The tomb of King Tut, discovered 100 years ago, caused a deadly “curse”.

The tomb of King Tut, discovered 100 years ago, caused a deadly “curse”.


1922 On November 4, archaeologist Howard Carter and his team discovered the entrance to a tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt. Three weeks later, on November 26, Carter smashed a hole in a stone wall in an underground passage there. As he pointed his flashlight into the darkness, his friend and patron, George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, asked if he could see anything.

“Yes, wonderful things,” he replied, according to his book The Discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb, written with Arthur Cruttenden Mace in 1923. Suddenly, the world looked gold on the little-known pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. , jewels and other fantastical treasures come to light for the first time in over 3,000 years.

Almost as quickly, public attention shifted to the possibility that a curse would befall all who entered King Tut’s tomb. Sudden deaths, tragic misfortunes, and other unexplained events led to speculation that an evil spell plagued all who dared to desecrate the pharaoh’s final resting place.

After each disaster, media frenzy raged in Luxor. A few months after the discovery of the tomb, immediately after the first death of the archaeologist, newspaper headlines rang out about the “Curse of the Pharaohs” and claimed:

But was there really a curse? Some studies suggest a more conventional explanation: mold found on mummies and in the air in Egyptian burial sites.

Belief in the “curse of the mummy” predates the discovery of Tutankhamun by a century. It may have originated in England in the 1820s. In 2000, Egyptologist Dominique Montserrat reported finding the first reference to it in a London strip show, according to British newspaper The Independent.

No curses written in hieroglyphs have been found in the tomb of King Tutankhamun of Egypt, who died in 18 or 19, about AD. . King Tut had club feet and scoliosis, possibly caused by the royal family’s tradition of incest.

Carter himself rejected the concept of profanity as “tommy rot.” “The emotion of the Egyptologist … is not one of fear, but of reverence and awe … completely opposed to foolish superstitions,” he said, according to HVF Winstone in his book Howard Carter and the Discovery of the Tomb. Tutankhamun.”

However, Lord Carnarvon’s death on 5 April 1923 – less than five months after the tomb was opened – sparked rumors of evil magic. Newspaper stories abounded as more archaeologists and explorers fell ill and died. In 1926, the New York Daily News published an article titled, “King Tut’s Revenge Seen as Rising Death List.”

The creator of the famous Sherlock Holmes stories was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. After learning about the death of his friend, the famous spiritualist Doyle told the journalist:

Archaeologists have discovered more than 20 sealed coffins just as the ancient Egyptians left them.

After Comte’s death, others followed, including George Jay Gould, an American financier who died of pneumonia shortly after visiting the grave in 1923; Sir Archibald Douglas Reid, who died shortly after the mummy was x-rayed in London; and James Henry Breasted, an American archaeologist who lived until 1935 but died of an infection after his last trip to Egypt.

In addition, the media frenzy fueled a series of unfortunate events that plagued others who visited the tomb. British archaeologist Hugh Evelyn-White, who was working on excavations in Luxor, committed suicide in 1924. It is reported that he left a note where he wrote: “I am under a curse.” Carter’s private secretary Richard Bethel, the first to enter the grave behind his employer, was found dead in a London men’s club in 1929. Some historians believe that he was killed by the English occultist Aleister Crowley.

Carter died in 1939 of Hodgkin’s disease, 17 years after being diagnosed with a type of lymphatic cancer. And yet newspapers around the world focused almost exclusively on “The Curse of the Pharaohs” when publishing his obituary.

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Today, science has a more rational explanation. Studies have shown that an organic source may have been a contributing factor in at least some of the deaths. Common mold — esp Aspergillus — may have been present on the mummy of King Tut. Mold is known to cause serious infections in people with weakened immune systems.

“Potentially harmful fungi survive for long periods of time in tombs, and the findings suggest that prolonged periods such as dormancy may lead to increased infectivity,” British doctors Sherif El-Taweel and Tariq El-Taweel wrote in a letter to British doctors. magazine The Lancet in 2003.

The death of Lord Carnarvon, who was ill for most of his life and prone to upper respiratory ailments, seems to fit the diagnosis. According to his obituary New York Times, he died on April 5, 1923, of pneumonia caused by blood poisoning from a mosquito bite on his cheek that became infected after he stabbed it with a razor. El-Tawils wrote that he was most likely subdued Aspergilluswhich in turn became fatal streptococcus the infection that killed him after he cut himself with a razor.

The spores AspergillusThe El-Tawils write that they “grow especially well on grain, the supply of which was abundant in Tutankhamun’s tomb, with offerings of bread and raw grain kept in many baskets. Lord Carnarvon could easily have inhaled the contaminated grain dust when the sealed tomb was broken.”

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More recent scientific research has identified two types of mushrooms. Aspergillus niger and: Aspergillus flavus — On the Mummies and Tombs of Ancient Egypt. Agreed National Geographicthese strains can cause a variety of allergic reactions, from chest congestion to pulmonary hemorrhage or hemorrhaging in the lungs.

That mold may have played a role in the Earl’s death, or something else, is speculative. Researchers have argued for and against the idea for years. Without conclusive evidence, it will remain just a theory.

Which, of course, makes the belief in the “curse of the mummy” more permanent.

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