In November 1922 Howard Carter located the entrance to the tomb of Tutankhamun. By February he and his team had unsealed the door of the Burial Chamber. But a mere two months later, on April 5, 1923, the sponsor of his expedition, Lord Carnarvon, died in his Cairo hotel room, having succumbed to a bacterial infection caused by a mosquito bite.
The media immediately speculated that Carnarvon had fallen victim to King Tut's Curse. This curse supposedly promised death to all who violated his tomb. Newspapers added fantastic details to their accounts of Carnarvon's death, such as claiming that the lights dimmed throughout Cairo at the moment of his death. (This wouldn't have been surprising since power outages were almost a daily occurrence in Cairo.)
Over the next decade, other members of Carter's expedition died. The media greeted each death with renewed speculation about the fulfillment of King Tut's Curse. Scientists such as Herbert Winlock pointed out that the deaths were no more than should be statistically expected. In fact, of the twenty-two people present at the opening of the tomb, only six had died by 1934. Hardly a powerful curse.
Many papers also claimed that Carter's archaeological team had seen, but chosen to ignore, a warning placed above the tomb that read: "Death shall come on swift wings to him that toucheth the tomb of a Pharaoh." But there was no such inscription. The idea that there was appears to have come from a creative mistranslation by some newspapers of an inscription found in the tomb on a statue of a winged goddess. This inscription was, in reality, a spell from The Book of the Dead intended to ensure eternal life.
A study published in 2002 in the British Medical Journal
found no significant difference in the survival rate of those said to be exposed to the curse and those who weren't. Howard Carter himself, the man who should have been most affected by the Curse, appeared to be completely unaffected by it. He died in 1939 at the age of 64.
The truth of King Tut's Curse is that it was nothing more than a story invented by the media to sell papers.
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