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King Tut's Tomb of 'brown spots' suggests his burial was rushed

June 9, 2011 - Washington

Despite almost a century of scientific investigation, the brown spots in the Tomb of Tutankhamun remain a mystery.

But now, Harvard microbiologist Ralph Mitchell thinks they have a tale to tell.

Mitchell thinks those brown spots reveal something: that the famed "boy king" of the 18th Egyptian dynasty, who died in his late teens was buried in an unusual hurry, before the walls of the tomb were even dry.

"King Tutankhamen died young, and we think that the tomb was prepared in a hurry," explains Mitchell. "We're guessing that the painted wall was not dry when the tomb was sealed."

That moisture, along with the food, The Mummy, and the incense in the tomb, would have provided a bountiful environment for microbial growth, he says, until the tomb eventually dried out.

The 3,000-year-old microbial "vandalism" is beyond reversal, Mitchell said.

The damage is already done, so Mitchell predicts that the conservators will want to leave the spots alone, particularly as they are unique to that site.

"This is part of the whole mystique of the tomb," he added.


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