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Pharaoh Tutankhamun – The oldest (and most famous?) known cleft patient?

The ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, who died in 1324 BC, is a historical figure known to many for the sensational artwork found in his tomb, including a spectacular death mask. What is less well known is that the young deceased was also a cleft palate patient. Scientists also found traces of a cleft palate on his body, which was very well preserved due to Egyptian mummification techniques.

An exciting overview not only of the medical history of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, but also of the very early history of cleft surgery can be found in a fascinating article (hosted by the Saxon State Medical Association) from the German medical professional periodical Ärzteblatt by Priv.-Doz. Dr. Dr. Niels Christian Pausch of the Clinic and Polyclinic for Maxillofacial and Plastic Surgery of the University Hospital Leipzig and Dr. Franziska Naether of the Egyptological Institute of the University of Leipzig.

A promising treatment for his cleft palate was unfortunately not available to Pharaoh Tutankhamun during his lifetime, even as the most powerful man in Egypt. Therefore, he probably suffered from severe impairments in his everyday life such as speech problems, problems with eating, chronic painful ear infections, etc., just like our little patients do before they receive their surgery. Today, fortunately, even children from the poorest families have access to qualified treatment for their cleft lip and palate thanks to our donors.

Image credit: Wikipedia user Djehouty under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license.