The stories surrounding the curse on King Tutankhamen’s tomb began during the spring of 1923 when Lord Carnarvon, the person who was responsible for funding the tomb’s excavation, died shortly after its discovery. Lord Carnarvon’s misfortunes began when a mosquito bit him on the cheek and he accidentally aggravated the spot by shaving; shortly after this mishap, the wound became infected and he fell sick. His symptoms became extremely exaggerated and although a doctor was sent to help cure his fever, Lord Carnarvon died before help arrived. According to observers, all of the lights in Cairo went out at the exact moment he died (KingTutOne, n.d.).
It’s important to understand that before this situation even occurred, there were a multitude of stories handed down throughout history about how mummies had magic powers. As a consequence of the pre-existing legends, it is likely that the researchers who approached the tomb had been gossiping amongst themselves about the fears and wonders they had about uncovering this burial site. When Lord Carnarvon fell ill, it made sense to explain his death in terms of the curse. While it is nearly impossible to tell what he really died from, we do know that his death began a series of rumors that increased the legacy of the curse of the mummy.
According to legend, anyone who dared to disturb a mummy’s grave would suffer a series of mishaps that are the mummy’s way of protecting its resting place. Before the discovery of King Tut’s grave, there were no known Egyptian tombs that remained untouched by grave robbers. Therefore, this dig had a certain stigma because this team would be the first to disturb a grave of a mummy that had been resting peacefully. After Lord Carnarvon mysteriously died, the media was drawn to this case which contributed to the perpetuation of the myth. It was they who claimed that King Tut enacted vengeance upon Lord Carnarvon and whoever entered the tomb would suffer the consequences. In addition to this, the media spread two more rumors; the first is that a cobra killed Howard Carter, who discovered King Tut’s tombm
OThey claimed King Tut wanted vengeance and announced a mummy’s curse, which targeted those who had entered the tomb. Not only did the death of Carnarvon get all the people in an uproar but other stories began to surface as well. Of the stories that surfaced, two remain prominent. One of the prominent stories is that a cobra killed Howard Carter’s (explorer who discovered King Tut’s burial place) and the other is the Carnavron’s dog suddenly dropped dead at the same moment his owner did.
Despite the myth that Howard Carter was killed by a snake, it has been documented that he lived for ten years after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. During this time he researched the artifacts found in the tomb and compiled an extensive database of the history of the items, their relationship to the king, and successfully connected the role of King Tut’s importance in Egyptian history. Skeptics note that Howard Carter was the first person to enter the tomb and spent a lot of time in the tomb thereafter this initial entry; therefore, if the curse of the mummy is true, why didn’t Carter die around the same time as Lord Carnavron?
Many scientists and researchers are currently interested in determining why Lord Carnavron actually died and what could be contained within King Tut’s tomb that caused this. The most realistic explanation for the myth is that the story is so old and told by so many people that we don’t know the actual facts of what happened when Lord Carnavron died. In addition, there is no documentation on whether his dog also died, why the lights in Cairo went out, if the lights in Cairo actually went out at the same exact time that Lord Carnavron died, and whether a snake killed Carter or he died for some other reason. Overall, belief in this myth depends upon whether a person believes there is compelling evidence to prove the scenario that has been proposed.
According to a May 2005 National Geographic article entitled “Egypt’s “King Tut Curse” Caused by Tomb Toxins?”, scientists believe that there may have substances contained within the tomb that caused the supposed “curse deaths” (Handwerk, 2005). The article states that tombs are teaming with meats, vegetables, and fruits that can support growth of insects, molts, and bacteria. Physicians have reported that two types of mold called Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus flavus are typically carried by ancient mummies; these can both cause allergic reactions that range from basic allergy symptoms to lung bleeding. The article continues to discuss several other kinds of pathogens and chemicals that could have caused Lord Carnarvon’s death. Other researchers believe that Lord Carnarvon was already ill before the expedition. These experts cite that he didn’t die until after a few months of exposure to the tomb; if the wrath of the mummy were true, one would likely expect this to happen instantly.
Although many people still believe in the curse of the mummy, it is interesting to note that media continues to perpetuate this mystery. Even with modern science and technology, we are still not able to completely explain the mysteries surrounding King Tut’s tomb. It is likely that we will never have an explanation as to what really happened in 1923 and that we will continue to tell stories about this incident in the future. It’s true that unsolvable mysteries make the most interesting tales.
Handwerk, B. (2005). Egypt’s “King Tut Curse” Caused by Tomb Toxins? National Geographic. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/05/0506_050506_mummycurse.html
KingTutOne. (n.d.). King Tut’s Curse. Retrieved from http://www.kingtutone.com/tutankhamun/curse/