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King Tutankhamen's Many Curses

King Tutankhamen

New research shows that Egyptian pharaoh King Tutankhamun had a rough life: he suffered from malaria and deformed feet, two of his children were stillborn, and he died at the age of 19. Scientific analysis suggests that despite his status as royalty, his life seemed cursed.

But was his death cursed as well, as many believe?

Stories circulated that anyone who dared disturb Tut’s resting place would face the terrible wrath of the mummy—and some believe that nearly two dozen people mysteriously fell victim to the curse since that time. Mystery investigators such as James Randi have researched the story behind the dreaded curse of King Tut and found that there’s less than meets the eye.

As Randi notes, “When Tut’s tomb was discovered and opened in 1922, it was a major archaeological event. In order to keep the press at bay and yet allow them a sensational aspect with which to deal, the head of the excavation team, Howard Carter, put out a story that a curse had been placed upon anyone who violated the rest of the boy-king.” In fact, the tombs of all royalty—not just Tutankhamun’s—were reputed to be cursed, as part of a folkloric effort to deter looters and grave robbers. Other royal tombs with exactly the same “curse” had been opened without doom befalling their excavators, so there was no reason to think that it would be any different with King Tut. (Makes for a great story, though.)

It is true that some people involved with the excavation (however peripherally) died shortly after the Tut’s tomb was opened. The most famous victim of the curse was probably Lord Carnavon, who financed the work; he died the following year in Cairo. (Of course, his death is less mysterious when we learn that he suffered severe health problems before he even arrived in Egypt.)

Nonetheless, the fact of his death combined with the widely-publicized curse to create an enduring myth (and provide a career for Brendan Fraser). There were dozens of people connected in some way to opening Tut’s tomb, and out of so many people, at least a few deaths and tragedies would be expected by random chance. A curse is simply attributing a sinister cause to a random event.

As Randi notes, “The average duration of life for…those who should have suffered the ancient curse was more than twenty-three years after the ‘curse’ was supposed to become effective. Carnavon’s daughter died in 1980, a full fifty-seven years later. Howard Carter, who not only discovered the tomb and physically opened it, but also removed the mummy of Tutankhamen from the sarcophagus, lived until 1939, sixteen years after that event,” and so on.

It seems that scientific analysis provided evidence for one kind of (non-supernatural) curse, and disproved a mythical one.

Facts about the Curse of Tutankhamun
 
The following information provides an insight into the facts and fiction surrounding the Curse of Tutankhamun:

The Curse of Tutankhamun
Fact 1The Tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered by Howard Carter 4 November 1922
Fact 2The excavation was financed by Lord Carnarvon
Fact 326 November 1922: Carter makes the famous "tiny breach in the top left hand corner" of the tomb doorway accompanied by Lord Carnarvon and his daughter Lady Evelyn Herbert.
Fact 4The day the tomb of King Tut was opened a cobra attacked the pet canary which belonged to Carnarvon. This was seen as an omen as a rearing cobra emblem was associated with the protection of the pharaohs
Fact 5December 1922: The press go into a frenzy about the discovery of the tomb, disturbing the work being conducted at the tomb. Newspapers and the Curse of King Tut
Fact 69 January 1923: Lord Carnarvon strikes an exclusive deal with The Times. Other journalists are furious about the deal and forced to find different ways to cover the story
Fact 75 April 1923: Carnarvon dies septicaemia after nicking a mosquito bite with his cut-throat razor. When the mummy of Pharaoh Tutankhamun was later unwrapped a wound was found on the cheek of the mummy in the same position as the mosquito bite
Fact 8At the time of his death all of the lights were reported to have gone out in Cairo for twenty minutes
Fact 9At the point of his death it was also reported that Carnarvon's pet Fox Terrier dog let out a loud howl and dropped dead at Highclere Castle
Fact 10An inscription is found on an Anubis shrine found in the tomb of Tutankhamun that stated: "It is I who hinder the sand from choking the secret chamber. I am for the protection of the deceased". Reporters embellish the 'Curse of Tutankhamun' Tomb Curses
Fact 11The Anubis Shrine and inscription was one of a series of Four Magic Bricks
Fact 12The four protective "magic bricks" and protective objects related to them (the Shabti, the Torch, Jackal God Anubis and the Djed Pillar had spells, or curses, attached to them
Fact 13The protective spells  relating to the "magic bricks" and the associated objects were contained in Chapter 151 from the Book of the Dead
Fact 14The spells associated with the above objects were mixed together and reported in the newspapers as the Curse of King Tut
Fact 15Different interpretations and curses were added
Fact 16The Curse of King Tut ideas were fuelled by a novelist named Marie Corelli and the eminent author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Fact 17Newspapers blame the deaths of other people, associated with the opening of the tomb, on the Curse of King Tut.
Fact 18It was reported that "Several American politicians went so far as to call for an investigation of mummies to determine whether or not these possessed the same medical dangers as those thought to be apparent in the tomb."
Fact 19Of the 26 people present at the opening of the tomb, only six died within ten years. Theories about the Victims of the Curse of King Tut still continue in modern times
Fact 20On 2 March 1939 Howard Carter died, of natural causes, at the age of 65

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