Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Curse of King Tutankhamun

The tomb of Tutankhamun, a pharaoh, dead at 18 was opened by a team of archeologists on the 17th of February 1923. Led by the Englishmen Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon, this was one of the most remarkable finds in modern archeology. The seal of the tomb was not broken. Virtually any tomb had been broken into and raided by grave robbers not just once, but twice and thrice through the millennia, but not this one.

   The treasures blinded the men, as gold and fool's gold has always done.

   The most amazing part of it isn't just what happened to the excavation members, but also with others, wo, in various ways encountered the treasure, the curse.
   This is the incredible story following the excavation, the long years of death and suffering, continuing to present day:
   47 days after entering the tomb Lord Carnarvon died painfully on Hotel Continental in Cairo. The cause of death has forever been deemed as unknown, but a mosquito bit him on his cheek, on precisely the same spot where the boy king had a blemish on his skin.

   Arthur Maze, another of the expedition's archeologists, died shortly afterwards, on the same hotel. Carnarvon had just hastily been buried. Maze complained of tiredness and went into coma, never to awaken. If the expedition's medic had a hard time explaining Carnarvon's death, they were completely clueless this time.
   Archibald Reid, the team's radiologist returned to England after complaining of exhaustion. He had just reached English soil when he died.
   George Gould, a close friend of Carnarvon traveled to Egypt when learning of his friend's demise. He visited the tomb, collapsing of high fever and died during the night.

   Carnarvon's personal secretary, Richard Bethell, died of heart failure four months after the breaching of the tomb.
   The old expression "dropping like flies" is truly a significant description of the shocking event following the breaching. More people visited the tomb and died. Within six years after this triumph of modern archeology 12 people present at the time were dead. In 1939, when the last one, Howard Carter died of what was seemingly natural causes only Richard Adamson, the security chief (not present by the breaching) was still alive. Additionally 21 connected in some (often obscure) way with the dig had died. Lord Carnarvon's half-brother committed suicide. The medics claimed temporary insanity as the cause.

   The death toll and number of "accidents" continued to mount during the latter half of the twentieth century. Academics, Egyptologists and others have attempted to ridicule and debunk the curse. To explain "rationally," to explain away the biggest "chain of coincidence" in history. Many of them have themselves fallen victim to the curse.
   Mohammed Ibrahim, Egypt's director of antiquities, died in 1966. He argued, begged Egyptian authorities not to let some of the relics leave the country for an exhibition in Paris. A car ran him down out of the blue while he was stepping out in the streets. Neither the car - nor the driver was ever found.
   Richard Adamson, in 1969 the sole survivor of the monumental expedition voiced his disbelief, his rejection of the curse. His wife died less than 24 hours later. His son barely survived an aircraft crash, but broke his back. Adamson, the old sod, determined not to give in to "superstitious nonsense", gave an interview in British television where he restated his denial.

   Another major chapter was written in 1972 when the precious cargo was flown to London with a Royal Air Force plane. Gamal Mehrez, Ibrahim's successor in Cairo as director of antiquities, ridiculed the curse, claiming that all the deaths and misfortunes throughout the years were "pure coincidence". He died before the plane took off.    The flight's crew members all felt heavily the curse in the years to follow.
   Flight Lieutenant Rick Laurie suffered a heart-attack in 1976 and died, after having complained of "horrible visions and nightmares". The flight engineer, Ken Parkinson lived through a number of heart -attacks. They happened every year during precisely the same time as the flight had commenced, until his final… and fatal one, in 1978. Flight Lieutenant Jim Webb lost everything he owned during a fire. Death and misfortune haunted all the crew-members. One person, after two heart-attacks "confessed" in tears that he had partaken in a poker game on the sarcophagus…
The tumb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings

When Lord Carnarvon died on 5 April 1923, seven weeks after the official opening of pharaoh Tutankhamun's burial chamber, rumours were rife about a curse.  News of Tutankhamun's tomb and its discoverers had sent the world's media into a frenzy and the death of Lord Carnarvon added another twist for eager journalists.

All sorts of links were found. The lights of Cairo were said to have gone out at the moment of his death (not an uncommon occurrence back then), while back at Carnarvon's English estate his dog, Susie, was supposed to have howled and died at the same time.

Carnarvon's death came just a couple of weeks after a public warning by novelist Mari Corelli that there would be dire consequences for anyone who entered the sealed tomb.  The media and public lapped it up.  Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and a believer in the occult, announced that Carnarvon's death could have been the result of a "Pharaoh's curse".

One newspaper even printed a curse supposed to have been written in hieroglyphs at the entrance of the tomb, the translation being:
"They who enter this sacred tomb shall swift be visited by wings of death."
However, no inscribed curse was found.
One inscription, found on the Anubis shrine (a jackal on a pedestal shown here) in the tomb's so-called Treasury, did say:
"It is I who hinder the sand from choking the secret chamber. I am for the protection of the deceased."
However, a reporter went on to add his own words to the reported inscription:
"and I will kill all those who cross this threshold into the sacred precincts of the Royal King who lives forever."
Reporting of the curse was further fuelled by more deaths, many with very stretched associations to Tutankhamun. Five months after Carnarvon died, his younger brother died suddenly.
Closer to the tomb, another "casualty" was the pet canary of the tomb's discoverer, Howard Carter. The bird was swallowed by a cobra on the day the tomb was opened.  This was interpreted as retribution for violation of the tomb, particularly as a cobra was depicted on the brow of the pharaoh from where it would spit fire at the king's enemies.

According to one list, of the 26 individuals present at the official opening of the tomb, six had died within a decade. In reality, many of the key individuals associated with the discovery and work on the tomb lived to a ripe old age.
Even when some of the treasures of Tutankhamun went on tour overseas in the 1970s, some people were still of the belief that the curse might be at work. One example was from San Francisco where a policeman guarding Tutankhamun's gold funerary mask tried to claim compensation for a mild stroke based on the effect of the curse. The judge dismissed the claim.
Here is a list of some of the major players involved with the tomb and their fates.
Lord Carnarvon:
Carnarvon had been in poor health for over 20 years following a motoring accident in Germany. Less than two weeks after the official opening of the burial chamber, Carnarvon received a mosquito bite which became infected after he cut it while shaving. Carnarvon fell ill and, with his resistance lowered, came down with pneumonia and eventually passed away at the age of 57.
Howard Carter:
As discoverer of the tomb, Carter should have been Number 1 on the curse's "hit list", but he survived until March 1939, just short of his 65th birthday and nearly 17 years after entering the tomb - about a decade of which was spent working in the tomb itself.
Lady Evelyn Herbert:
Lady Evelyn, Lord Carnarvon's daughter and one of the first into the tomb, died in 1980 at the age of about 79.
Harry Burton:
Burton was the photographer loaned to Carter by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art to document the work done in Tutankhamun's tomb. Many of the magnificent black & white photographs of the time were taken by Burton who died in 1940.
Alan Gardiner:
Gardiner studied the tomb's inscriptions and was still very active working on Egyptian grammar for many decades until his death in 1963.
Dr D. E. Derry:
Derry carried out the original autopsy on Tutankhamun's mummy. If anyone should have been cursed along with Carter, it probably should have been Derry, but he didn't die until 1969.

The face of Tutankhamun

 Tutankhamun´s Curse Documentary
The Series Egypt


  1. very good historical post on great Pyramid of Tutankhamen, from Nitin..

  2. I am doing a project in school about Eqypt and their leaders and this REALLY came in handy. Especially the pictures too. THANK U!!!!!

    1. Thank you fr that comment Tany. That is the main purpose of this be useful for students. Please support the blog by following it. I am so happy to know it was useful for you.

  3. I find it horrible for anyone to dig up someone's child let alone only son how many bodies need to lay at rest for you so called humans get the pictures

    Sincerely yours truly Nefertiti.....