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The Mummy's Curse

Cartouche on Tut's tomb; CMC PCD 2001-296-103

The Egyptians were preoccupied with the cult of the dead. The mummified bodies of kings and commoners were placed in tombs filled with all the necessities of life. To protect the deceased in the afterlife and to prevent robbers or political enemies from desecrating the burials, the tombs were hidden in out-of-the-way places and a curse was invoked against violators.

The belief in the mummy's curse was rekindled when Lord Carnarvon, patron of Howard Carter's archaeological excavations, died five months after the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb. He died of blood poisoning following a mosquito bite that became infected.

Carnarvon on death bed; CMC 2001-272-026      Carter in tent; CMC 2001-272-040

Prior to his death, Carter's yellow canary perished under strange circumstances. Carter had bought a canary in a gilded cage with the idea that its song would cheer up his lonely house. Upon seeing the bird, one of his servants exclaimed, "it's a bird of gold that will bring luck. This year we will find, inshallah (God willing), a tomb full of gold." Within a week of purchasing the canary, Carter discovered Tut's tomb. Not knowing whose tomb they had found, the workers nicknamed it "the tomb of the Golden Bird".

The death of the canary at this most propitious moment was seen as a bad omen. Here is an account of what happened to the canary from the report of the inspector general in charge of antiquities.

"During the recent excavations which led to the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen, Mr. Howard Carter (the discoverer) had in his house a canary which daily regaled him with its happy song. On the day, however, on which the entrance to the tomb was laid bare, a cobra entered the house, pounced on the bird, and swallowed it. Now, cobras are rare in Egypt, and are seldom seen in winter; but in ancient times they were regarded as the symbol of royalty, and each Pharaoh wore the symbol upon his forehead, as though to signify his power to strike and sting his enemies."

Cobra; PCD 2001-296-010      Canary; CMC PCD 2001-296-011

Who knows - some people believe that the protective curses placed on Tut's tomb and those of his ancestors may have been responsible for these two deaths!

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