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King Tut: How Did He Die?

Updated on October 8, 2019
Himani Khullar profile image

Himani Khullar has always made an attempt to make everyone around her fall in love with History and its many variants.

A little background.

King Tut, also known by his other names (Tutankhamun /Tutankhaten) was an Egyptian pharaoh who was the last ruler from his royal family to rule during the end of the 18th dynasty in Egypt. However, these are facts and this article isn’t about facts. It’s about the many theories that revolve around the mysterious question which always comes up when someone talks about King Tut i.e. ‘How did he die?’

King Tut was the son of Akhenaten, his predecessor and a revolutionist, who disrupted the peace and order of Egypt during his reign. Tutankhamun started ruling at the age of 9 in 1334 B.C. and died suddenly at the age of 19 in 1324 B.C. His death was so unexpected and untimely that people were not prepared for it, which is why he was put to rest in a tomb which was smaller than the rest of the kings in his dynasty.

After more than three millennia from his death, his tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. The discovery of this tomb brought the past of Tutankhamun into the limelight and the world came to know about the secrets that were buried with him in his tomb for all these years. After being in the dark for about 3000 years, King Tut finally became a worldwide phenomenon.


Tutankhamun's death was so unexpected and untimely that people were not prepared for it, which is why he was put to rest in a tomb which was smaller than the rest of the kings in his dynasty.

Why is King Tut's reign significant?

King Tut a.k.a ‘The Boy Pharaoh’ started ruling Egypt at the mere age of nine and ruled for about ten years before he died. He is the most famous Egyptian pharaoh in the modern world. During his reign, Akhenaten brought about some changes that were frowned upon by the people. He banned the Egyptian practice of Polytheism and focused on worshipping one God, Aten. He shifted his capital and even changed his name, in order to show his devotion to his God.

King Tut’s reign is historically significant because he revived the age-old Egyptian traditions and allowed people to worship their beloved God, Amun. He changed the name given to him by his father to prove his devotion to his God.

It is kind of ironic that the king whose traces were removed by his people turned out to be the most famous Egyptian pharaoh in the modern world. Fascinating, isn’t it?


The one question that always springs up among the people who know King Tut briefly is about his mysterious death.

Since the time King Tut’s mummy first saw the sun rays in 1922, people have been interested in it. There are innumerable theories as to how he died and that is only expected, given the fact that his was the only tomb that was found intact in the modern world. The rest of them had already been looted by thieves. The reason for this was that his tomb was in a place which was not easily noticeable unless you knew what you were looking for.

Only a decade after his death, the boy pharaoh had been removed from the list of kings by his successors and his tomb, forgotten.

It is kind of ironic that the king whose traces were removed by his people (except his tomb, of course) turned out to be the most famous Egyptian pharaoh in the modern world. Fascinating, isn’t it?


Background of King Tut
Significance of King Tut's reign
My take on Tutankhamun's death

It was very common for Egyptian rulers to engage in incest because they believed that they are the children of God and that they should raise children with the blood of their families only.

We are not aware of the secrets that were buried with him 3300 years ago, but we are aware, or at least we think we are aware, about what (or who) killed him. As I mentioned earlier, there are ample of theories surrounding this but these are the ones that are largely accepted:


This was the hypothesis accepted by the world until the development of modern technologies.

The reason that this was considered as an option was because, during X-ray scans done in 1968, a hole was found in King Tut’s skull. This led scientists to speculate that he died because of a blow at his head. This was the widely accepted theory for a long time.

Now, if he had actually been killed by a blow at his head, who was responsible for it? It would certainly be someone close to the king, someone, who assisted him daily because no one else could have the chance to get near him.

There are two suspects, according to those who accept the Assassination Theory.

The first suspect is Ay.

Ay was the chief advisor to Tut, during his reign. Since Tut was only nine years old when he ascended the throne, it was not likely that he was able to take any major decisions regarding his empire by himself. So, the Egyptian empire was indirectly ruled by his advisors. Ay was one of them. There are many reasons as to why Ay could have killed his king.

The foremost is, for the Crown. It isn’t at all surprising because there have been many instances in the past where jealousy and the thirst for Empire drove people to kill each other.

The next reason, which isn’t written anywhere, but is my own theory, is that he killed Tut for Ankhesenamun. Ankhesenamun was King Tut’s wife. The reason because of which I think this was probable is that soon after starting his reign, Ay forced her to marry him. This leads one to believe that he was affectionate towards her. Or maybe he married her because he wanted to show that everything that once belonged to Tut was now his.

The third reason could be that he was taking revenge for the disruption caused by Akhenaten during his reign. Religion meant a lot to people at that time, so it isn’t shocking that he was angry at Akhenaten and took it out on Tut. Although Tut tried to reverse the changes made by his father, perhaps the decision taken by him was late and not fast enough for Ay and resentment overpowered his ability to think clearly.

The second suspect is Horemheb.

He was the commander in chief of the army during Tut’s reign. He and Ay were the two main advisors of Tut. He could have had strong motives to kill Tut too.

The first one and the most probable, is, for the Crown. Though, he ascended the throne after Ay. However, this exhibits that he always had an eye on the throne and killed Tut because of his thirst for power and money.

The second one could be, that, when Tut was a child, he adhered to the advice of Horemheb, since he was gullible. But, as he got older, he started making his own decisions and this posed a threat to Horemheb’s indirect rule over the Empire.

The reason because of which we think Horemheb did this was because he removed King Tut’s and even Ay’s name from the list of kings during his reign. This shows that he had personal reasons to resent his predecessors.

While putting these two under the list of suspects, there are a few things one should keep in mind.

First is, that, both Ay and Horemheb have left literary works denying themselves of doing any wrong to King Tut. This manifests that they knew people would consider them as the killer of Tutankhamun after their deaths.

The second thing to keep in mind is, that, even though Horemheb removed the names of his predecessors from the list of kings, this can’t be taken as any proof because there has always been a tendency among ancient rulers to outshine their peers and predecessors.

The last thing is that King Tut did not have any heir to his kingdom since both of his offspring were born dead. So, this gave both Ay and Horemheb an opportunity to kill him because they knew, that, after him, the throne would not go to anyone else but them.


In 2005, a study revealed that King Tut had a broken & infected leg. Scientists believe that he had broken his leg just a few days before his death since it showed no signs of healing and that, because of this, he caught an infection and died.

Moreover, King Tut was physically frail, with a crippling bone disease in his clubbed left foot. To support this, we have found paintings in which he has been depicted seated while performing activities like archery. No other pharaoh has ever been depicted seated.

Moreover, in his tomb, Howard Carter found 150 walking sticks, along with many other essential items that were put there, for his journey after death.

For King Tut to have a bone disease isn’t surprising, since traditional inbreeding among Egyptian families is likely to have contributed to his poor health. It was very common for Egyptian rulers to engage in incest because they believed that they are the children of God and that they should raise children with the blood of their families only.

In fact, Akhenaten married his sister, which led to the birth of Tutankhamun. King Tut, in turn, married his half-sister Ankhesenamun, with whom he shared the same father and this led to the birth of his two stillborn daughters, who were buried with him in his tomb.


Perhaps the theory which is largely accepted today is that King Tut died due to Malaria. DNA tests in 2010 revealed evidence of multiple malaria infections, all of which may have contributed to his untimely death. Only because of the development of technology, have we been able to determine this and it is because of the efficiency of modern-day equipment that this theory isn’t doubted anywhere today.


As much as we like to forge theories as to what killed King Tut, it is absolutely possible that his death was, in fact, accidental. Many people believe that he fell from his chariot while hunting and since he already had so many in-borne diseases, his body couldn’t handle it. Some people have gone as far as to suggest that he was bitten by an enraged hippopotamus!


My take on Tutankhamun's death.

A person with such a strong charisma is likely to turn heads and this is exactly why, that, even after the DNA tests, which have given definite proofs, new theories continue to spring up as to what led to the death of this young pharaoh. Whatever be the reason, Tutankhamun has made a place for himself in the modern world that no other Egyptian ruler was able to.

In conclusion, I’d like to give my opinion as to how King Tut died. I firmly believe that he was murdered by Ay. I’ve already mentioned the reasons for this. I am perfectly aware that this goes against scientific facts. But, I’ve made an informed decision and this is my point of view.

What’s yours? Tell me in the comments.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Himani Khullar


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    • profile image


      8 weeks ago

      Good amount of research put together beautifully....

      I believe that he was assassinated. This was too common in history and the more a king is loved by the people, the more he is envied.

      Fab work Himani!✌

    • profile image


      8 weeks ago

      Fantastic job di

    • AshutoshJoshi06 profile image

      Ashutosh Joshi 

      12 months ago from New Delhi, India

      The more the stories or theories, the more the legend grows. History is build around stories. Even with advanced science and technology, a good story is a prerequisite.

      The pharaoh with a cursed sarcophagus, I left it at that.

    • profile image

      Parmeet Singh 

      12 months ago

      Beautifully explained.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      Great job! Exhaustive coverage of all the facts and theories revolving around the death of the teen Pharaoh.


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