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Sarah Coles

Are fatal events
linked to the opening
of an Egyptian tomb?
Curse or coincidence?

Many tales are told of the measures that the past rulers of Ancient Egypt took to protect their tombs from vandals and looters. These tombs used to contain not only the body of the dead king or queen but also many beautifully made objects and treasures which the Pharaohs believed would accompany them to the afterlife.

When building their final resting place the Pharaohs made sure that warnings or curses were engraved at the entrances to their tombs to deter those who wished to disturb them and steal their treasures. Interestingly, such warnings are not only found in tombs in Ancient Egypt but also found in tombs across the world in such places as Mexico, Norway and China.

What many scientists dismiss as just unexplained occurrences holds a fascination for others - is there such a thing as the curse of the Pharaohs? One of the most mysterious tales of the curse of the Pharaohs is the true story of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in November 1922 by a British archaeologist called Howard Carter.

Tutankhamun was a young man and he ruled Ancient Egypt for only a short time before he died but significantly, his tomb was one of the very few tombs which was not disturbed by vandals and was found, still intact, by the archaeologists in the 1920s. On the outside of the tomb the now famous curse was written in hieroglyphics: “Death shall come on swift wings to him who disturbs the peace of the King”. This message was viewed with amused scepticism during the excitement of the discovery of the tomb.

As soon as he made his discovery and realised that the tomb was still intact, Howard Carter contacted his wealthy patron, Lord Carnarvon and together the two men became the first men to enter the tomb for thousands of years. Neither of the men realised that by breaking the seal of the tomb and ignoring the warning inscribed on the outside of the tomb, they were to start a series of events that many people believe were caused by the curse of the Pharaoh.

Lord Carnarvon had taken some steps to find out about the curse and the dangers and had visited two mediums before he had left Britain to join Carter. Both mediums had warned him that this trip to Egypt would be his last.

After visiting the tomb in April 1922 Lord Carnarvon died of a high fever caused by an infected mosquito bite on his cheek. As he died, an unexplained power cut struck Cairo and the city was in darkness. In England, his pet dog, Susie, started barking and by the morning she had died too. Back in Cairo, a cobra ate Carnarvon’s pet canary - the cobra being considered the protector of the Pharaohs. Later, a small blemish was found on Tutankhamun’s cheek in the same spot as the infected mosquito had bitten the archaeologist.

The curse of the Pharaoh has remained the subject of much speculation over the years, fuelled by unexplained occurrences and tragic deaths. Of all the members of the expedition to uncover Tutankhamun’s tomb, by 1969 only two members of the team had avoided the curse. In the 1970s when an exhibition of the treasure of Tutankhamun’s tomb was being held in Britain a successor of one of the original team died the same night as he finished packing the treasures. Two men who were organising the exhibition and who were flying the treasures from Egypt died from heart attacks.

There are theories to explain these occurrences. One scientist put forward the theory that the floors of the tomb were covered with radioactive substances, for example, uranium. However, to this day, no one has managed to explain satisfactorily the occurrences surrounding the strange events following the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb. And perhaps the strangest fact of all is that the man who discovered the tomb, Howard Carter, survived the curse and died of natural causes at the age of 66. Why did the man who made the famous discovery escape the curse while many of his colleagues met untimely and tragic deaths? Only the Pharaohs can say.

Source: New English Digest


rulers: people who rule or command (gobernantes)
tombs: graves, places for the burial of corpses (tumbas)
: people who deliberately damage property (ladrones, vándalos)
looters: people who steal property during wars or natural disasters (saqueadores)
pharaohs: the title of the ancient Egyptian kings (faraones)
afterlife: the life after death (la otra vida, la vida futura)
curses: evil spells, appeals to some supernatural power to inflict evil on someone after death (maldiciones)
to deter: to discourage (para desalentar)
steal: to take without the owner's consent (robar)
holds: has, keeps (conserva, mantiene)
on swift wings: very fast (muy rápidamente)
scepticism: doubt or mistrust (escepticismo, desconfianza)

neither of the men: none of them (ninguno de los dos hombres)
seal: fastener that provides a tight and perfect closure (precinto de seguridad)
to find out: to investigate, to search (para averiguar, para descubrir)
mediums: people who serve as intermediaries between the living and the dead (médiums o intermediarios esperitistas)

had warned him
: had notified him (le habían advertido)
bite: a wound resulting from biting by an insect or an animal (picadura)
cobra: a venomous snake (cobra, serpiente venenosa)
blemish: a small mark on the skin (mancha, imperfección)

occurrences: events (hechos)
heart attacks: heart sudden failures (ataques cardíacos)
survived: continued to live (sobrevivieron)
untimely: prematurely (prematuramente)