The infamous mummy's curse of Tutankhamun's tomb had
little basis in hard science according to new research which was published
The curse was allegedly placed upon all those present
at the opening of the tomb in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, Egypt,
in February 1923. The legend is thought to have originated with the death
of the expedition financier, Lord Carnarvon, who died in 1923 after being
bitten by a mosquito.
He developed a condition known as erysipelas at the site
of the bite, which resulted in septicaemia and pneumonia. It was said that
Lord Carnarvon's three-legged dog howled at the very time his master died,
and promptly also gave up the ghost.
According to the writings of archaeologist Howard Carter,
twenty-five westerners were present at the breach of sacred seals in a
previously undisturbed area of the pharaoh's tomb, and were therefore
potentially exposed to the curse. A further nineteen were in Egypt at the
time but were not recorded by him to have been present at the site at the
Mark Nelson, of Monash University in Australia, followed
up the personal history of all those present to see if they had indeed
died young. He established dates of death for all of those exposed and
eleven of those who were not present.
He found that the 'cursed' group had lived slightly
shorter lives - but on average they still made it to a respectable three
score years and ten. Among the twenty-five people exposed to the 'curse',
the average age at death was seventy years compared with seventy-five for
those not exposed.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Nelson stated
that the Egyptian archaeological dig in the 1920s was inhabited by
interesting characters and it was this, and the circumstances of the
archaeological find of the modern age, that had kept the myth of the
mummy's curse in the public eye.
Dr Nelson found no evidence for its existence. Perhaps
finally it, like the tragic death of the boy king Tutankhamun, could now
be put to rest. The findings would have pleased Howard Carter, who had no
time for the idea of a curse. He wrote that 'all sane people should dismiss
such inventions with contempt'.