Research, Technology

What lies behind the curse of the pharaohs?

In 1832, Emperor Nicholas I acquiredancient Egyptian granite statues that, as the story goes, guarded the tomb of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Since then, the majestic sphinxes have flaunted on the banks of the Neva, and the locals have made legends about them. It is believed that one cannot be photographed with them - whoever dares to do this will face seven years of misfortune. Another "prohibition" applies to married couples - on the day of marriage registration, it is better for newlyweds not to approach the statues. The reason for such superstitions lies in the "curse of the pharaohs", which, as it is believed, comprehends everyone who touches the graves of royal persons and mummies. Alas, the Egyptian curse does have victims - in November 1922, a group of archaeologists visited the Valley of the Kings, discovering the untouched tomb of Tutankhamun. This event is one of the most important discoveries in archeology, which switched the attention of the general public from science to mysticism. So what happened?

The discovery of the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun was one of the most important discoveries in archeology

Egyptian sculptors carved stone statueslions and placed them near temples and tombs to protect them from evil forces. Later, instead of the head of a lion, they carved the head of the pharaoh, believing that the sphinx has the strength of a lion and the mind of a man. This is because the pharaohs were considered messengers of the sun god Ra.


  • 1 How did the "curse of the pharaoh" come about?
  • 2 A string of mysterious deaths
  • 3 What is inside the pyramids?
  • 4 Path to the afterlife

How did the "curse of the pharaoh" come about?

We've all seen movies about mummies guardinggold and jewels in majestic tombs. For this reason, everyone who dares to enter the tomb and covet wealth will be cursed. For the first time, they started talking about a deadly curse in 1922 after the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamen. When an archeological expedition led by Howard Carter found themselves inside the 3,000-year-old tomb, the newspapers ran headlines not so much about the find as about the curse that befell the scientists.

Increased public attention to the tombTutankhamun reached its apogee with the opening of the burial chamber in February 1923 and the subsequent death of the expedition's sponsor, the greatest collector of Egyptian antiquities, Lord Carnarvon. A month after visiting the tomb, the British aristocrat died under very strange circumstances.

Archaeological expedition, Tutankhamun's tomb 1922

It is interesting
During the expedition and visiting the tomb of the lordCarnavorne was bitten by a mosquito, and quite hard. The next day, a British collector cut the bite while shaving and streptococcus got into the wound. The infection quickly set in and led to pneumonia and subsequent organ failure.

Subsequent events developed rapidly -those who visited the tomb died one by one. So, Carnavorne's friend, railroad tycoon George Gould, died a month after visiting the tomb, picking up an unknown infection in Egypt. Interestingly, the circumstances of his death were similar to the disease of the British collector - a strong fever flowed into pneumonia, from which Gould could not recover.

English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter

Following Gould and Carnavorne, he passed awayradiologist Archibald Douglas-Reid, who examined the mummy of an ancient Egyptian king. The exact cause of his death could not be established, but experts believed that he died from the effects of constant radiation.

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A series of mysterious deaths

May seem surprising but strangemore and more deaths, although they were not associated with infection: some acquaintances of the British lord died from arsenic poisoning and gunshot wounds. As a result, by 1929, virtually no one in the world doubted the reality of the "curse of the pharaoh." But what really happened?

As much as we don't want to believe in curses and mythsAncient Egypt, the reality looks different. So, Lord Carnavorne actually died of blood poisoning, and only six of the 26 people present at the opening of the tomb died within ten years. At the same time, the main (potential) target of the curse - the head of the archaeological expedition, Howard Carter, lived until 1939, almost 20 years after the opening of the sarcophagus.

The tomb of Tutankhamun consists of small rooms and a passage.

And though the curse may lack the poignancy the public liked it and over time was embodied in the literature andHollywood blockbusters. According to the late Egyptologist Dominic Montserrat, the concept of the pharaoh's curse predates Carnarvon's discovery of Tutankhamen and his death by as much as a hundred years.

Some researchers point out that the conceptThe Egyptian curse existed in ancient Egypt as part of a primitive security system: the walls of some tombs (which are not pyramids) at Giza and Saqqara were covered with "curses" designed to frighten those who would desecrate or rob the royal resting place.

What is inside the pyramids?

Since the popularity of stories about terrible mummiesgrew, some researchers wondered what pathogen or, for example, toxic mold, was in the tomb and could infect and kill its discoverers. And this is not surprising, since there are many dangerous pathogens on the planet, which are very easy to get infected (for example, with a sigh).

According to historians, Tutankhamun ruled in 1332-1323 BC. e.

Sealed tombs really cancontain bacteria and microorganisms that can cause death, especially in people with a weakened immune system. So, laboratory studies have shown that some ancient mummies contained mold, including Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus flavus - mycoses that can lead to pulmonary bleeding and blood stasis. And bacteria such as Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus are regulars on the walls of tombs.

More on the topic: How were the Egyptian pyramids built?

It may seem that due to the discoveredpathogens, the tombs of the ancient Egyptian kings are dangerous, but not all scientists agree with this statement. For example, University of Hawaii epidemiologist F. DeWolfe Miller is confident that Lord Carnarvon was probably safer inside Tutankhamen's tomb than outside.

Hollywood mummies are very different from real ones. But the public likes

In the 1920s, the streets of Egypt were dominated byunsanitary conditions, but people liked the idea that the underground tomb could be inhabited by strange microorganisms that could kill anyone who came into contact with them. Moreover, it is unlikely that there will be at least one archaeologist (or a curious tourist) in the world who has contracted mycosis or other infection as a result of studying ancient burials.

This is interesting: Why did Europeans eat Egyptian mummies?

Path to the afterlife

According to the Science Alert portal, over the pastthree months, archaeologists discovered 160 human coffins in the Egyptian Saqqara, which scientists plan to put on display in Egyptian museums. The decorated tombs of the ancient Egyptian rulers promised them a fabulous afterlife, which you can enjoy forever, and the walls of the tombs covered with curses frightened off robbers and marauders.

The paintings on the walls of the tombs of ancient Egypt are amazing

However, the inscriptions found in the tomb of Ankhmahor(the so-called tombs of the healer) do not look like curses and welcome all visitors with a pure soul and good intentions. In addition, the risk of infection with ancient microbes or fungi when working with mummies is small, and if you use personal protective equipment, nothing threatens the tomb seekers.

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According to one of the legends, sphinxes should not be looked into the eyes at dawn and at sunset. It is believed that at these moments the statues can subjugate a person.

Ultimately, it must be recognized that peopleI like stories about curses and dangerous infections more than real facts. And unlike mummies in movies and pharaohs cursing everything around, the legends of a terrible curse never seem to die. As for Petersburgers and guests of the city on the Neva, you don’t need to be afraid of the ancient Egyptian sphinxes, so you can take pictures with them for days on end.