the evidence then stays in the ground for centuries and centuries and centuries until the point at which Howard Carter uncovers the tomb, and all of a sudden of course, it's a sensation, and he is the best known figure we have from ancient Egypt.

NARRATOR: But for Steve Cross, that's not quite the end of the story.

Although he's convinced he's answered why the tomb lay undisturbed for centuries, there's another mystery he wants to solve.

At the end of the excavations in 2009, I directed two GPR scans-- that's ground penetrating radar.

What that does is sends radar pulse down through the sediments and down through the bedrock so we can see what's there without excavating, and what the two scans showed was on this side of the excavation cut into the bedrock was a flat leveled area identical to the leveled area in front of Tutankhamun's tomb, and then in front of the rest house at a depth of about 8 meters was a corridor descending, filled with chippings identical to Tutankhamun's tomb.

NARRATOR: So could there be another burial just feet from where Tutankhamun was discovered?

CROSS: So what this indicates to me is the flood line at the end of the 18th Dynasty covered and concealed Tutankhamun's tomb.

What these GPR scans show is the possibility of another tomb.

NARRATOR: If he's right and it is unlooted, it could be a find to rival the discovery of Tutankhamun.

HARTWIG, VOICE-OVER: One of the great questions that we have as Egyptologists is is there another Tut's tomb, is there another tomb in the valley that has been left untouched?

I think part of being an Egyptologist is holding that hope out that there is something else to be found.

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You think there is one?

There are a few tombs to be found.

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ANNOUNCER: Next time on 'Secrets of the Dead,' colonial landowner turned amateur archaeologist William Peppe starts digging in northern India.

CHARLES ALLEN: I don't think we'll ever know exactly what motivated William Peppe.

but the fact is this was the golden age of Indian archaeology.

All sorts of exciting discoveries were being made at this time, in particular the discovery of some lost Buddhist sites.

ANNOUNCER: And he stumbles on something extraordinary.

ALLEN: Nothing like it had ever been found in India.

It's almost like some sort of Egyptian sarcophagus, and when he lifts the lid off, you can imagine a gasp of astonishment because it glittered with jewels and hundreds of little flowers made of precious stones.

A most thrilling site it must have been, and there's more to come because when they actually looked inside the stone coffin, they saw the entire floor was covered with glittering items, gold and little precious and semiprecious jewels.

ANNOUNCER: Mixed in with the jewels, he finds ash, bits of bone, and an urn with a mysterious inscription.

ALLEN: You can see that Willie Peppe has very carefully copied the characters on the urn, and then he sat down to write two crucial letters.

The first of the two letters went to a friend of his Vincent Smith.

The second letter, however, was to the only archaeologist in the entire area, and his name was Dr. Anton Fuhrer.

Fuhrer wrote back, 'Your shrine contains real relics of Lord Buddha.'

Imagine finding the bones of Christ.

ANNOUNCER: What could the tomb reveal about the early spread of Buddhism?

ALLEN: It's impossible not to be moved by the character of Ashoka.

Here is an extremely violent, unpleasant, ruthless emperor who suffers some extraordinary change of heart and is suddenly converted, completely becomes a new man.

Ashoka wanted to transform his kingdom into a Buddhist country.

He is the one who changes this minor cult into what is initially a national religion and then a world religion.

[Group speaking foreign language] ALLEN: It's really very humbling to think that this-- for millions and millions of Buddhists this is the center of their universe.

ANNOUNCER: In the Buddha's footsteps, the pilgrims still walk 2,500 years later.

ALLEN: There's a very real sense of spirituality here which I find very, very moving.

ANNOUNCER: But scandal has overshadowed Peppe's discovery for nearly a century.

ALLEN: The suspicion had to be that Dr. Fuhrer had interfered in some way with the Piprahwa excavation.

And, Neil, here we are more than a century after your grandfather's famous discovery, and there is still talk of hoaxes and conspiracy theories.

What do you make of that?

I find it quite extraordinary.

Really I don't understand it.

It seems quite illogical.

As far as my family is concerned, the man was incapable of forging anything.

ANNOUNCER: Was it all an elaborate hoax?

ALLEN: So, Harry, you've been staring at this for a long time.

Is this a fake?

ANNOUNCER: 'Bones of the Buddha' on 'Secrets of the Dead.'