What killed Tutankhamun?

Ever since Howard Carter found Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of Kings in 1922, Egyptologists have been striving to establish how the iconic Egyptian pharaoh met his end. The 'boy-king' is believed to have died between the ages of 17 and 19 – but the cause of his death is currently unknown. Was he murdered? Did he succumb to a pre-existing health condition? Or was he a victim of "in-breeding in the royal family"? Chris Naunton explores some of the most popular theories...

Archaeologist Howard Carter opens the coffin of Tutankhamun. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

In 1922, Howard Carter and his team made what would become perhaps the greatest archaeological discovery of all time. It was the intact tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty: Tutankhamun. The ‘boy-king’ has since become one of the most famous figures from the ancient world and his face – more particularly his golden death mask – provides us with one of the most iconic images from anywhere, and at any time.

The Valley of the Kings was the burial place of the pharaohs throughout the great era we now call the New Kingdom (1550–1069 BC), and its use helps to define the period.

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