World Cultures I
May 5, 2013
What happened to the people who were present at the opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb? Was it really just random unfortunate, unexplainable, and tragic events that lead to their deaths, or was it something more like an ancient curse that brought them to their demise? On February 18, 1922 the sealed door to the burial chamber was finally opened, but it was yet another year before the quartzite lid to Tutankhamen’s coffin, weighing nearly 1.25 tons, was hoisted off. Another nine months after that until the inner coffins were removed to reveal the young kings body (Sayre, 2012, p. 65). The Curse of the pharaohs refers to the belief that any person who disturbs the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian person, especially a pharaoh, is placed under a curse. This curse, which does not differentiate between thieves and well-intentioned archaeologists, may allegedly cause bad luck, illness or death. Since the mid-20th century, many authors and documentaries have argued that curses are 'real' in the sense of being caused by scientifically explicable causes such as bacteria or radiation. The first and most famous of the "mysterious" deaths was that of Lord Carnarvon. He had been bitten by a mosquito, and later slashed the bite accidentally while shaving. It became infected and blood poisoning resulted. Recent laboratory studies have revealed that some ancient mummies do indeed carry mold, including at least two potentially dangerous species—Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus flavus. These molds can cause allergic reactions ranging from congestion to bleeding in the lungs. The toxins can be particularly harmful for people with weakened immune systems ("Lord Carnarvon’s death," 1923, p. 25). Some tomb walls may also be covered with respiratory-assaulting bacteria like Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus (Handwerk, 2005). “Lord Carnarvon’s death has...
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