Egypt // The Nile Valley //

The curse of Tutankhamun


Lord Carnarvon’s death in Cairo from an infected mosquito bite in April 1923 focused world attention on a warning by the novelist Marie Corelli, that “dire punishment follows any intruder into the tomb”. (At the moment of Carnarvon’s death, all the lights in Cairo went out.) The curse of Tutankhamun gained popular credence with this and each successive “mysterious” death. The US magnate Jay Gould died of pneumonia resulting from a cold contracted at the tomb; a famous bey was shot by his wife in London after viewing the discovery; a French Egyptologist suffered a fatal fall; Carter’s secretary died in unusual circumstances at the Bath Club in London; and his right-hand man Arthur Mace sickened and died before the tomb had been fully cleared. However, of the 22 who had witnessed the opening of Tut’s sarcophagus, only two were dead ten years later. Howard Carter died in 1939 at the age of 64, while others closely involved lived into their 80s – not least Dr Derry, who performed the autopsy which suggested that Tut died from a blow to the head, aged about 19. If the most recent explanation for Tut’s death is correct, mosquitoes were instrumental in the demise of both the boy-king and Carnarvon.

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