- Paperback: 287 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus Books (April 4, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1591024013
- ISBN-13: 978-1591024019
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,643,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Who Killed King Tut?: Using Modern Forensics to Solve a 3,300-year-old Mystery Paperback – April 4, 2006
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Intrigued by the brief life and premature death of young King Tutankhamen, the authors combine modern forensic archaeological evidence, modern forensic techniques, and psychological data to determine whether or not King Tut was actually murdered. After concluding that the young pharaoh did not die of natural causes, they investigate and eliminate each of the likely suspects, until they point the finger at Ay, one of Tut's most trusted advisors. King, a detective, joined forces with an Egyptologist, sifting through a variety of concrete clues while at the same time employing some more speculative criminal-profiling and intelligence-gathering methods. Written in the style^B of a fictional whodunit, this fascinating piece of historical detection will appeal to history buffs, mystery lovers, and true-crime fans. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Written in the style of a fictional whodunit, this fascinating piece of historical detection will appeal to history buffs, mystery lovers, and true-crime fans." - Booklist
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Top customer reviews
The investigators spent an unconscionable amount of time patting themselves on the back for their investigative/profiling abilities - which it should be noted, all took place 'behind the scenes' - the reader was never privy to any discussion or alternate theories that were ultimately discarded. They presented their conclusions as 'facts' without describing how they reached those conclusions. No evidence pro or con was given, just a statement along the lines of 'after reveiwing the evidence, we determined ... " and then those 'determinations' were treated as hard fact with no additional supporting detail. There were instances where they appeared to contradict themselves. For example, one of the medical experts that was hired to review old X-rays of the king determined that there was no evidence supporting the suggestion of blunt trauma to the base of the skull. Then a couple chapters later, the investigators rule out the king's wife as possible murderer even though she had the strength to inflict blunt trauma to the king. What was the point? Their own expert had just ruled out blunt trauma, so why even make that comment?
Finally, in an afterword, they had the gall to diss the scientists that particiapated in the 2005 CT scan study of the mummy that was authorized by the Egyptian Department of Antiquities (totally unprofessional - but some of the scientists had the nerve to disagree with their findings!).
I would strongly recommend avoiding this book unless you are the type who enjoys intellectual train wrecks. If you're interested in the 'mystery' surrounding King Tut and his life & death, there are many other books out there that will give a more balanced picture and avoid the graceless writing style and self-promotion of this book.
Note on Kindle formatting: The only bright spot in this review - Kindle formatting was excellent. I think I noticed one or two places where there was a minor issue, but overall, formatting was very well done.
The book is a wonderfully entertaining "who dunnit" cum travel documentary; in fact it was originally filmed by a British production company as a feature for the Discovery Channel.
The two super sleuths certainly have impressive credentials, Michael King is State Regional Intelligence Supervisor for the Department of Homeland Security in Utah, and Gregory Cooper his partner in this investigation is Assistant Federal Security Director for Law Enforcement, also a former profiler for the FBI's Criminal Profiling Unit. Given the vita of both individuals, it should come as no surprise that what they add to the much-discussed conundrum of King Tut's demise, is their capacity as profilers.
As the preface by Harold J. Bursztajn (Co-director of the Harvard Medical School Program in Psychiatry and the Law at Massachusetts Mental Health Center) notes, the authors are able to look at the situation as professional homicide investigators. They avoid premature commitment to any theory and instead examine the situation in terms of "risk profile." From low risk to high risk, is the individual likely to have been a victim of murder, suicide, natural causes or accident? And if murder is suspected, who is likely to have been the perpetrator at the victim's risk level? If high risk, it is more likely to be a crime of opportunity by an assailant unknown to the victim; if low risk, it is more likely to be someone known to the victim. The commentator also points out that unlike many historians investigating the case, the authors approach the victim's profile as an evolving situation, looking at a more dynamic profile of risk over the individual's lifetime.
From my own perspective, I found the book a marvelous trip through memory lane. Much of the book is dedicated to the first impressions of the two gentleman with respect to Egypt: it's modern culture, it's impressive monuments, it's exotica. With trips to the various tombs, visits to Khan el Khalili Suq for tea in the city's oldest tea shop, a visit to (probably) the famous Groppy's ice cream parlor for coffee and treats, the smiling children trying to sell you anything they can at exorbitant prices, their demands for "pens," the two authors reminded me of myself when I first visited the country. There is so much to see and experience, your mind goes into overdrive, and you find yourself exhausted beyond belief at the end of every day. For anyone who has not had the experience, this is a good way to enjoy it vicariously, as the men's experiences are very common, and their assessments very astute. I'd read the book before I visited for the first time; it will prepare you for the experience better than any travel book.
For those who enjoy a good "who-dunnit" and have not read anything about the history of pharonic Egypt, you need not worry. Neither of the authors knew anything at all about ancient Egypt prior to this experience. They were, however, very well coached by specialists hired as historical resources for them. They were also motivated enough by their own curiosity and their professional background to do reading beyond the materials they were given. In short, they showed considerable initiative in preparing themselves for the mission. The reader will find that what the two learned in the progress of their study and from the specialists who assisted them is presented in a clear and coherent manner for the reader. The beginner will be more than able to understand some of the political venue and personalities of the 18th dynasty as they are presented.
This said, I will point out that the period is not nearly as clear cut as the authors present it, and if you have a serious interest in the period beyond the "who-dunnit" presented here, I'd look at other volumes written for the general reading public on the topic of ancient Egypt, the 18th dynasty, or some of the famous personalities of the period.
My only real criticism of the book is that the authors are inclined to paint the events in such a way that they may appear to be literally definite and "true" to the reader. Indeed they may well have been, but the period is much more confused than the authors present it. Unfortunately, they are inclined to take their own picture of the venue and it's events as a "given" and draw conclusions that are not always well founded. For one thing, the "crime scene" as they point out was "cold" at the time of the investigation (2002 A. D.) by some "1,224,575 days (p. 48)." In short, stone cold dead by any definition. The actual site of the mishap-or even if there was one-is unknown, so there is no crime scene from which to gather data. The written documentation is sketchy at best, and all of it represents the official position of the central government-and as the authors point out, those in control, who might well have been responsible for the young king's death. In fact, whatever has been documented is not only fragmentary, official, and vague, its intent is suspect. Unfortunately it's anyone's guess as to who that suspicious individual was and of what he was really guilty. None of the individuals present at the time are available to question, and no swore statements were ever obtained at the time.
Just the identity of the main characters and how they were interrelated is not as well known as is presented here. There have been a number of proposals, for instance, as to "who" King Tut was. It may seem simple to the casual reader that he was "king of Egypt," but the professional historian asks "why?" Who WAS King Tut? No one really knows. He comes out of the shadows of history when a successor is required, and assumes the throne after marrying the heiress, Ankhesenamun. One suggestion would make him a son of Amenhotep IV/Akhenaton by a secondary wife. Recently she has been identified as Kiya, it would appear simply because hers is virtually the only name of a secondary wife of Akhenaton that appears in the extant inscriptions. The beautiful Queen Nefertiti dominates almost every scene in the inscriptions, and it is known that she give birth only to daughters, the third of which became Tut's wife, Ankhesenamun.
That Tut was Kiya's son is not necessarily the case, however. Others have proposed that he was the youngest son of Queen Tiy, Akhenaton's mother, the Great Royal Wife of his father Amenhotep III, and therefore a younger full brother. He would therefore be unquestionably in line for succession. The 18th dynasty was plagued, however, with a succession problem throughout much of its long history. The Great Royal Wives of many of its kings gave birth only to daughters and male successors were taken from secondary lines. This was famously the case with Hatshepsut and Thuthmosis III. It was also the possessor of some of the strongest female personalities in Egyptian history, Hatshepsut being one of them. There is a good reason why Smenkhare, an early co-regent and successor of Akhenaton, is believed by some to have been a throne name for Nefertiti (for whom see, Tyldesley's Nefertiti: Egypt's Sun Queen). That this individual is a total mystery beyond his/her name and a mummy purported to have been his/hers, suggests more clearly than anything else from the period that it is a very confused period in Egypt's history.
The relationship of Queen Nefertiti is also up for grabs. It has been suggested that she was a Hittite princess sent to Amenhotep III's court but married instead to Amenhotep IV/Akhenaton. This has always been my belief, based primarily on the fact that Akhesenamun applied to the Hittite King for a prince to take as consort, which if she were descended from a Hittite mother would make her request logically one for a cousin to wed, something not infrequent in the Middle East even today. Others more recently have suggested she was a younger sister of Queen Tiy, whose family was a powerful member of the Nubian aristocracy-and therefore according to these authors, inconsequential (p. 152)!
And who is the much vilified Ay? An upstart? A villain? A murderer? Just where did he come from? Some have suggested he was an important nobleman. He was certainly able; he managed to survive the political ups and downs of three successions, a transfer of power from Thebes to Akhetaton (Armarna) and back to Thebes, and two major religious transformations. If nothing else, he was a survivor of considerable talent. Some have gone so far as to suggest he was a brother of Queen Tiy, also a powerful figure in the dynasty. He apparently showed no signs of having designs on the throne for most of his life, took control during a very problematic time for the dynasty, and left the throne to Horemheb, who left it in turn to another general, Ramses I. All of thus bought Egypt a stable social and political and military world and a smooth transition to dynasty XIX, during a period that was brewing international issues with which Egypt was forced to contend.
Much might be done with mDNA studies, except all of the players have not been identified. Some mummies have been lost, probably destroyed by the opposing ideology, and though we have Queen Tiy's, it has recently been suggested that it isn't her body after all. Furthermore, it would be difficult to say who was related to whom, since there was a great deal of intermarriage between full and half siblings during this dynasty. Almost everyone was related to almost everyone else among the upper ranks of society. With so much confusion, anyone's guess about relationships is as good as anyone elses.
This not only leads to a great deal of confusion among modern historians, it probably also lead to some confusion as to just who had the right to succeed to the throne. As at the end of most of the major dynasties in Egypt, a failure to produce a definite, designated heir-preferably already functioning as a co-regent with the older king-tended to bring about a major free-for-all and a social and political collapse. At the beginning of this period, the New Kingdom, Egypt was recovering from a period of invasion by outsiders, the Hyksos, after just such an indefinite period at the end of the final dynasty of the Middle Kingdom. If guilty of anything, Ay and Horemheb were probably guilty of concern over the collapse of their social order at a very risky point in the history of the 18th dynasty. They had a great deal more to lose by letting things fall apart at Tut's death than just their jobs.
Get the picture? Nothing is as definite as the authors have portrayed it. But it is precisely this lack of definition that makes it such a delightful tale. It has a little of everything: a messianic king who dies mysteriously, a handsome prince who becomes king, a young queen about to be married to an old man, a wicked vizier-(think of Aladdin and his lamp), a brave soldier who saves the kingdom, etc. etc. Who could ask for more?