Tutankhamun, or King Tut as he’s affectionately known, was the boy king who ruled Egypt during the New Kingdom’s 18th dynasty, from 1333 to 1324 BC. In life he wasn’t the most important or memorable of Egypt’s pharoahs, but in death he’s become the one pharoah everyone’s heard of. His death at the age of 19 has been the topic of much discussion (You can watch last week’s video on the mystery of King Tut’s death here) and he was buried in the Valley of the Kings, on the west bank of the Nile near Luxor (ancient Thebes). His tomb KV62 is one of the most famous archaeological discoveries ever and has generated not only a whole new body of knowledge about the young king’s life, but also one of the most intriguing mysteries surrounding the necropolis at Thebes.
The Curse of Tutankhamun’s Tomb (KV62)
The explorers who found KV62 on November 4th 1922 found an inscription at the entrance that seemed to say that all those who enter will be killed. But was this a curse or just a severe warning to tomb raiders? Within a year of the tomb being opened, Lord Carnarvon, one of the initial exploration party, died in a hotel in Cairo at the age of 57. The cause was possibly a mosquito bite, which became infected. Howard Carter lived on until 1939, when he died of cancer aged 64. So is the curse real and does it pose a danger to all those who enter KV62? You would think not, but according to one man who knows, the jury is out.
Dr Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities isn’t the kind of chap to be scared off by a little superstition in fact his team of Egyptian archaeologists discovered eight baskets of doum fruit in KV62 in 2007. Dr Hawass has since worked at the site and personally accompanied the corpse of Tutankhamun when it underwent a CT scan. In this video he describes his initial scepticism about the curse, pointing out that the curse inscription was mis-translated by a reporter. Hawass says it is much more likely to be a simple (and commonplace) warning to tomb-robbers, rather than a mystical curse of the pharoahs.
Tips to Survive King Tut’s Curse
The excavatory techniques used in the early 20th century are also slightly dubious. Hawass says archaeologists were over-eager to enter the newly discovered tombs. Much of it comes down to common sense: if a tomb has been sealed for 3,000 years, and it contains a mummified body, as well as other organic material, then the air inside may contain unpleasant gasses and bacteria.
Hawass, who has been excavating for 35 years and has worked inside many tombs, reveals in this video his own tricks for staying healthy while examining ancient Egyptian mummies and other artefacts from tombs. They include:
- Always open the tomb but never enter straight away. Leave it open for one day, so fresh air can circulate.
- Don’t shave. Hawass believes that shaving can leave a man’s face with small abrasions that can leave him open to infection.
An Odd Series of Events: Curse or Coincidence?
However, Hawass also reveals that he is not entirely without his superstitious side. He himself experienced an odd series of events surrounding his own examination of the body and tomb of Tutankhamun. Last year, as he drove from Luxor to the Valley of the Kings, his car nearly ran over and killed a small child, he then received a phone call telling him his brother-in-law had died. Shortly afterwards, as he finished giving a TV interview, storm clouds gathered over the Valley of the Kings and it rained torrentially a pretty rare event in the parched desert around Luxor (which has average annual rainfall of less than one inch per year, compared to London with about 24 inches).
One final inexplicable incident seems to have left Dr Hawass with a suspicion that the famed curse of Tutankhamun might just be true after all. As his team scanned the Egyptian king’s mummified body in a CT scanner, the brand new machine inexplicably stopped working for an hour. Is 21st century technology also prone to 3,000-year-old magic curses? Or perhaps even sophisticated scanners gets the jitters in the presence of such a famed boy-king? There is certainly some doubt in Dr Hawass’s mind.
Don’t miss the other great videos on Heritage Key, including these The Death of King Tut: Murder or Accident? (feat. Dr. Zahi Hawass), the Search for the Tomb of Cleopatra (Featuring Dr. Kathleen Martinez) and Dr Zahi Hawass explaining the Ancient Mummy Recipe. We’re publishing new videos all the time, so keep an eye on our video page, or sign up to our RSS feeds to keep up to date with the latest releases on HK.