6.28.2010

CultureLab: On the trail of Tutankhamen's penis

CultureLab: On the trail of Tutankhamen's penis

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I am so sick of Tut stuff I could vomit, but this was enough to make me post again.  Also, I suck for not keeping up with the ongoing Egyptian history and archaeology posts that I promised to do.  I'm actually hoping to start those up again soonish.

First of all, while Irwin Braverman of Yale Medical School and Philip Mackowiak of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland (doctors mentioned in the article as supporting the idea of a genetic disorder who wrote to JAMA regarding that very thing) may be perfectly good doctors, they are not Egyptologists. As I've discussed before, there is no requirement that a medical explanation be found for the "bizarre" or "androgynous" appearance of individuals in depictions from the Amarna Period as there is very good evidence that the unusual depictions have more to do with artistic convention that reality. So, that's mildly annoying, but only mildly because, really, that horse will never be fully beaten to death.

More annoying is this:
I smelled a conspiracy. Could ancient Egyptian embalmers have replaced the royal member to hide the fact that their king's manhood was somewhat lacking? What's more, the front of Tut's chest is missing, so it's impossible to check whether he did indeed have breasts. Was this part of the mummy's anatomy sabotaged too?
Yes, let's introduce unfounded speculation into an article on a site called "The New Scientist!" Woo! Never mind that there isn't really any reason to suspect that someone swapped out Tut's wang and replaced it with a bigger one or that his chest was deliberately damaged to hide evidence of moobs other than this journalist deciding she wants to be provocative.

Marchant is at least good enough to admit this later on after having spoken to John Taylor at the British Museum.  Unfortunately she doesn't mention that the recently published JAMA article indicates that  of the remains investigated by the researches, only Yuya had a cephalic index indicating an unusually elongated skull.  In fact, she suggests that photos should be taken/made available to compare the skulls of the remains identified as Akhenaten and Tutankhamun.  Bear in mind, the "unusually elongated skull" is one of the many signs that people jump all over when trying to diagnose Tut and family with various diseases, syndromes, and disorders.
Sigh.

For those wanting more info or citations- I direct you to The Complete Tutankhamun: The King, the Tomb, the Royal Treasure (King Tut) by Nicholas Reeves, pp 116-118 discuss the mummy and Carter and his team unwrapping it.  The photo on p. 117 clearly shows Tut's penis attached to his body and it's precise positioning and details of wrapping are briefly discussed on that same page.

Damage to the chest was caused by a combination of poor embalming technique and the subsequent unwrapping of the body by Carter et al.

The mummy and the unwrapping is also described by Carter in The Tomb of Tutankamen, pp 174-198, though more attention is given to the multitude of jewelry, amulets, etc., placed on the body.

And as an aside, I sincerely hope the first comment on the article itself is a joke.  Please.

I think this may also call for an addition to my Time Travel To-Do List:
1.  If someone invents a time machine and I go back to ancient Egypt, scribes better watch out. I will be pimp-slapping every last one of those bastards.
2.  Claim Europe.
3.  Print this out and take a copy to Charles Darwin.  For the lulz.
4.  Find the Trolololo guy and kill him.
5.  Take photos of Akhenaten and his extended family.  And blood samples.  And possibly penis measurements (that's totally getting farmed out to some grad student I hate).

2 comments:

bookewyrme said...

I suspect that first comment isn't a joke. I get seriously asked, by otherwise intelligent people, if there's any truth in the theory that aliens built the pyramids. I can't even begin to imagine how many more people it'll be once I have a degree that actually says Egyptology, instead of Classics.

~Lia

Shoveling Ferret said...

Oh yeah - I learned a long time ago never to tell seatmates on planes that I was an Egyptologist. Crazy + no escape = not good.
Sigh...