This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special
English. I'm Barbara Klein.
I'm Bob Doughty. This week, we will tell
about efforts to protect the burial place of Egypt's King Tutankhamen. And we will tell about what imaging tests
found in ancient human remains.
Experts from the United States are working to return the
final resting place of King Tutankhamen to its full beauty. The Getty Conservation Institute is cooperating
with Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities on the project.
is often called Tut. His tomb is in the
Valley of the Kings on the west side of the Nile River at Luxor.
King Tut ruled Egypt more than three thousand years
ago. He became Pharaoh when he was about
nine years old. He was probably the son
or grandson of Amenhotep the Third, a major ruler. Tut's mother or stepmother may have been Queen
Thousands of people visit King Tutankhamen's tomb every
day. The rich beauty of the tomb is well
known. But experts say his burial place needs
Whalen directs the Getty Conservation Institute, which is based in Los Angeles,
California. His team will study problems
with paintings on walls of the burial room and other areas. Mister Whalen says the tomb is currently in
what he called pretty good condition. He
says the final goal of the work is to develop a long-term plan to operate and
protect the tomb for years to come.
Marie Teutonico is the associate director of the Getty Conservation
Institute. She will direct other experts
in scientific restoration during the five-year project.
study and repair work is expected to cost the G.C.I. about one million, five
hundred thousand dollars. Egypt has not
yet said how much financial responsibility it will take for the project.
goal of the project is to record the condition of the tomb and the wall
paintings in the burial room. One of the
most beautiful paintings shows the underworld ruler Osiris. He is reaching his arms around King
Tutankhamen. Osiris seems to be welcoming
the king to the spirit world.
more than three thousand years, parts of the paintings still look clear and
bright. But they also contain brown,
damaged areas. The damage worries
archeologist Zahi Hawass. He is Egypt's
vice minister of culture and secretary general of the Supreme Council of the
Antiquities. Mister Hawass says that scientists
have not yet been able to tell what caused the brown spots. He hopes answers will be found.
Teutonico's team will study materials used in the paintings in an effort to solve
the mystery. The team will examine records
of conditions over the years. It also
will attempt to find possible environmental reasons for the damage.
The damaged areas were present when Howard Carter
discovered King Tut's tomb in nineteen twenty-two.
Tut's remains, the British archeologist also discovered priceless gold jewelry
and other objects. Shining treasures
filled the tomb, including a solid gold mask of Tutankhamen's face.
Hawass says Carter's team damaged the King's remains. The team raised his mummy to reach more
jewelry and artifacts. Some
archeologists, however, defend Carter. They
say he permitted this because he knew tomb-robbers would steal the treasures.
team from C.G.I. is seeking to learn the effects of thousands of visits to the
tomb each day. People bring heat with
them. They also add wetness to the dry air. The team wants to know what this does to the ancient
artifacts. When the C.G.I. team members
have answers, they will make a plan to protect the tomb. Training for the team members and others will
continue throughout the project.
final resting place is one of the smallest of the rulers' tombs in the Valley
of the Kings. That may be because he died
before his twentieth birthday.
in ancient Egypt had made little progress in preparing burial rooms for the
Some people believe that Tut's death was
unnatural. Unconfirmed stories say the king
was murdered. In two thousand five,
doctors used medical imaging tests to examine his remains. But they found no evidence to support the idea
that King Tut's life had ended in violence.
this year, doctors used computer X-ray tomography, also known as CT scans, to
examine Egyptian mummies for heart disease. The doctors studied the remains of twenty people who died long ago. The results from these unusual patients
surprised experts. It seemed the ancient
Egyptians could have suffered from atherosclerosis, much as people do
today. Such thickening and narrowing of
the blood passages can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
of the mummies had signs of atherosclerosis in the inner walls of up to six
arteries, the passages that lead blood away from the heart. But it is not known if the condition caused
any of their deaths.
twenty mummies were about two thousand to three thousand five hundred years
old. They were chosen for examination
from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo, where they are kept. The study also included two other mummies
that were tested earlier.
doctors from the United States and Egypt reported on the results. The report appeared recently in The Journal
of the American Medical Association.
Randall Thompson was one of several
American doctors who cooperated with an Egyptian heart expert on the
study. Doctor Thompson works at the
Saint Luke's Mid-America Heart Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. He said the ancient peoples' remains had
remained in very good condition over the centuries. The CT scans produced images of their whole
Doctor Thompson said sixteen of the mummies had enough
heart or blood vessel tissues remaining for the doctors to examine. Of those, five had thickened and narrowed
places in the arteries. In another four,
the CT examination showed abnormal areas where the arteries should have been.
in ancient Egyptian studies also took part in the mummy project. They estimated the ages at which the ancient
Egyptians died. Age appears to have
played a part in the disease.
The most severe cases of atherosclerosis were in people
over age forty-five. At the same time,
only two of the eight ancient people who died at an earlier age showed signs of
woman identified as Lady Rai was the earliest Egyptian with the condition. She lived more than three thousand three
hundred years ago. She is believed to
have been an aide to Queen Ahmose Nefertiri. The experts in Egyptian studies say this meant that Lady Rai lived about
two hundred years before King Tutankhamun.
experts were able to tell the names and occupations of most other mummies in
the study. They learned that those they
could identify held high places in their societies, like Lady Rai. Most had served as religious officials or advisers
for Egypt's rulers.
It was not
possible to know exactly what they ate. But the experts said that it was not unusual for ancient Egyptians to
eat duck, geese and beef. Doctor
Thompson said the ancient people may have used salt to help keep their meat
fresh. He said it was possible that they
had high blood pressure. But he also
said there is no way to know that.
study got its start in two thousand seven. At that time, American heart expert Gregory Thomas was visiting the
Museum of the Antiquities with Egyptian heart expert Adel Allam. Doctor Thomas works at the medical school of
the University of California at Irvine. Adel
Allam works at the Al-Azhar Medical School in Cairo.
two men saw the name of the pharaoh Merenptah in the museum. Information about the pharaoh said he died at
about age sixty. It said he suffered
from joint problems, bad teeth and atherosclerosis.
doctors wanted to know how this could be known. They decided to carry out a study. Doctor Thomas helped Doctor Allam organize the mummy study to find out
what modern methods could show about heart disease in ancient patients. Doctor Thomas gathered other experts, and he
and Doctor Allam led the research.
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Jerilyn Watson. Brianna Blake was our producer. I'm Barbara Klein.
I'm Bob Doughty. Join us again next week
for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.