2. KING TUT VS. MALARIA
The 100 or so canes that archaeologists uncovered in Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922 might have implied that the 19-year-old pharaoh wasn't exactly the model of health. And Egyptian researchers now say that genetic testing hints that inbreeding and disease may have left King Tut so crippled that he could barely walk.
This theory about Tut's much-contested medical history is based on years of CT scans and DNA testing on eleven royal mummies from the mid-16th to the early 11th centuries BC. The research
, published last February, suggests that King Tut's father and mother were siblings. Tut's incestuous parents may have left the pharaoh susceptible to Koehler disease
, a rare bone disorder, and possibly a club foot. Genetic testing also suggested that King Tut had malaria, which, the authors said, may have been fatal for the frail teenager.
But these findings didn't convince everyone. In a June response
German researchers questioned the work, and proposed instead that the mummy's bone damage might indicate the inherited blood disorder sickle cell disease
. There is an easy genetic test for the disease, the letter's authors say, which the Egyptian team could administer.
That prospect probably wouldn't appeal to an anatomist and an ethicist who in July argued
that mummy DNA testing--and the resulting media hubbub when embarrassing secrets come out--might violate a corpse's privacy.