Crime analysis expert, former FBI agent and chief of police, Provo, Utah
Crime analysis expert, former lieutenant, Utah Attorney General's office
Q: What inspired you to look into the death of Tutankhamun?
A: (Mike King) - What we really wanted to do was to
bring different disciplines to an area that is normally the preserve
of Egyptologists. We really wanted to see if the principles that we've
spent years honing - criminal profiling, behavioral analysis, risk continuums,
victimology - could be applied to an ancient murder mystery. Obviously,
when you're dealing with a case like this you're looking at the same
evidence other people have, but as criminal detectives, we used very
different techniques to investigate the mystery of Tut's death. We were
convinced we could uncover something new or different, and I believe
we've been proved right.
(Greg Cooper) - A lot of my work both today and previously
with the FBI involves looking at unsolved homicides, sometimes 10, 20,
50 years old. With the advances in criminology and particularly with
forensic analysis, those in law enforcement and science have become more
and more interested in even older unsolved mysteries - Jack the Ripper,
for example. The many questions surrounding King Tut's death made this
case a natural candidate for investigation.
Q: Where did you begin?
A: (Cooper) - We approached this as we would any death
investigation. Throughout, we systematically looked at the possibility
of natural causes, suicide, accidental death, and of course, murder.
To begin to understand who our victim was, we both did a lot of initial
research, reading everything available on Tutankhamun - autopsy reports,
first-hand accounts of the people who discovered the tomb, historical
background. (King) - We had access to an amazing wealth of testimony
from experts around the world. And as soon as we had laid the groundwork
for our investigation, we went to Egypt ourselves to see the evidence
Q: How important was it for you to go to Egypt?
A: (King) - The time we spent in Egypt was absolutely
critical - that's our crime scene. We had to go there to see and get
a feel for the world Tutankhamun lived in. And it's an amazing place;
by going there you do then get the sense of the scale of all this, and
I don't just mean architecturally. This is a pharaoh we're talking about,
this is like assassinating a president. This was a country dominated
by tradition - you can see it everywhere you look in the monuments, the
statues, the temples. And suddenly, someone rocks that carefully crafted
status quo, and the history books (meaning the wall carvings and paintings)
make no mention of it. Well, that's a sign of a cover up if I've ever
Q: How did you obtain such special access to the tombs
of not only King Tut, but his chief advisors as well?
A: (Cooper) - To be honest, I think we enjoyed such
fantastic access because we were doing this investigation in conjunction
with the Discovery Channel. We were able to get into the actual burial
chamber of Tut's tomb, which even many Egyptologists haven't been allowed
to enter. You know, it's amazing -- a lot of people who visit that tomb
don't realize that Tut's body is still lying in his sarcophagus. We had
an Egyptologist with us at all times (Dr. Joann Fletcher or Dr. Zahi
Hawass) who was able to answer all the questions that we had from a historical
Q: What evidence do you think helped most in your investigation?
A: (Cooper) - Visiting the various tombs in the Valley
of the Kings and in Amarna probably gave us the most information about
our victim, and about potential murder suspects. The murals painted on
the walls of those tombs are the closest thing to living witness accounts
- they depict the real lives of people, telling us what was important
to them, and where they felt their place in the world was. We also had
the fortune of meeting up with the right people. I think for both of
us, one of the most dramatic moments came when we went to Amarna, where
Tut was born. It was important for us to go to Amarna to begin piecing
together our victimology, but one night as we were sitting in our hotel
and were casually talking to the area's director of antiquities, he let
slip that he believed there was a tomb that showed an assassination attempt
on Tut's father Akhenaten. He was extremely nervous about showing it
to us, but eventually agreed. His interpretation of the tomb scenes is
quite revolutionary; he believes they show torturing of would-be assassins
of Tut's father. But what was most interesting for us was that they also
showed Ay. He was depicted everywhere on the tomb walls, and knowing
that past behaviour is indicative of future behaviour, Ay would become
one of our main suspects.
(King) - We were also very excited to be given access
to the actual X-rays that were taken in the 1960s of Tutankhamun. It
was the X-ray of the skull that first sparked rumors of possible homicide
when the professor in charge of the tests (Professor R.G. Harrison of
Liverpool University) claimed after examining them that an area of density
at the base of the skull meant Tut could have died from a blow to the
head. Most people have only ever had access to positive prints -- photos
-- of the X-rays. Anyone who deals with radiographs knows how much more
can be seen if you actually can look at the X-rays themselves, so this
was a fantastic opportunity for us. We had quite a collection of medical
experts come down to the Salt Lake City Medical Examiners Office to look
at the X-rays, and they found some things I don't believe had been seen
or noticed before. And for us, the X-rays were a major turning point
in the investigation, and we learned some things that radically altered
our perception of Tut and will change the public's too.
Q: So, once you arrived in Egypt, what factors surrounding
Tutankhamun's death immediately struck you as suspicious?
A: (King) - Definitely the way he was buried. In Tut's
case, there was clear evidence of a hasty burial -- a badly painted tomb,
numerous artifacts that didn't belong to him, a mismatching sarcophagus
lid. This hasty burial of such an important figure suggested to us disrespect,
which is uncharacteristically odd for a pharaoh. Also, his age. Eighteen-year-olds
don't just die, and even in ancient times, a protected and sheltered
pharaoh was expected to enjoy a long life. He had the best of care, protection
Q: How did your investigative team help?
A: (Cooper) - We were able to obtain information from
some of the top experts in their chosen field, including some people
not normally associated with Egyptology, which was important to us. We
wanted to bring a different eye to this, we wanted to really try to get
inside the heads of these people. So we called on, for example, Dr. Harold
Bursztajn, one of the world's leading forensic psychiatrists from Harvard
Medical School, who corroborated our behavioral analysis. Additionally,
because of previous speculation that Tut might have died from a blow
to the back of the head, we obviously wanted to investigate this possibility
further. The opportunity to utilize the expertise of a forensic pathologist,
a medical examiner, was fantastic and something which we don't think
has ever been done before.
(King) - In another example, Professor Alan Dershowitz
of Harvard Law School also helped out. Again, a totally different discipline.
As a leading defense attorney, it was interesting to see if he agreed
that we had enough to go to a grand jury with. We really wanted to bring
the framework of a modern homicide investigation into this as much as
Q: But, unlike a modern homicide investigation, the
evidence is over 3,000 years old and is quite scant now. How did you
A: (King) - Actually, scant evidence is a problem you
face in modern homicides, too. In fact, in this case we were quite lucky
- at least there's still a body and autopsies have been performed on
it. Sometimes today you don't even have a body. (Cooper) - There's actually
quite a lot more evidence than you would expect, if you know what to
look for and how to interpret it in the context of an investigation.
Q: Who were your prime suspects?
A: (King) - After a closer look at the victimology in
Tut's case, we determined that there was a low level of risk for someone
at his young age and as protected as he was. Because of this low level
of risk, we had to look at the circle of contact with the pharaoh, which
was quite limited. By systematically investigating those who were the
closest to Tut, it led us to four main suspects, including even his young
wife, Ankhesenamun. We also considered Horemheb, the commander-in-chief
of the army; Maya, Tut's chief finance minister, and Ay, the prime minister
and chief advisor to Tut.
(Cooper) - We did a profile of each suspect, investigating
the factors leading up to, during and after Tut's death. We also considered
motive, opportunity and means for each of our suspects.
Q: Why did you reconstruct Tutankhamun's face? What
did you hope to accomplish?
A: (King) - Facial reconstruction is something that
is often done in cases involving a decomposed victim -- usually it's
to put a face to a missing person, but in this case we really wanted
to be able to personalize King Tut. We all know the famous death mask,
we all know the story of (Howard) Carter's discovery of the tomb, but
it was important for us to know -- Who was King Tut, what was his real
story, and why did someone want him dead? Throughout our entire investigation,
our goal was to get to the real Tutankhamun, and I think this exercise
helped us do that.
Q: What surprised you most about your investigation?
A: (King) - We weren't necessarily surprised, but we
were certainly left with a reconfirmation that human nature ... human
crimes ... haven't changed at all in over 3,000 years. The things that
motivate human behavior - power, dominion, control - are the same now
as they were in Tut's day.
Compliments of the Discovery Channel