The famous “boy king,” who died at age 19 in 1324 BC, having ruled for just nine years, suffered from a debilitating bone disease as well as malaria, DNA studies have revealed.
The international team of scientists used cutting-edge DNA analysis to determine how the pharaoh died as well as who his parents were.
The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of American Medical Association, concluded he most likely died from a malarial infection combined with avascular bone necrosis – loss of blood flow that causes the bone to break down.
This conclusion was supported by the previous discovery of a kind of walking canes and a kind of afterlife pharmacy in his tomb, the scientists said.
“Tutankhamun suffered from the worst form of malaria tropica,” said Carsten Pusch, a geneticist from Eberhard Karls University Tübingen who worked on the two-year project. “This, together with the bone necrosis, could have caused his death. He was a really wretched guy.”
The incestuous connection between his parents could have been the reason for some of his ailments, said researcher Albert Zink from the European Academy in Bozen in northern Italy.
By taking DNA samples, from Tutankhamun's mummy and those of 11 other Egyptian royals, the research team built a family tree for the boy king.
His father was King Akhenaten and his mother, though her name is not known, was Akhenaten's sister.
The boy king's health problems also included a cleft palate and club foot.
Tutankhamun has been the best known Egyptian king since British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered his intact tomb in 1922. The haul of artefacts from the discovery includes the stunning gold mask that sits in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.