Arts and Culture; Egyptian Tombs’ Curse Mystery

 Life is essentially all about evolution and how human nature works, as it leaves behind traces in the past as well as new discoveries for the future. We could say this about multiple things, such as ancient eras and their various modes of living, the spiritual beliefs of a specific community and how they affected their lifestyles, whether they believed in magic, witchcraft or acts of worship and whether those practices still live on today.

Everything happens for a reason; societies’ practices start with an individual. Egyptian curses in the past were a method of protecting the royal class from whoever wanted to open their graves or steal the treasures that were buried with the mummified body. Egyptologist Salima Ikram at the American University in Cairo (AUC) working with the National Geographic Society grantee says it was part of a primitive security system. That’s what they were commonly cast and written for. However, the question is: would they have more hidden reasons and negative consequences in our present time for whoever dares to go near them?

Scientific Reasons for the Curses

The major scientific cause of the “pharaoh’s curse” was recently found to be biological in nature. Lab studies have shown that some ancient mummies carried mould containing two harmful substances called Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus flavus, which can result in congestion or bleeding in the lungs. The threatening bacteria in the lungs after being exposed to mummified materials such as Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus might also grow and invade the tomb walls. Furthermore, the chemicals used in embalming the mummies like ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and formaldehyde also have very negative effects. It is eccentric how, with all of these effects, some scientists agreed that the tombs aren’t as dangerous as they seem and cited that wearing masks and gloves would make general one-layered prevention of the toxic perils. When unwrapping a mummy, a certain gear was worn and a selection of helpful devices were used so the process would be safe to undergo. In 1999, Gotthard Kramer, a German microbiologist from the University of Leipzig, studied 40 different mummies and distinguished many menacing mould spores. He believes that whenever the tombs were opened, these moulds would react with the fresh air and then cause health problems.

Being an adventurer is something that would change a human being even if they weren’t fearful of such phenomenons, but taking essential precautions, having previous knowledge and doing further research would already save you from the outcomes if you wanted to explore things on your own. It was proven that it was a risky trip inside the tombs by other archaeologists who had preceding experiences; nevertheless, professor of epidemiology F. DeWolfe Miller at the University of Hawaii at Manoa said: “The idea that an underground tomb, after 3,000 years, would have some kind of a bizarre microorganism in it that’s going to kill somebody six weeks later and make it look exactly like [blood poisoning] is very hard to believe.”

Spiritual Reasons for the Curses

Archaeologists uncovered sarcophagi properties of priests buried 2,500 years ago in one of the Saqqara tombs; it was, in fact, one of the famous historical tombs for the great pharaohs like Ankhmahor; who lived more than 4,000 years ago. During Egypt’s sixth dynasty, there was a curse that was cast on his tomb that warned any trespasser that came across, saying: “what you might do against this, my tomb, the same shall be done to your property.” This would be bad news to any thief with bad intentions who provokes the dead mummies- if believing in ghosts or spirits would make them frightened. However, the scripture that was written on his tomb still mentions that those of pure and peaceful purposes are welcome to visit that holy place, which is preserved in the court of Osiris (Lord of the Egyptian Underworld), knowing that Osiris judges dead souls before they are transferred into the next afterlife.

Unfortunately, if the curse wasn’t still effective in our present time, it would be represented and considered as a myth, but in reality, a lot of people recently experienced the very real effects of even just residing a few kilometres away from the pyramids!

King Tutankhamun’s Mystery

Formerly, the English Egyptologist Howard Carter who was very famous for this story, found Tutankhamun’s tomb in Luxor, Egypt, on November 6th, 1922. Afterwards, on the 17th of February, 1923, he broke into the corpse’s chamber and examined the sarcophagus of the pharaoh. A few months later (on the 5th of April), his financial banker Lord Carnarvon died after his mosquito bite was infected. A lot of people found it weird how Carter’s assistant passed away like that while Carter himself survived. Is it because his helper was somehow found to be less pleasing to the pharaoh’s soul that he got damned this way?

 It is interesting that the king’s effect was still contagious and affecting other archaeologists too. For example, look at the story of Hugh Evelyn-White, another British archaeologist, who came upon the tomb and excavated the site. When he saw death scrape over about two dozen of his fellow excavators by 1924, he carved in his own blood “I have succumbed to a curse which forces me to disappear” before he killed himself. Similarly, George Jay Gould was an American financier and railroad executive who entered King Tut’s tomb in 1923 and fell very ill afterwards. He was never cured, nor did he recover from the curse; he also had pneumonia and died within some time. Another important person from Carnarvon’s crew fell into Tut’s brutal trap. The gentleman was called George Herbert, and we are not talking about the great and admirable welsh poet. Carter’s associate’s full nickname who helped in uncovering the tomb and its imprecation is George Herbert, fifth Earl of Carnarvon. He played a major role in contributing to the expedition and capitulating the spell, as well as financing the excavation of the pharaoh’s tomb.

Mentioned in the book “Egyptomania: Have We Cursed the Pharaohs?” by Frank L. Holt, there was more proof, as ten out of fifteen people in Europe were at least fifty-five when they died after finding the tomb, but only ten out of thirteen people involved in the reveal of the mummy lived that long. Moreover, the story was spread to worldwide and even reached the American law court that had to contend with King Tut’s curse in 1977. As an example, a fifty-six-year-old police officer ordered to guard the treasures of the King at an exhibition in San Francisco ended up with a sudden stroke that led to his unfortunate death after he filed suit against the judge, claiming he was struck down by Osiris again. Afterwards, the judge announced that Tutankhamun’s curse is not to blame for the guard’s incident and condition. Conforming to science, even with such different evidence and stories to tell, the truth might be cleared up someday so we can know the real causes of these haunting events.

Another Study of The Curse

It is straight-up strange how each type of study could show contradictory opinions about a precise topic, although almost some are undebatable as they are facts. The mummy’s curse was a controversial concern because there were countless questions and doubts examining the subject matter. As time grows, tools are being developed, and more advanced research is yet to come. In any case or field study, general experimentation results could vary from one time to another; here, this shone through as opposition challenging the statements of news, stories and articles that were written and shown to the public. For instance, a historical cohort study, which is a certain type of analysis based on medical records of particular groups of people, noted that the mummy curse was a physical rather than metaphysical occurrence and that only the people inside the pharaoh’s chamber were the ones at risk of being doomed despite their exposure being limited.

King Tutankhamun’s tomb was raided many times, from the opening of the first door that leads to the passageway and the opening of the second and fourth door and the clearing of antechamber/annexe. The curse wasn’t a theory to threaten individuals though, according to the study made by the doctor Mark R. Nelson from Monash University in Australia with other contributors. He considered only the Westerners in Howard Carter’s party since there was a difference in the life expectancy between Egyptians and Westerners. According to Christine El-Mahdy, the Egyptians in the first century AD were originally the people who suggested that mummies could revive and attack any person who broke into the pharaoh’s tomb. The concept lasted for a very good amount of time while being a popular story because the Ancient Egyptian language and culture had been suppressed and no one was attempting to correct this misunderstanding. Maybe it was in contradiction to the western way of analysing and debriefing the issue, where the outturns wouldn’t be similar.

Speaking of variations, Mark R. Nelson made his own statistical inquiry of the people who were in attendance inside the tomb and checked if their dates of death were accelerated and increased after the exposure to the curse. To comprehend the bigger frame of what’s being said and use it as convenient information, there are some terms used by statisticians to designate the variations of probability and possibility of the results. Suppose it’s called the p-value. A “p-value” of 0, which is the lowest possibility, explains there’s a 0% chance that your test outcomes are due to ordinary random variances, so the results are going to be significant. On the other hand, a “p-value” of 1, the highest possible, means that your results are 100% consistent, which is anticipated to see from normal random variations, hence, the results are insignificant.

Now to clarify and interpret them typically in numbers relating to the topic, we’d say of the 44 Westerners who went to the tomb, only 25 people were exposed to the curse. The ones who were exposed to it lived to the median age of 70, whereas those who weren’t lived up to 75. The p-value of this contrast was 87, so there’s an 87% chance that this difference was just simply due to likelihood. The usual average of surviving after the date of exposure was 20.8 years for the exposed group and 28.9 years for the unexposed group. It might sound like a big gap between variations, as the p-value was 95, justifying the 95% chance you’d have, is a difference anyway due to random variation. In Mark R. Nelson’s conclusion, he said that “there was no significant association between exposure to the mummy’s curse and survival, thus no evidence to support the existence of a mummy’s curse.”  It’s very clear how he strongly neglects the connection between the situation and its proof.

Exposing The Real Truth?

Comparing the plausible certitude of the consequences, there was an agreeable opinion towards the factualness of the curse. Brian Andrew Dunning, an American writer and producer who focuses on science and scepticism, claimed on one of Skeptoid’s podcasts that King Tut’s curse came up in some articles that were worthy of criticism. For instance, most of these rumours all came from 1920’s-era newspapers, which were popular for sensationalism and expansion of facts to create great headlines and highlights of such reports. In addition, Lord Carnarvon was known to be feeling weak at that time, and his mosquito bite infection causing his death wasn’t much of a surprise since it gave him septicemia and pneumonia.

Regardless of the dissimilarities of opinions, the curse was put in between acceptance and denial. Sir Henry Rider Haggard (author of King Solomon’s Mines) expressed the idea of the curse as “dangerous because it goes to swell the rising tide of superstition which at present seems to be overflowing the world”.

Lord Carnarvon wanted to keep the attention of Tutankhamun’s tomb away from the eyes of the public while the case was explicit, and he permitted and made an exclusive deal with the Times so they could access the pictures and documents, although he didn’t have the official right to invade the tomb in that way and allow that action to take place. His plan didn’t just vex King Tut himself, but also agitated and irked many other journalists, markedly Weigall of The Daily Mail, who next managed to publish articles declaring the tomb was anathematised since it gave worldwide recognition, good importance and a mass influence to various Egyptologists and archaeologists. Can you even believe a newspaper once publicised a hieroglyphic curse at the entrance of a tomb that said: “They who enter this sacred tomb shall swift be visited by wings of death.” It was asserted that there was no precise record of this phrase anywhere in the news or report on the tomb itself, which thereupon oddly disappeared. However, the following curse also did relate to Tutankhamun’s underworld guard, Anubis.

Now, how did a simple quotation make the curse active and effective? The inscription discovered on Anubis’s shrine remarked: “It is I who hinder the sand from choking the secret chamber. I am for the protection of the deceased”.  This antecedent and engraved statement were accurately approved by the public. Whoever visits the pyramids that have been thought to be a holy location filled with devotion would conventionally sense and experience an unusual feeling, whether due to the mystical vibes of the place or due to previous research-based knowledge about such ruins. We could notice the prospects of a spiritual basis that played a vital and remarkable role in the curse’s existence. As proof, the ancient Egyptian royal curses were directed towards those currently in this life rather those who have entered the next one, nonetheless, numerous amount of afterlife spells were imparted from a generation to another.

An address was recognized at Deir el Bahri by the pharaoh Thutmose I quoting to the court of his reigning daughter Hatshepsut: “He who will adore her, he will live; he who will speak evil in a curse against her majesty, he will die.”(Sethe 1906:15 ff). It was noted on pottery bowls and figurines from the end of the 12th-13th Dynasty. Those types of curses were said regarding people or foreign states that might have previously acted or wanted to act against ancient Egyptians, confirming that it might work in our present and modern Egypt. From time to time, some of the objects with their curses and inscriptions were ritually smashed.

Alas, the riddle remains one of the immense mysteries of Egyptian enigmas, discerning that everything in this world is probable forasmuch as the studies and researches are continuous. Hence, along with all of the different pieces of evidence we tried to come to an end with, the ancient Egyptians believed that when their names are remembered, their soul is kept alive. The curse is said to survive as long as the monument on which it was written does. If witchcraft is real and does have a long-lasting effect, then no wonder the forthright-mystical spells would have several outcomes too.

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