Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Pharaoh Tutankhamen, the boy king, became the ruler of ancient Egypt at age 9. He was only 18 or 19 years old when he died. The cause of his death is still a mystery. The rumors began in 1922 when Tut’s tomb was discovered. Supposedly, hieroglyphic writing warned that anyone who disturbed Tut’s tomb would face terrible punishment. Two Englishmen had found the tomb: Howard Carter, an archeologist, and Lord Carnarvon, who’d paid for the expeditions. Carter had been searching Egypt’s Valley of Kings for more than ten years. Then, in November 1922, he, Carnarvon, and their workers were digging near the tomb of King Ramses VI. They pulled debris away from the entrance of the tomb and found a door! Excited, Carter and Carnarvon stepped through the entrance. Until now, every tomb they’d found had been looted by robbers. This one seemed untouched. They lit a match—and saw the gleam of gold. They saw fabulous necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. The tomb contained four chambers. Inside were chariots, thrones, swords, shields—even fans made of ostrich feathers. There were figures of animals, models of ships, toys and games. There were also practical items such as linens and clothes. Since Egyptians believed in life after death, called the afterlife, their belongings were buried with them. Carter and Camarvon realized they’d finally found King Tut’s tomb! But many believed the discovery was accompanied by bad omens. At the moment Carter entered the tomb, his canary was eaten. A cobra, an Egyptian symbol of royalty, had slithered into his home and devoured the bird. In London, Carnarvon’s dog died. King Tut’s Curse Then Carnarvon himself died of an infected mosquito bite. According to some stories, when Tut’s mummy was unwrapped, it had a wound on its left cheek. Carnarvon was bitten by the mosquito in exactly the same spot. From then on, every time a member of the expedition died, people said it was proof of the mummy’s curse. Or was it? Camarvon’s death was partly his fault. His razor nicked the mosquito bite when he shaved. The bite became infected, but Carnarvon ignored it. He caught pneumonia, and died. Yet, somehow, this doesn’t seem like the “terrible punishment” the hieroglyphics warned of. And nothing awful happened to Carter. He lived until the age of 66. Yet the canary really did die. In 1977, Egypt’s head of antiquities was hit and killed by a car. This was after he agreed to let 70 objects from King Tut’s tomb travel to Great Britain. So perhaps it is risky to disturb the tomb of a king!


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