The curse of Tutankhamen

The story of Tutankhamen.
It was 1922, in Egypt in Valley of the Kings, an archeologist named Howard Carter was hunting for the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen which he believed was a gold mine untouched by the grave robbers. His team was busy digging up the suspected tomb sites when suddenly one of his workers spotted a gap in the sandy debris. Upon further digging Carter finally discovered the steps down which took him to the unbroken seals on the tomb of Tutankhamen. He sent a telegram to his boss Lord Carnarvon about this discovery and they came back to the tomb 4 days later. They entered the tomb and the treasures that Howard Carter discovered in Tutankhamun's tomb were factually sensational, and so the media started making up facts to sensationalize their stories, and in print, people believed them.

In late March of 1923, a novelist named Mari Corelli (Mary Mackay) published a warning that there would be dire consequences for anyone who had entered the sealed tomb. Perhaps this revelation was inspired by the fact that on the day Howard Carter opened the tomb, his pet canary was swallowed by a cobra. Cobras, as the goddess Wadjet, were the protectors of the Pharaoh.

Lord Carnarvon who was financing the whole exploration had been in poor health for over 20 years following a motoring accident. When he died of pneumonia in Cairo on April 5th, 1923, only a few weeks after Mari Corelli's warnings, newspapers and other media throughout the world simply went crazy. As often as not, they made up the facts as they went along. Even Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and himself a believer in the occult and at this time a very popular writer, announced that Lord Carnarvon's death could have been the result of a "Pharaoh's curse".
It was said that at the moment of Lord Carnarvon's death, the lights went out in Cairo (an event that is still not uncommon today), and that back in England his dog, susie, howled and died in the same instant. These reported events are difficult to prove or disprove.
However, other facts were simply invented by the press. One newspaper printed a curse reportedly found in the tomb:
"They who enter this sacred tomb shall swift be visited by wings of death."

There was no such curse, but there was one inscription found on an Anubis shrine that stated: "It is I who hinder the sand from choking the secret chamber. I am for the protection of the deceased". This was correctly reported to the public, but one reporter added his won words to the inscription: "and I will kill all those who cross this threshold into the sacred precincts of the Royal King who lives forever."

In addition, newspapers appear to have arbitrarily killed off many of the people surrounding the tomb's discovery. According to one list, 26 people associated with the find died within a decade of its discovery. In reality, only six people died during this first decade, while many others lived to an old age.
For example, the curse should have laid squarely on the shoulders of Howard Carter himself, but he lived another 17 years, dying just prior to his 65th birthday. Yet he had spent about a decade working in the tomb. Others likewise lived long and fruitful lives.


 

Martin Mathew has a B.A. in economics from Christ University.

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