Is The Mummy’s Curse Real?

"Cursed be those who disturb the rest of a Pharaoh They that shall break the seal of this tomb shall meet death by a disease that no doctor can diagnose

" Since 1922, when pharaoh Tutankhamun’s tomb was opened, fascination for Ancient Egyptian rituals has spread all over the world Countless books, movies and even video games have explored Egyptian legends, stirring up curiosity about the so-called Mummy’s Curse But, what exactly does this curse do? And, more importantly, is it real? The Mummy’s Curse, also known as the Curse of the Pharaohs, is believed to fall upon any person who disturbs the rest of a mummified Ancient Egyptian It can cause bad luck, illness or death to anyone who opens a mummy’s tomb or moves a mummy from its resting place However, according to American archaeologist and Egyptologist David Silverman, curses relating to tombs are rare

Curses mostly occur in royal tombs of the Old Kingdom era, circa 2686-2181 BC This is the case of the inscription at the entrance of the mastaba (ma-STA-ba) of sixth century ruler Khentika Ikhekhi at Saqqara, that reads ""As for all men who shall enter this my tomb impure there will be judgment an end shall be made for him I shall seize his neck like a bird

I shall cast the fear of myself into him"" David Silverman also notes that curses after the Old Kingdom era are less common, but have a more severe tone, sometimes invoking the fury of Thoth (thoth), the god of wisdom, or the destruction of Sekhmet (SE-h-met), goddess of death But can we consider these inscriptions to be actual effective Curses? To author Carol Andrews, they are not

Hieroglyphs were not deciphered until the beginning of the 19th century, so any misfortune experienced by archaeologists was first perceived as associated with the handling of mummies and artefacts from the tombs In 1699, Louis Penicher wrote a report that recorded the story of a Polish traveller who bought two mummies in Alexandria and took them on a sea journey with him During the journey, the traveller was haunted by recurring visions of two demons His boat wound up in a fierce storm, which only abated when the mummies were thrown overboard People started to connect inscriptions, mummies and curses together when the team of British archaeologist Howard Carter opened the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, in 1922

The event received extensive media coverage worldwide Not only because it marked the greatest discovery in the history of Egyptology at that point, but also because a few members of the excavation team began dying in mysterious circumstances, alongside other unexplained events, shortly after the tomb was opened On December 22nd 1922, The New York Times reported the testimony of two team members, Egyptologist James Henry Breasted, and Inspector-General of Antiques Arthur Weigall They said that on the very same day the tomb was opened, a Royal Cobra broke into Howard Carter’s house and killed his canary The snake was the same worn by Tutankhamun on his golden mask, to strike his enemies

The first of many mysterious deaths was Lord Carnarvon, who funded the excavation He died unexpectedly of blood poisoning in April 1923 In 1925, James Breasted showed the tomb to anthropologist Henry Field, who recalled that Howard Carter gave a paperweight to his friend Sir Bruce Ingram – a paperweight made from a mummified hand with an engraving that read, ""Cursed be he who moves my body To him shall come fire, water and pestilence"" Soon after receiving this gift, Ingram's house burned down

Then, just after it was rebuilt, it flooded In the first ten years after King Tut’s tomb was opened, there were about eleven deaths among people related to the excavation Among them, Lord Carnarvon’s half-brother died on September 1923 from blood poisoning, just like his brother In the same year, financier George Jay Gould died of pneumonia shortly after visiting the tomb Sir Archibald Douglas-Reid, the radiologist who took the first x-ray of the pharaoh’s mummy, died in 1924 of a mysterious illness

In 1929, Carter’s personal secretary, Richard Bethell, died of a suspected smothering And lastly, Howard Carter died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma on 2nd March 1939 However, sceptics, including Carter himself, have pointed out that many others who visited the tomb or helped to discover it lived long and healthy lives But the curse may have struck again in 1972 For the 50th anniversary of the tomb’s discovery, some of the artefacts were sent to the British Museum

The director of antiquities at the Museum of Cairo, Dr Gamal Mehrez, died the night after he handed the artefacts to his British colleagues But Tutankhamun’s tomb is not the only Egyptian site that haunted palaeontologists In the year 2000, archaeologist Zahi Hawass (zahi ha-WASS) recalled that, in 1996, he was involved in excavating Bahariya (ba-h-RYA) Oasis He was in charge of transferring two child mummies from the site to the nearest museum He reported that every time he fell asleep, he was haunted by the children’s souls until their father’s mummy was reunited with theirs

He came to the conclusion that even though, in his words, “there’s no curse of the pharaohs”, mummies should not be put on public display Some experts, like Egyptologist Dominic Montserrat, have been trying to prove believers wrong In the 1990s, Montserrat investigated the fascination people had with the pharaoh's curse He discovered that the first person to use a fully formed mummy curse was the author of Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, in the plot of her story Lost in a Pyramid, or The Mummy's Curse Just a few years before his death, Montserrat claimed his research “has not only confirmed that there is, of course, no ancient Egyptian origin of the mummy's curse concept, but, more importantly, it also reveals that it didn't originate in the 1923 press publicity about the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb either

” Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, believes instead the concept of a curse did exist in ancient Egypt, as part of a primitive security system ""[Ancient Egyptian tombs] tend to threaten desecrators with divine retribution by the council of the gods, or death by crocodiles, or lions, or scorpions, or snakes"" But, whether the curse is just a mere fantasy created by modern minds or a genuine ancient deterrent, is it possible to explain all those deaths linked to the mummy’s curse? In recent years, some scholars, like egyptologist Jennifer Wegner, have suggested that the pharaoh's curse may have a biological nature ""When you think of Egyptian tombs, you have not only dead bodies but foodstuffs — meats, vegetables and fruits [interred for the trip to the hereafter] It certainly may have attracted insects, moulds, [bacteria] and those kinds of things

The raw material [for infection] would have been there thousands of years ago"" Laboratory studies show some ancient mummies carried mould, which can cause congestion or bleeding in the lungs Bacteria that attack the lungs, such as Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus, may also grow on tomb walls This means that germs preserved in tombs for centuries, can potentially kill whoever opens the sites However, other scientists don’t consider these substances dangerous

F DeWolfe Miller, professor of epidemiology at the University of Hawaii, claims that ""Upper Egypt in the 1920s was hardly what you'd call sanitary The idea that an underground tomb, after 3,000 years, would have some kind of bizarre microorganism in it that's going to kill somebody six weeks later and make it look exactly like [blood poisoning] is very hard to believe"" Miller also points out that many of Carter’s team, including Carter himself, died of natural causes many years after Tutankhamun’s tomb was opened In 2002, epidemiologist Mark R

Nelson published a study of the 44 people who Howard Carter said were present when he opened the tomb, and were therefore presumably exposed to the curse Nelson tracked down their obituaries to determine the date and cause of death Results show that of the 25 people directly exposed to the curse, the average age at which they died was 70 years old – compared to a death at the average of 75 years old amongst those who weren't deemed to be cursed The average length of time for which they survived after the date of exposure was respectively about 20 years for those cursed vs 28 years for those not cursed Women survived longer, regardless of whether or not they were cursed

In fact, Lady Evelyn Herbert, Lord Carnarvon's daughter, who was among the first people to enter the tomb, outlived the rest of the team, dying in 1980 at the ripe old age of 78 Mark Nelson concluded that ""there was no significant association between exposure to the mummy's curse and survival time and thus no evidence to support the existence of a mummy's curse"" However, after many deaths and even more mummy movies, the mystery of the curse looks far from solved Research on tomb artefacts continues to deepen our understanding of ancient Egypt and constantly opens new possibilities, leaving the legend of the mummy's curse destined to never really die

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