Home » Epilepsy Blog » News » King Tut and all the speculation

King Tut and all the speculation

I read the pieces on King Tut in both the Washington Post and in Time and I have to say I was annoyed. When a friend forwarded the WaPo story to me with the note “Interesting theory,” I realized I needed to respond.

Let me just say up front, The Washington Post and Time pieces are just bad regurgitations of the original article, and worse, they exacerbate the stigma that people with epilepsy already deal with on a daily basis.

First, here is the original article, wherein several leaders in the epilepsy community note the theory that King Tutankhamen died as a result of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE) is completely speculative: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21528812.400-tutankhamuns-death-and-the-birth-of-monotheism.html

Second, I cannot find any REPUTABLE source that confirms that TLE causes feminized features.

Third, Epilepsy is not the result of incest as it was alluded to in the original article and several of the resulting articles including the Washington Post and Time pieces.

Fourth, although TLE does cause seizures that can manifest as hallucinations, this does not mean that people with epilepsy are crazy. These hallucinations can include simple déjà vu.

The ONLY good thing to come out of this is increased awareness about the fact that people can die from epilepsy. That is, if the theory about King Tut is true.

If not, it’s possible this press coverage could damage to all the work we are doing to raise awareness of SUDEP.

Let me know what you thought of the King Tut piece. Maybe I’m overreacting.

Follow Jessica K. Smith:


Founder and CEO Jessica brings a unique perspective to this leading epilepsy blog as she was diagnosed with epilepsy as a teen. She also brings 20+ years experience in marketing.

5 Responses

  1. Morgan
    | Reply

    I really appreciate what you do, Jessica. I have not read the article on King Tut before, but I definitely would not appreciate encouragement of stigma from it. I have TLE, and my auras manifest as feelings of jamais vu rather than deja vu. It's a terrifying feeling, and people don't realize that I could be having an aura while having every day interactions and they would never notice.

    • Jessica Keenan Smith
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comment. It is especially important to hear from people living with TLE!
      Jessica K. Smith
      Living Well With Epilepsy

    • Morgan
      | Reply

      You're welcome. 🙂 Also, jamais vu is a feeling of never being in a situation in which you might normally be in daily. It is pretty much the inverse of deja vu. For me it is a terrifying feeling.

  2. Kris Underwood
    | Reply

    I saw this too and was wondering if you'd post something on it. I have a lot of problems with the articles. I have heard the theory that Tut could have had Epilepsy quite a few years ago. It could be possible, but not for the reasons stated in the articles.
    This surgeon (referencing the TIME article) thinks Tut had Epilepsy because Tut is portrayed as a “feminized figure” in art, died at an early age as did his predecessors, and related Pharaohs had major religious visions. That seems pretty broad to pin Epilepsy.
    Considering the generations of incest that went on in many royal families, it could be any number of things. Epilepsy could be a possibility for sure. But because of (incest and) these very vague reasons? I have my doubts.
    An explanation for the “feminized figure” could simply be some kind of deformity. And, to connect TLE to the birth of monotheism?? Talk about over reaching. There is no doubt that certain aspects of TLE have been compared to religious visions in the past. Dostoevsky wrote about that often. Particularly in The Idiot. Caesar is said to have Epilepsy and conquered half the world. But I seriously doubt it was because he had Epilepsy. Looks like what is being described in these situations is the aura.
    As for dying early and as did his predecessors, life expectancy wasn't very high, first of all. Second, going back to the rampant incest, it is well documented that the deeper you get into it, the more common deformities and rare diseases are, which could lead to early death. I don't want to get into the history of the Pharohs, because, well, this comment would end op being pages and pages. It's getting long enough already :)Ok. Religious visions. All I'm going to say about this is there are religious zealots who have visions who don't have Epilepsy.
    I could go on and on. Sigh.
    I think the articles are over reaching and do more harm than good.

    • Jessica Keenan Smith
      | Reply


      As you might imagine, a smile creeped across my face as I read your comment. I agree, I could go on and on. And it's good to know I'm not overreacting.

      Thanks as always,
      Living Well With Epilepsy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.