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The Curse of the Mummy - Mythbuster for Kids



What is the "Curse of the Mummy"?


Many people are familiar with the myth of the “Curse of the Mummy”. The legend says that any person who disturbs an Egyptian Mummy or an Ancient Egyptian tomb will be cursed.


“What is this terrifying curse?” I hear you squeal anxiously. Well, nobody actually knows. It seems the “curse” can take many forms – some more threatening than others! This “curse” could lead to an early death for the one who disturbed the tomb. It could mean the person is cursed with a horrible illness. Or it could mean you just get bad luck – like you regularly stub your toe on things or occasionally drop bottles of milk on the floor.


When did the Myth Start?

An Ancient Egyptian Mastaba

Some early Ancient Egyptian tombs (called Mastaba) were inscribed with curses claiming that anybody who disturbed the tomb would be killed by a terrifying animal like a crocodile, lion or snake. These curses were used to scare Ancient Egyptian tomb robbers and stop them from stealing the treasure buried in the tomb.


The famous “Mummy’s Curse” myth that we know today became popular around the 19th century when people in England became obsessed with Ancient Egyptian history. The trend became known as “Egyptomania”. Egyptian relics and treasures were sold off to people in England. People even bought Egyptian Mummies and hosted stage shows where they would unwrap the Mummy’s bandages in front of an audience!


It didn’t take long for the trend to inspire some scary stories. Writers began spinning tales about how the Egyptian Mummies would get their revenge on those who had disturbed their tombs by cursing them.


Has Anybody Actually Been Cursed Before?

Tutankhamun's Death Mask. Courtesy Mark Fischer

Yes, a gentleman called Lord Carnarvon.


Lord Carnarvon funded Howard Carter in his search for ancient treasure in Egypt. You may recognise Howard Carter’s name – he was the dude who (with the help of lots of money from Lord Carnarvon) discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.


Lord Carnarvon was stood with Carter when Tutankhamun’s tomb was opened for the first time since the Boy King was buried in it thousands of years before. Six weeks later, Carnarvon died suddenly from blood poisoning.


And he wasn’t the only one. In total, 6 members of Howard Carter’s 26-person team died over the 10 years following the discovery of the tomb.


Okay, But Were They Actually Cursed?


No.


The myth of the “Mummy’s Curse” became very popular after the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. The discovery was so impressive that it hit the headlines of the newspapers and soon it was all anybody could talk about!


As is often the case with exciting news stories, the media grabbed every opportunity to make more headlines on the subject. So, when Lord Carnarvon died very soon after the tomb had been opened, the newspapers went into a frenzy over it!

Lord Carnarvon, his daughter, Lady Evelyn Herbert, and Howard Carter

The newspapers made up a story that Howard Carter and his team had been cursed by Tutankhamun. Soon, there were stories claiming that Carter and his team had ignored an inscription over the tomb claiming “Death shall come on swift wings to him that toucheth the tomb of a Pharaoh”. Some even claimed that the Titanic had sunk because of the Mummy’s Curse.


Modern theories have even claimed that Howard Carter’s team had disturbed some vicious bacteria that had grown in the tomb over thousands of years. The team breathed in the bacteria and it killed them!


The truth of the story is this; there was no threatening inscription written on the tomb, Lord Carnarvon’s blood poisoning was caused by an infected mosquito bite and the Titanic sank in 1912, 10 years before the tomb of Tutankhamun had even been discovered by Howard Carter and his team!


If this story teaches us anything, it's that we shouldn’t believe everything we see on the news!


But is there Some Truth in the Story?


We wouldn’t like to say. What do you think?


Do you think it was a curse that killed so many people from Howard Carter’s team in just 10 years after the tomb’s discovery, or just a coincidence? Do you believe the bacteria growing inside a tomb could actually be deadly to humans or just cause you to sneeze a couple of times? Do you think the inscriptions on Egyptian Mastabas could cause ancient grave robbers to die by crocodile attack or just make them paranoid whenever they walked near a river?


Do you believe in the Curse of the Mummy?

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