Nearly 50 years after Harold Carter opened King Tutankhamen’s tomb, I stood in the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo, Egypt, gazing at the boy king’s solid gold sarcophagus.
Nearly 100 years have passed since Harold Carter, a famous British archeologist and Egyptologist who was financed by Lord Carnarvon, discovered the passageway to the boy king’s tomb that had been well hidden for centuries in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt, where I visited by boat on the Nile.
It was 120 F in the Valley of the Kings on the July day in 1970 when I visited the tomb, and from the time Carter first entered it on Jan. 26, 1923, till then, “the Curse of the Pharaohs” had become ingrained in cultures worldwide via such fictional writers as A. Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and journalists who relished building upon the message that greeted Carter as he first entered Tut’s tomb.
“Death Shall Come on Swift Wings to Him Who Disturbs the Peace of the King,” was the inscription carved into stone.
After several of Carter’s associates died soon after Carter entered the tomb, some by mysterious causes and one by being shot to death by his wife. It was reported that Lord Carnarvon succumbed to an infected misquote bite.
Lord Carnarvon reportedly asked Carter what he was looking at after Carter first stepped foot into the underground tomb where King Tut was buried with sundry treasures, even a chariot. Carter reportedly replied, “It is wonderful.”
Journalists reported that the very day that Carter stepped into the tomb that a cobra was found in Carter’s room when he returned from the tomb. The news report claimed that Carter’s canary was in the cobra’s mouth, a report that lacked attribution but one that served to get “the curse” off and running in newspaper accounts around the world.
Tut’s mummified body was discovered by Carter, and because several in Carter’s party met death shortly after Carter’s discovery, “the curse” continued to spread despite the fact that others in Carter’s party did not die shortly after the discovery. Several lived to be an average age of 73.
Carter himself died of lymphoma in 1939 and was laid to rest in Putney Vale Cemetery in London, but before he died, he arranged for the medical experts to examine King Tut’s mummified body to test it for pathogenic bacteria in order to prove there was no such curse caused by his entry of the tomb. The medical community supported Carter’s claim.
However, more advanced technology has been used recently to examine King Tut’s mummified body, including CT scans, X-rays and DNA testing.
Scientists have determined that King Tut had suffered a broken leg before his death at 18 or 19 and that the cause of his death was malaria. Carter’s discovery revealed that King Tut was buried with two mummified fetuses that were found in small coffins, both unborn children believed to be King Tut’s daughters who died before birth at five months and nine months.
More advance scientific equipment has enabled scientists to determine that the tomb walls contained respiratory-assaulting bacteria, Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus. Also, the linen that wrapped the boy king was infected as well with a fungus: common mold, Aspergillus, a known cause of serious infections in people who have weakened immune systems.
Lord Carnarvon had been injured in an automobile accident in 1903, and he had a weakened immune system prior to going to Egypt.
Thus, “King Tut’s Curse” has been debunked in that there was a scientific reason for Lord Carnarvon’s death, not infection from a mosquito bite, widely reported as the cause of his death after he cut the bite wound while shaving, causing an infection that caused his death shortly after he followed Carter into King Tut’s tomb.