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Field Notes
Garrett
Photograph by Cheryl Zook
Kenneth Garrett

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

It was exciting to be able to use the latest technology to examine one of the most important figures of all time and to answer some longstanding questions surrounding his death. Thanks to the CT scan, we were able to conclude that King Tut was 19 years old when he died, a grown young man who would have been old enough and mature enough to be the leader of Egypt.

And he didn't die from being hit on the back of his head. He had a broken knee and evidence of broken bones in his heel, but he was otherwise healthy with no indication of genetic disorders. There's a very strong chance he died in some sort of chariot accident during sports or training or even warfare. We don't have all the answers; we may never have them. But we know now that he wasn't some little puppet child of the administration. It's very likely that he was just a rambunctious teenager driving his chariot too fast, as teenagers might do.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

When Egypt's news media found out about this project, we received a lot of political pressure to not disturb King Tut. We were delayed by a month or two as newspaper articles protested American involvement and accused us of disturbing the dead by moving the country's most famous pharaoh. Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, had to go to parliament to explain that we were doing scientific work. We were just going to take King Tut out, run him through a noninvasive process, and put him right back. We weren't going to destroy anything. It took all that to request permission to do the job.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

The bulk of this story was shot in about three hours, but it took me about three months to get it through the in-house process. We started work about 5 p.m. on January 5. Then we took King Tut out, did the CT scan, and by about 8 p.m. Tut was back in his tomb. So January and February were spent shepherding the story across multiple platforms: National Geographic magazine, television, the exhibit, the catalog for the exhibit, the children's book, and the children's magazine article. We worked among the different departments with the same limited amount of photographs to make sure everyone had the best of the material for their specific needs.