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The Curse of the Ancients

Updated on October 1, 2013

The Curse of the Mummy

Supposedly engraved on the outside of King Tut's tomb were the words "Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the King...". Most of the former Pharaoh's tombs had been broken into, by grave robbers, and stripped of their wealth and valuables however one young man arrived in Egypt determined to find an unknown tomb. Howard Carter arrived in 1891 with only one goal, to uncover an unearthed tomb, of an unknown Pharaoh. There was a rumor that one the tomb had been opened, Carter had found a slab with the curse engraved on it, but hidden the slab in order to not alarm anyone that was working with him. He denied doing so. Denying this action did not stop "the curse of the mummy" from exploding with media hype and bringing King Tut to an eternal fame that one would not have guessed, for a boy King who didn't have a gigantic role in the long history of Ancient Egypt.

King Tutankhamun

He is known as the "Boy Pharaoh". When discussing Ancient Egypt he is the most well known of them all. In a whirlwind of events, Tut became Pharaoh at age 9. Following his Father's reign, he became a Pharaoh in a time of anger and upheaval. His Father had thrown everything ancient Egypt had known into the trash as he not only changed their God's from "Amun" to the solar deity "Aten", but also destroyed all they knew in their temples and capitol city as he moved everyone and created a new life Akhetaten.

When King Tut took the throne over he made a hard change to throw away his Father's work to move Egyptians back to what they knew, including their God's and their capitol City. He also chose to change his birth name from Tutankhaten (The living image of Aten) to, what we know him as, Tutankhamun (The living image of Amun). His life is shrouded in mystery. No one quite knows how he gained power at such a young age, and why he died at such a young age, suddenly around the age of 17. New evidence has surfaced that King Tut died from not only a hunting accident, which brought about serious infection, but from the most severe case of Malaria one can receive. His wife was desperately abandoned in King Tut's death and begged to marry an enemy, a Hittite, who died on his way to marry Tut's former wife. No one is quite sure what happened to her either. Without an heir to his throne, there was no one to carry on the dynasty and the legacy he had created.

The tomb of King Tut, lying in the Valley of the Kings, is layered in mystery and superstition, which helped add to his famousness. The media hype surrounding the tomb when it was uncovered is a great unsolved mystery that is still discussed today, and is also still trying to be solved in this day and age. The beauty of his golden tomb caused death and suffering to those who entered it.

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The Beginning of the Curse

The beginning of the whispers of the curse came a few months after the tomb was opened. Lord Carnarvon, Carter's investor, had taken ill and had to be rushed to Cairo into healthcare, only to die a few days later. Although it was unsure how he died, it had seemed to be an infection from an insect bite Lord Carnarvon had received. Legend had it that there was a power outage in Cairo in the exact moment that he had died and back home in England his favorite dog had dropped dead. When they unwrapped the mummy of the tomb, interestingly enough, it supposedly had a mark on its cheek in the exact spot that Lord Carnarvon had the fatal bug bite that has started the rumors of "the mummy's curse".

Eleven people (connected with the opening of the tomb) had been claimed by "the mummy's curse" by 1929 under the suspicion of unnatural causes which had occurred far before their time. This included two of Lord Carnarvon's relatives, including his secretary, and his secretary's Father, who had left a note stating, ""I really cannot stand any more horrors and hardly see what good I am going to do here, so I am making my exit." before he leapt to his death. By 1935, the press had credited 21 deaths to the "curse" of King Tut.

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People out to discredit the Curse

The director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Herbert E. Winlock, made his own calculations that out of the 22 people present when the tomb was opened in 1922, only 6 had died by 1934 and of the 22 people present at the opening of the sarcophagus in 1924, only 2 died in the following ten years. Also ten people were there when the mummy was unwrapped in 1925, and all survived until at least 1934.

In 2002 there was also a medicine scholar named Mark Nelson that created a study to prove that the curse never existed. He found that the average age of those people involved with the tomb, or the sarcophagus, was 70 years. Many of the stories associated with the curse were also explained with easy answers.

One might think the power of the curse (as always) resides in the mind of the man who believes in it. Howard Carter had never believed in the curse and lived a good life until he died of natural causes.

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Other curses from other tombs

"As for any man who will make a disturbance, I shall be judged with him"

"A crocodile be against him in the water; a snake be against him on land, he who would do anything against this tomb. Never did I do a thing against him. It is the god who will judge."

"As for anything that you might do against this tomb of mine of the West, the like shall be done against your property. I am an excellent lector priest, exceeding knowledgeable in secret spells and all magic. As for any person who will enter into this tomb of mine in their impurity, having eaten the abominations that excellent akh-spirits abominate, or who do not purify themselves as they should purify themselves for an excellent akh who does what his lord praises, I shall seize him like a goose (wring his neck), placing fear in him at seeing ghosts upon earth, that they might be fearful of an excellent akh... But as for anyone who will enter into this tomb of mine being pure and peaceful regarding it, I shall be his protective backer in the West in the court of the great god."

"[Anyone who damages my tomb will] lose their earthly positions and honors, be incinerated in a furnace in execration rites, capsize and drown at sea, have no successors, receive no tomb or funerary offerings of their own, and their bodies would decay because they will stave without sustenance and their bones will perish".

Further discrediting

People have also discussed the possibility that there was a fungus that was trapped inside of the tomb that could have caused the sickness associated with those who opened and explored the tomb. A doctor from Cairo University believed that black mold could have survived for thousands of years within the tomb and been inhaled by those who first opened the tomb. Black mold can cause fever, fatigue, and rashes. An Italian physician identified another possible fungus, Aspergillus ochraceus, found in many other tombs in egypt. In 1999 a German microbiologist, from the University of Leipzig, analyzed 40 mummies and identified several potentially dangerous mold spores on each, which can (once again), survive thousands of years, and although most are harmless, some can be extremely toxic. People with weakened immune systems, like Lord Carnarvon, can be at a higher risk for having a bad reaction to the mold spores and although most archeologists today wear masks and gloves, those back then didn't believe in a need for protective gear.

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    • jrnevermore profile image
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      jrnevermore 3 years ago

      I've always been fascinated with ancient Egypt and I don't think there's anything more interesting then the curse of king Tut! It consumed the world as people cowered in fear...it doesn't get much more real than that! Is it real or not? Doesn't matter, its a great legend that will live forever!!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi, fascinating look at King Tuts curse. Yes back then we never knew about the mold, but it seems that the ancients did. They went into the tombs and what with the actual find being awe inspiring and the superstitions of the day it was a real mix that sadly some still believe really was a curse, or was it? lol! great hub! voted up!