by guest blogger Jolaine Incognito
You think embalming was a hassle? Try burial.
Because Pharaohs were buried with riches, their tombs had to be secure enough to deter thieves. In addition to barriers, mazes and decoys, a few tombs were protected by curses. Unfortunately for the deceased, graverobbers proved persistent, clever, and surprisingly curse-resistant. By the 19th century, when Europeans started seeking treasure in ancient Egyptian tombs, there was little treasure left to be found.
An Englishman named Howard Carter became convinced that one tomb remained undiscovered: the tomb of King Tutankhamen. On November 4th, 1922, more than 30 obsessive years after his arrival in Egypt, Carter’s team discovered a previously hidden – and still sealed – tomb entrance bearing the name Tutankhamen.
One of Carter’s henchman had been using a canary to show the way to the tomb. Before the tomb could be unsealed, the henchman ran to Carter with a handful of yellow feathers. “The pharaoh’s serpent ate the bird because it led us to the hidden tomb! You must not disturb the tomb!” Carter sent him packing.
Along with his patron, Lord Carnarvon, Carter opened the tomb. It contained incredible treasure, including a stone sarcophagus, inside which were three nested gold coffins, inside which was the mummy of Pharaoh Tutankhamen.
|According to rumour, the tomb also contained curses. In one version, Carter was supposed to have found a tablet inscribed with a curse. Later versions report an inscription on the exterior of the tomb: “Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the King.”A few months after the tomb’s opening, Lord Carnarvon died unexpectedly.
The exact cause of death was not known, but a likely culprit was an infection from an insect bite. When Tutankhamun’s mummy was unwrapped in 1925, it was said to bear a wound in the very same spot as Carnarvon’s fatal bite.
By 1929 eleven people connected with the discovery of the tomb had died of unexplained causes. The press tracked the deaths, attributing each to the “Mummy’s Curse”. By 1935 the curse had supposedly claimed 21 victims.
If you want to believe in the curse, stop reading here.
|Authentic Tomb Curses
It is I who hinder the sand from choking the secret chamber. I am for the protection of the deceased.As for anybody who shall enter this tomb in his impurity: I shall ring his neck as a bird’s.
As for any man who shall destroy these, it is the god Thoth who shall destroy him.As for him who shall destroy this inscription: He shall not reach his home. He shall not embrace his children. He shall not see success.
Later actuarial analyses showed that there was nothing unusual about the frequency and timing of the deaths, given the life expectancies of those involved in unsealing the tomb. Perhaps the curse had a nefarious psychological effect on some – but not on Howard Carter, pragmatist and curse nay-sayer from Day One. Carter died of natural causes at the then-ripe-old age of 66.
Next time: Stand back, I’z going to do science.