What Killed King Tutankhamum, Autopsy #4, the Hippo Heresy


This brief book by W Benson Harer discusses the controversial question of what caused the death of Tutankhamun, with the author strongly supporting the view that the king was killed by a hippopotamus. Within the publication is a chapter by Peter Sheldrick, a physician who has worked with mummies in the Dakhleh Oasis for more than 40 years, and who concurs with this hypothesis.

Benson Harer considers that there are various anomalous aspects of Tutankhamun’s mummy which have been overlooked in previous studies, and that too many of the theories published concentrate on one or two observations, while ignoring the overall picture and associated facts, in particular the anatomical findings of the various studies: the missing sternum and much of the rib cage; the intact diaphragm; and the missing heart.

The publication also traces the history of the various examinations of Tutankhamun’s mummy, commencing with Douglas Derry’s first autopsy in 1925, Harrison’s further autopsy and radiographic study in 1968, and the 2005 CT scans supervised by Zahi Hawass. The radiographs taken by Harrison and his team disclosed a fragment of bone in the cranial cavity, and this subsequently became the inspiration for various assassination speculations. These have now been mostly rejected, as later radiographs found no evidence of a fracture, abnormality of the skull, or intracranial haemorrhage.

Following the CT scans in 2005 and later ancient DNA studies, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) concluded that Tutankhamun was frail, disabled, and infected with malaria. He suffered a fall that caused a compound fracture of his left femur, and later died of septicaemia. This is rejected by the authors, who conclude that, after reconsidering all the evidence from the radiographs and autopsies, Tutankhamun’s chest was crushed by a hippopotamus, resulting in his death. They suggest that this hypothesis best accounts for all the known facts, as well as the evidence previously unknown or overlooked. It is a thoughtful theory, worthy of consideration, and the book is an interesting read.

by W Benson Harer Jr and contributing author Peter Sheldrick  
Self-published, 2023 - ISBN 979-8-378-061-85-3  
Hardback ÂŁ23; paperback ÂŁ17