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The story of Ancient Egypt is capturing, fascinating and mysterious. Majestic pyramids – the only existing Wonder of the World, tombs of ancient Egyptian kings –Pharaohs all wrapped in a shroud of mystery because no one still can explain how they were built as even now there are no technologies able to handle such task with such astonishing results.
Due to beliefs of Ancient Egyptians, body of deceased person should be preserved as good as it is possible the physical body would be important in the next life. And, according to believe in the next life, Egyptians buried their dead with treasures to supplement a decent after-life. To be sure that no one would touch those treasures, priests laid down curses: The curses were of bad lack death or illnesses and did not discriminate, whether the intentions of the person were bad or good as in the case of archaeologists (MacDonald and Rice pg 25-50). As a rule, all pyramids and earlier underground tombs of kings and nobility of Ancient Egypt were ransacked of their valuables thousands years ago, so archeologists found only empty sepulchers with mummies. But in November 1922 the situation had changed.
That was the time when Howard Carter had found the untouched tomb of King Tutankhamen and started the excavations in February 1923. He was sponsored by Lord Carnarvon and that sponsorship made a good haul – the tomb was filled with gold funerary pieces.
Opening of the tomb was highlighted with a string of mysterious deaths. The first “victim” was Carter’s canary that was eaten by a cobra. Lord Carnarvon was the first to die because of a mosquito bite – and his dog in England died the same day. One after another twelve archeologists who have entered the tomb with Carter died. The flame of superstition and sensationalism was kindled by novelists and spiritualists in newspapers and novels of that time, but were there any curse and why the rumors spread around the world?
The first people suggesting about Tut’s curse were Arabs – utility workers on the excavations. They refused to enter the tomb saying that the mummy would attack all tomb robbers. Then Sir Arthur Conan has caught the bud and said that he was convinced that Pharaoh’s curse had killed Carnarvon and after that, the press started publishing wild speculations (MacDonald and Rice pg 25-50).
That very point of view was expressed by Arthur Weigal, the Daily Mail journalist, who was in Egypt at the time of excavations but was not allowed to the tomb as only journalists of the Times had permission. He predicted that Lord Carnarvon would live no longer than 6 weeks after entering the tomb this shows that Arthur believed in the stories of the curse and such a curse may have existed. The history has shown that he was not too mistaken – Carnarvon died within 4 month after the publication.
The other perspective on the curse was proposed by Richard Adamson who as a policeman guarded the tomb for 7 years. He suggested that the story about curse was concocted by journalists who had no other rattlers and supported by archeologists who believe that the story about curse would frighten off disturbers and robbers. (Day pg 4-10).
Other suggested that the source of the curse is deadly mold that grows in tombs – and partially it is true as recent studies revealed that some of the tombs carry molds like Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus niger that can cause allergic reactions especially in the lungs leading to breathing impairment. They are especially deadly to people with weak immune system (Ganeri and West pg 8-20).
Curse stories may be really convincing as people want to believe in supernatural. It is easy to connect deaths with opening of the tomb of one of the most mysterious ancient kings and thus revive the ideas of curses.
Day, Jasmine. The Mummy’s Curse: Mummymania in the English-speaking world. New York: Routledge Publishers, 2006. Electronic.
Ganeri, Anita and David West. The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and Other Ancient Discoveries. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2012. Electronic.
MacDonald, Sally and Michael Rice. Consuming Ancient Egypt. London: UCL Press, 2003. Electronic.