Friday, January 21, 2005

King Tut at the center of another controversy

Al-Ahram Weekly: "When the Ministry of Culture and the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) launched a five-year project to examine and study all Ancient Egyptian mummies by means of CT scanning in order to ascertain how they can be best conserved, the idea was applauded.

Eleven mummies in the Egyptian Museum were scanned. However, when it came to the turn of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, some archaeologists and scientists were none too happy. While the project's supporters saw it as a revolutionary endeavour to resolve the mystery surrounding the early death of Tutankhamun, its opponents suggested it was more of a media circus than pure science. A media campaign launched to question the usefulness of the procedure and its results accused the Egyptian mission who carried out the CT scan of being unprofessional, ambiguous, reckless and impatient to implement its attempt.

What triggered the controversy was the sudden withdrawal -- a week before Tutankhamun's scanning -- of orthopaedist professor Saleh Bedeir, who was leading the scientific team, and his statement regarding Tutankhamun's computed tomography.

'What has been done by the Luxor Night Campaign [the scientific mission] is another zero to add to the group of zeros we have obtained already,' Bedeir told Al- Ahram Weekly in a telephone interview.

He accused the team of being unethical in implementing their forensic examination, as well as disregarding the use of scientific procedures while removing the fragile mummy from its golden sarcophagus. This, he said, put the mummy under real threat of contamination, decomposition and deterioration."