May 3, 2006 — King Tutankhamun’s rediscovered penis could make the pharaoh stand out in the shrunken world of male mummies, according to a close look into old pictures of the 3,300-year-old mummified king.
The formerly missing sex organ has been just another puzzle in the story of the best-known pharaoh of ancient Egypt.
Photographed intact by Harry Burton (1879-1940) during Howard Carter’s excavation of Tut’s tomb in 1922, the royal penis was reported missing in 1968, when British scientist Ronald Harrison took a series of X-rays of the mummy.
Speculation abounded that the penis had been stolen and sold.
“Instead, it has always been there. I found it during the CT scan last year, when the mummy was lifted. It lay loose in the sand around the king’s body. It was mummified,” Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Discovery News.
At first look, Burton’s pictures may seem to indicate that King Tut could have been a little better endowed. But according to mummy expert Eduard Egarter Vigl, the pharaoh was normally built.
Caretaker of Ötzi the Iceman, the world’s oldest and best-preserved mummy, Egarter was also a member of the Egyptian-led research team that examined King Tut’s CT scan images.
“The pharaoh’s sex organ is clearly visible in Burton’s pictures. All was normal in King Tut. The penis is a highly vascularized organ and shrinks when it is mummified. Actually, King Tut has been flattered by the embalmers’ work. There is no comparison with Ötzi’s penis,” Egarter told Discovery News.
Ötzi’s natural mummification and dehydration in an Alpine glacier produced a “collapse of the genitalia,” which left the Iceman with an almost invisible member.
“He would not make a bella figura today,” Egarter said.
According to the mummy expert, it is not possible to see if King Tut was circumcised or not.
Eugene Cruz-Uribe, professor of history at Northern Arizona University and an expert on Tutankhamun, told Discovery that some earlier documents mention circumcision at King Tut’s time.
“It was probably done for hygienic reasons, but some ritual issues may have occurred as well,” Cruz-Uribe said.
Tut.ankh.Amun, “the living image of Amun,” ascended the throne in 1333 B.C. at the age of nine, and reigned until his death in 1325 B.C., aged 19.
He married 13-year-old Ankhesenpaaten, who was probably his stepsister, on his accession to the throne. During their marriage, Ankhesenpaaten, who had changed her name to Ankhesenamun, gave birth to two stillborn girls.
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