updated 11/15/2004 2:22:29 AM ET 2004-11-15T07:22:29

The mummy of King Tutankhamun is to be X-rayed in an attempt to solve the mystery of how the teenage Pharaoh died at age 17, Egypt’s chief archaeologist said Sunday.

Zahi Hawass said that this month the mummy will be taken from King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, outside the southern city of Luxor, and flown to Cairo, where it will be X-rayed in the Egyptian Museum. It would be the first time in 82 years that Tutankhamun’s remains left the tomb.

“The question of whether he was murdered or not will be answered completely,” Hawass told The Associated Press.

Decades of fascination
The short life of Tutankhamun has fascinated people since his tomb was discovered in 1922, revealing a trove of fabulous treasures in gold and precious stones that showed the wealth and craftsmanship of the Pharaonic court.

King Tut ruled about 3,300 years ago. He ascended to the throne at about age 8 and died around 1323 B.C. at 17.

Several factors have prompted questions about the cause of death. Hawass said the conditions of his burial in the tomb seemed “hurried.”

An X-ray in 1968 showed bone fragments inside the skull, suggesting he was killed by a blow to the head. But, Hawass said, the X-ray machine was “not sophisticated enough to find out about the damage” to his skull.

A better scan
This year’s X-ray will be done with a German CT scan machine donated by Siemens and National Geographic, Hawass said.

“Before the beginning of 2005, the question of King Tut’s (death) will be answered and his mummy will be restored,” Hawass said.

The mummy, which Hawass said consists of scattered bones, has not left the tomb since the British archaeologist Howard Carter excavated the tomb. Hawass said Carter’s team damaged the mummy as they used sharp tools to prize off the famous gold and blue mask.

After the X-ray and restoration, the authorities will decide whether to exhibit the mummy or return it to the tomb.

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