The Mummy’s Curse

The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb was mentioned briefly in one of the online lectures. However, I thought it would be an interesting aspect of the history of King Tut to explore a little further. So as we know King Tut’s tomb was discovered in 1922, but the mummified body of The Boy King wasn’t uncovered until 1923. The tomb and the mummy were discovered by Howard Carter, who was earlier hired by Lord Carnarvon. Carnarvon and Carter had excavated for 5 years yielding little to no results. Carnarvon had given up and was ready to end the excavation when Carter finally uncovered the intact tomb of King Tut. It is believed that when Carter returned to Egypt he brought with him a yellow canary that led him to the door of King Tut’s tomb. “Death Shall Come on Swift Wings to Him Who Disturbs the Peace of the King” was rumored to be written on the door of the entrance to the tomb. On the day that Carter opened the King’s tomb he returned home to find his yellow canary dead. According to his servant, the canary was killed by a serpent that had entered the house because Carter had disturbed the tomb of The Boy King. The servant warned to leave the tomb alone and not disturb it any further. Carter ignored his servant’s warnings and on November 26th opened the tomb. It is rumored that inside of the tomb Carter found a tablet with the curse inscribed on it that he immediately hid. This is where the real effects of the curse are believed to have begun. A few months after the opening of the sarcophagus Lord Carnarvon died at the age of 57 of “unknown causes” but it was believed to have begun with an infection caused by an insect bite. When the mummy was unwrapped in 1925 a wound was found on the cheek of the king, located in the exact same spot as Carnarvon’s deathly insect bite! A coincidence blamed on “the curse.” By 1929, 11 people who had been associated with the excavation of the tomb had died of yet again, “unknown causes.” The media began to take notice of these strange events and started to refer to the phenomenon as “The Mummy’s Curse.” The media blew the whole thing out of proportion claiming that the curse took 22 people in total.

Recently, in 2002, Mark Nelson conducted research on “The Mummy’s Curse.” His research concluded that the average age of death of those exposed to the curse was 70 and of those not exposed to the supposed curse was 75. Nelson found that this age gap was insignificant and therefore the curse did not exist. Nelson also found that Carter’s canary was never eaten by a snake but was given away to one of his friends. Many scientists suggest that in reality the curse may have been the result of a fungus that had been preserved in the tomb. When the tomb was opened the fungus was reintroduced into the air. Today, it is still debated whether or not the curse was real or just a creation of the media. It is obvious that the so-called “Egyptomania” of the time had large lasting effects on popular culture. Even today we still hear about the so-called “Mummy’s Curse” in movies such as Indiana Jones. I personally feel that the curse was just a creation of the media and that it is much more likely that a fungus caused the illness of all those people.

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One thought on “The Mummy’s Curse

  1. I thought your post is very interesting! It’s strange how the media and us as a society like to try and come up with crazy alternatives to simple coincidences. I agree that our curiosity and wonder towards ancient treasures, tombs, mummies, etc. definitely may cloud our judgement when it comes to things that would otherwise be considered completely rational; such as the deaths of those involved in the excavation of Tut.

    This reminded of other similar “curses” that were attributed to disturbing ancient treasures or other odd coincidences. Such as the “27 club” which proposes that famous rock stars may have a curse of dying at the age 27. This apparently began due to the deaths of musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, and more, all of whom died at age 27. Another curse I’ve heard of in popular culture is the curse that Rasputin put Russian royal family, saying that they would all die within the year; and of coincidentally they all did. Also, some say that the horror movies “The Poltergeist Trilogy” and “The Omen” were cursed because many people involved with their production died in seemingly bizarre ways.

    Obviously, these are all just coincidences that popular culture likes to hype up , but it’s definitely interesting to see how many strange curses have been believed in throughout history and in different contexts (i.e. opening a mummies tomb, working on a movie about satan, dying at a specific age, etc).

    When it comes to these curses, I agree that they are basically just coincidences. Occam’s razor states that “plurality should not be posited without necessity,” or in other words, the simplest, most logical explanation is probably the correct one. Instead of concocting crazy conclusions or blaming things on a curse, we should probably look at the most rational reasoning behind something first.

    -Courtney Jo Galliers

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