With ‘Tut’ Special, Discovery Makes History Anew

by | February 17, 2010 at 10:50 AM | TV News

King Tutankhamun (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

King Tutankhamun (Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)


History, they say, has a way of repeating itself. It can also be endlessly revised. And, thanks to our technological culture, those revisions will be televised, as they will be this weekend, when the Discovery Channel airs a new special, ‘King Tut Unwrapped’. But is it really that new?

Discovery executives are absolutely beside themselves with excitement for this weekend’s two-part “event,” which unveils new details about Tutenkamen, Egypt’s most famous Pharaoh.

Zahi Hawass, an antiquities official from the Egyptian government, insisted on Twitter that the show, which Discovery calls “an unprecedented forensics investigation,” brings “Egyptology back home to Egypt with cutting-edge science” and also unveils “thrilling discoveries.” They’re interesting, yes, but thrilling?

Thanks to “cutting edge” DNA, Hawass and his Discovery team confirm that Pharaoh Akhenaten fathered Tut, thanks to an incestuous relationship with one of his sisters, which was quite common in that era. This does qualify as “new,” but scholars have long suspected Akhenaten could be Tut’s father. But thanks to this analysis, they can now also identify his grandfather. In addition to the family drama, the special also takes a deeper look at the King’s cause of death.

Hawass and Discovery are trumpeting revelations on Tut’s physical health, claiming that he broke his leg and died from malaria. The former detail would be new, if it hadn’t already been discovered in 2005. This research does, however, bolster speculation that the broken leg, coupled with congenital health issues, contributed to his death. As for the malaria aspect: This detail debunks an older hypothesis that he died from gangrene.

So, 3,333 years after his death, we finally know what killed the most famous Pharaoh. But, naturally, there are more mysteries that remain, like which of Akhenaten’s sisters actually bore the King.

As Hawass remarked, “We finished the first great part of the mystery and the second one is coming soon in one year.” That means, of course, that Discovery will find plenty of footage for its next special, and history will again be revised for your viewing pleasure.

‘King Tut Unwrapped’ airs Sunday, February 21 and Monday February 22 at 8 p.m. on the Discovery Channel.