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Tutankhamun's body spontaneously combusted after botched embalming, researchers say

  • King Tut mask.jpg

    King Tut's famous death mask.AFP

  • King Tutankhamun's Coffin

    Women look at one of the coffins of King Tutankhamun at the Egyptian museum in Cairo, Egypt.AP Photo/Amr Nabi

  • Testing King Tut

    The face of the linen-wrapped mummy of King Tut is seen in his glass case in his underground tomb in the famed Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt.AP Photo/Ben Curtis

The life and death of Tutankhamun have intrigued researchers ever since the treasure trove of the boy king's tomb was first discovered in 1922 -- and a fresh examination of the famous pharaoh’s remains is only likely to add to the fascination after two sensational findings were revealed.

The first: that King Tut’s body may have spontaneously combusted when it was inside his sarcophagus after a botched mummification.

The second: that Tutankhamun may have died in battle after a chariot smashed into him while the warrior king was leading his army.

The latest research was carried out by Egyptologist Chris Nauton and revealed in a documentary for UK’s Channel 4.

Naunton, director of the Egypt Exploration Society, began investigating after he discovered references to the body’s burned condition in the records of Howard Carter, the archaeologist who first uncovered Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Carter’s discovery of the treasure trove, which included the famous golden death mask, prompted worldwide fascination with Tut. The allure of the mysterious boy king was only added to after rumors of a curse that was said to have claimed the life of Carter's sponsor Lord Carnarvon.

Naunton found that a post-mortem exam carried out in late 1960s using an X-ray and a scanning electron microscope showed the flesh was burnt.

Naunton’s research discovered that embalming oils combined with oxygen and linen may have caused a chemical reaction which literally "cooked" the king's body at high temperature.

“Despite all the attention Tut’s mummy has received over the years the full extent of its strange condition has largely been overlooked,” Nauton explained.

“The charring and possibility that a botched mummification led the body spontaneously combusting shortly after burial was entirely unexpected, something of a revelation in fact.”

Naunton research team also performed a "virtual autopsy" which revealed a pattern of injuries down one side of his body which they say were consistent with the theory that he died in a chariot accident.