Tutankhamun: the mystery of the tomb

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Tutankhamun: the mystery of the tomb
Tutankhamun: the mystery of the tomb

This story began with the death of a teenager - the ruler of Ancient Egypt. His name could have sunk into oblivion forever, if not for a series of mysterious deaths, surprisingly associated with him. Tutankhamun was not at all an outstanding king, but events that took place 3,000 years later made him the most famous pharaoh who ever lived.


Pharaoh's life and death

The reign of Tutankhamun falls on the period of the New Kingdom - the heyday of the ancient Egyptian state. He became the last representative of the XVIII dynasty, but ruled the country for a short time - presumably, from 1332 to 1323. BC. Pharaoh died at the age of 19 or 18 and was buried in the Valley of the Kings.

It is believed that Tutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten, the famous reformer pharaoh. The Egyptian throne went to Tut when he was nine years old. As a result, during his reign, the fate of the country was controlled not so much by the ruler himself as by the former associates of Akhenaten.

The previous pharaoh was the author of a religious reform that shook the foundations of ancient society - the replacement of paganism with a monotheistic religion, the worship of the single god of the sun - Aton, and then the pharaoh himself. Tutankhamun decided to return to the old gods. Akhenaten's name was anathematized, and its former capital, Akhetaton, was completely destroyed.

The controversy about the causes of Tutankhamun's death still does not subside. Archaeological evidence shows that he was a thin and sickly youth. Yes, the proportions of his body are far from perfect: in particular, he had too long arms. That is why one of the most popular versions of the death of the pharaoh is an alleged serious illness. Some researchers, however, strongly disagree with such conclusions, insisting that the ruler of Egypt was a completely healthy person. According to some recent research, the pharaoh died under the wheels of a wagon - a wheel mark remained on the left side of his body. Be that as it may, one thing can be said with complete certainty: the pharaoh died in his early youth and was buried in accordance with all traditions.


Howard Carter's amazing find

The authors of the find, which shook the entire scientific world, were archaeologist Howard Carter and his colleague Lord Carnarvon. The latter was not a professional archaeologist, but took on a significant portion of the funding for the excavation, which began in 1914. In those years, modern archaeological devices did not yet exist, so scientists had to work in very difficult conditions - for a long time and often to no avail. By 1922, the lord was completely disappointed in his research, so he stopped allocating funds.

At that time, Carter was excavating in the Valley of the Kings and on November 4, quite by accident, he discovered the entrance to the new tomb. On the sealed door was the mark of royal blood - the symbol of the burial of the Egyptian nobility. The archaeologist immediately reported his find to Lord Carnarvon, who was in England at the time.


Here it is necessary to stop and say that even before the opening of the tomb, a seemingly unremarkable incident occurred with Carter. The fact is that during the excavations Carter was accompanied by a pet - a small canary. And then one day a cobra climbed into the scientist's dwelling and ate a bird. The archaeologist himself did not attach any importance to this, but his servants, which consisted of local residents, took it as a sign of impending disaster. Cobra is one of the symbols of the Egyptian pharaohs.

But back to the door discovered by Carter.On November 24, Carnarvon and Carter decided to take a closer look at the strange find. They stuck the lamp through the hole they had made and - oh, miracle! - saw the magnificent tomb of the pharaoh. Alas, it immediately became clear that archaeologists were not the first visitors to the tomb. Thieves visited here several times for treasures, but each time, for some unknown reason, they were forced to flee. It seemed obvious: everything inside was turned upside down, although the Pharaoh's treasures were in place. But it was far from immediately possible to investigate the circumstances of the robbery attempts from archaeologists. Scientists have long waited for permission from the authorities to carry out work in the crypt.

Work began on February 16, 1923. Archaeologists saw that the crypt consisted of four rooms, the main of which was the room with the pharaoh's mummy. In the tomb, scientists found numerous gold jewelry, weapons, dishes, figurines, symbols of royal power. Then, among the contents of the tomb, two more bodies will be found that belonged to the stillborn daughters of the pharaoh.

Mysterious death

The news of an archaeological sensation rocked the entire scientific world. This is understandable, because it was about one of the most outstanding finds during the entire study of Ancient Egypt! It is unlikely that Howard Carter could then have imagined that soon the tomb of Tutankhamun would glorify him even more. True, you won't wish such glory to anyone.


In the spring of the same year, another "unremarkable event" happened to Carnarvon: he was bitten by a mosquito. A few days later, the lord cut himself at the site of the bite, and soon noticed that a small scratch did not heal for a suspiciously long time. Carnarvon's fears were justified when he developed a fever. He died soon after. Then they said that the mosquito that bit the lord was "poisonous." The mystery of the story was added by the fact that at the time of the death of the lord in Cairo, the lights suddenly went out. It was not possible to establish the cause of the accident, but this is not all the mysterious coincidences. Around the same time that Carnarvon's heart stopped, his dog died, which was at that moment at his home in England. Of course, all this can be explained by ordinary coincidences inflated by the yellow press. But the death of the lord and everything connected with it became only the first link in the chain of ominous events.

Lord Carnarvon passed away on April 5, 1923, four months after visiting the tomb of Tutankhamun. A few days later, Arthur Mays, one of the archaeologists who were part of Carter's expedition, died. As far as could be judged, arsenic poisoning was the cause of Mace's death. Upon his return to England, death overtook another specialist in those excavations - the radiologist Archibald Reid. The excavation of the tomb was also supervised by the American financier George Gould. He died six months later with a fever.


An insect bite killed Lord Carnarvon's wife, and his half-brother soon committed suicide. Finally, in 1928, Howard Carter's young secretary, Richard Bartel, died. Death occurred as a result of cardiac arrest, although Bartel did not complain about his health. All these people were engaged in the study of the mummy of the pharaoh. In addition, the victims of the "curse" were Professor La Fleur, the radiologist Weed and some other scientists. In total, at different times, according to various sources, from 22 to 25 people died, one way or another connected with the burial of the Egyptian pharaoh. It seemed as if Tutankhamun's vengeance would overtake everyone who dared to disturb his peace …

However, proponents of the esoteric approach sometimes overlook one important point: the main target of the "curse of the pharaoh," archaeologist Howard Carter, died of natural causes in 1939. At that time he was 65 years old.

In 1980, an interview with Richard Adamson, the last living explorer from the Carter expedition, was published. Adamson also strongly rejected the myth of the curse of the Egyptian king.Strictly speaking, almost all deceased scientists were at a very old age at the time of their death. Members of the Carter expedition lived an average of 74 years.


But not only the dead scientists, but also ordinary tourists are often credited to the account of the Egyptian ruler. Unexplained deaths occur even today.

The origins of the legend

First, let's try to figure out where the myth of the curse came from. It sounds strange, but in itself he is just a newspaper duck. Trying to provide peace to the deceased, the ancient Egyptians, indeed, resorted to all kinds of spells and conspiracies. According to modern experts, hieroglyphs contain some caveats, but they are often taken too literally. At the suggestion of journalists, the interpretation of some warnings is sometimes distorted beyond recognition.

The inscriptions in the tombs warn the hapless traveler against desecrating the tomb or prohibit a person with a bad reputation from visiting the tomb. In the case of Tutankhamun, researchers have established only that there is a spell that protects the peace of the Egyptian king and protects him from the desert sands.


The author of the message about the curse of Tutankhamun was one of the journalists of the Daily Express. The writer Maria Corelli, the author of numerous works on the theme of mysticism, also contributed. After the death of Carnarvon, Maria Corelli and Arthur Conan Doyle (also a great lover of mysticism) claimed that they were warning the hapless archaeologists. Even earlier, the British writer Jane Loudon Webb turned to a similar topic. Her mystical work "The Mummy" was published back in 1828. Subsequently, fiction writers will continue to exploit the supposedly terrifying warnings. This is how the ominous mystical image of the Egyptian pharaohs was formed in the mass consciousness.


"The curse of Pharaoh Tutankhamun" made ancient Egyptian themes one of the most popular mystical trends in popular culture. One of the last works of art on this topic was the fantastic film Tutankhamun: The Curse of the Tomb, released in 2006.

Invisible killer

Despite this, the "curse of the pharaoh" can really exist, and it is explained by quite natural factors.

At first, none of the members of Carter's expedition paid attention to the strange plaque on the walls of the tomb. Contrary to the original version of the cracked mural, fungus was the cause of the wall stains. 30 years after a series of mysterious deaths, physician Joffrey Dean noticed that the symptoms of the disease of scientists who visited the tomb resemble the so-called "cave disease." Its cause is microscopic fungi. It is clear that damp and dark rooms, like the tomb of Tutankhamun, have become a fertile environment for their distribution. Later, the Egyptian biologist Ezzeddin Taha will confirm the validity of this conjecture, having discovered a fungus in the body of many archaeologists engaged in the study of Ancient Egypt.

In our age, antibiotics reduce the danger of such microorganisms to nothing. But if a person's immunity is weakened, infection with a fungus can have rather serious consequences. In the 1990s, scientists took a sample of secretions from the lungs of a tourist who died after visiting the tomb of Tutankhamun. It was found that there was a fungus in the body of the deceased, which could have caused her death.


Members of the Carter expedition could also become victims of harmful microorganisms, which they contracted while being near the mummy. One important circumstance speaks in favor of this version. After 3000 years, the oils that were used for mummification turned into glue. To remove the pharaoh from the coffin, Carter took the plunge - he cut the mummy.In those years, Egyptologists rarely used special protective equipment, and upon contact with the mummy, harmful microorganisms could easily enter the respiratory tract, causing serious illness.

Tutankhamun belonged to the XVIII dynasty of the pharaohs - one of the most famous in the history of Ancient Egypt. The time of her reign falls on the era of the New Kingdom. The founder of the dynasty, Ahmose I, united the disparate territories of Egypt, and his descendants ruled the country from 1550-1292 BC. NS. The representatives of the dynasty were several powerful rulers who changed the history of their country, as well as a number of female pharaohs.

Modern researchers point out that working with a mummy can be dangerous, since the mummified body can contain harmful bacteria. There is also a downside to the question: bacteria brought in from the outside can destroy the mummy.


In our opinion, the version that the fungus was the cause of the death of visitors to the tomb of Tutankhamun sounds quite plausible. But the official point of view regarding the series of mysterious deaths still does not exist. As there is no evidence that scientists and ordinary tourists were killed by harmful microorganisms.

Tut's father, Akhenaten, was one of the most prominent religious reformers in history. It was he who first introduced monotheism in Egypt, "abolishing" the entire pantheon of Egyptian deities and leaving only the sun god - Aton. Most likely, the purpose of this innovation was to strengthen the personal power of the pharaoh. The reform could also be used to centralize the Egyptian state.

With a request to comment on this issue, we turned to Victor Solkin, a full member of the International Association of Egyptologists, President of the Association for the Study of Ancient Egypt. He said:

- In fact, only the death of George Herbert Carnarvon, who was the patron of the expedition, can be called sudden and somewhat strange. Cutting off a mosquito bite while shaving, the lord died of sepsis, after which everything related to Egypt began to be perceived extremely negatively in his family, and most of his excellent collection was sold in the United States. The rest of the deaths are not at all as numerous as they are often written about in the press. They were connected, first of all, with the fact that after the opening of the tomb of the young king, the members of Carter's expedition worked tirelessly in the Valley of the Kings, including in the summer months, when the temperature in the Valley sometimes exceeds 50 degrees of heat. Several members of the expedition died - all elderly people who simply physically barely endured the ordeals that fell to their lot by the climate and sands of Egypt. Howard Carter himself, seemingly the main culprit in the opening of the royal tomb, died at an advanced age and from natural causes. Almost 17 years have passed since the opening of the tomb. In addition, in the first third of the 20th century, everything "Egyptian" was still associated with mysticism, spiritualism and other phenomena that accompanied the European "Egyptian rapture". The press and salon society could not resist not seeing in the several heart attacks of elderly scientists something otherworldly.


It must be said that in the ancient Egyptian worldview there is no idea at all that a curse on tomb robbers should cause sudden death. The surviving samples of texts directed against those who threaten the deceased, on the contrary, speak of the wrath of the gods in the afterlife. “As for the one who touches with his finger the pyramid of this, and this temple, which belong to me and my Ka (double, life force) - he will be condemned by the nine gods, and he will be non-being, and his house will be in non-being, he will be the one who condemned, those who devour themselves "- this quote, given on behalf of the king, is found in the famous" Pyramid Texts ", which appeared on the walls of royal tombs in the XXV century BC.Posthumous retribution, non-existence in the world of the gods was a much more serious punishment in the eyes of the Egyptians than the banal death of the physical body - an important, but not the main component of a person's essence. In the tomb of Tutankhamun there were no curses at all. The notorious "clay tablet with curses" allegedly found by archaeologists is a newspaper duck. Its author is known - the archaeologist Arthur Weigall, who disliked Carter and the rumor about the "curse" complicated the life of an outstanding archaeologist, and so besieged by the press. The media did not have enough information, since the London Times received the exclusive right to report from the tomb by decision of Lord Carnarvon.

Tutankhamun's wife was Queen Ankhesenamun, daughter of the same Akhenaten. From her, Tutankhamun had two daughters who were born dead. Most likely, Tutankhamun's brother was Smenkhkara - another pharaoh from the same dynasty. Smenkhkara ruled immediately after the death of his father until the nine-year-old Tutankhamun came to power.

Our expert:

Victor Solkin, full member of the International Association of Egyptologists, President of the Association for the Study of Ancient Egypt

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