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Articles Blog

King Tut

Karyn Planett

Curse Of The Mummy 

“Now when he was a young man,

He never thought he’d see

People stand in line to see the boy king.”

--From the hit single King Tut, words and music by Steve Martin. 

In fact, for a king who never reached the age of majority, who is credited with virtually no major accomplishments, who’s name nearly disappeared from all historical records, and who is still not included in the classic kings lists of Abydos and Karnak (oh, the humiliation), Tutankhamum is by acclimation an icon of Egypt comparable to the pyramids and the sphinx. 

“Born In Arizona, Moved To Babylonia” 

Actually, there is no record of where Tut was born, nor even any hard evidence of his parentage. In 1333 BC at age nine he became king and was married to his half sister, Ankhesenpaaten, who was of childbearing age (about 14) and had already had a child by her father. As a minor he was not able to rule directly and so his reign was marked by palace intrigues among caretakers, regents, advisors, and family pretenders. One of these intrigues resulted in his death at age 17 or 18. How and by whom is the subject of much forensic research and even more dramatic conjecture.

Central to the most popular theories are a hole in the skull of his remains and some bone chips at its base. The hole can probably be explained by the tradition of removing brain tissue before mummification, although this was usually done through the nose to avoid disfiguring the corpse. The bone chips suggest a blow to the back of the head and some wildly entertaining speculation about who may have delivered it.

Chief among the suspects was Ay, Tut’s vizier who ascended to the throne after his death… and married Tut’s wife! He may have been assisted by General Horernhab, chief of the pharaoh’s armies who became king after Ay (but missed out on the oft-married Ankhesenpaaten who by then had been murdered by Ay anyway). 

Egyptian tradition suggests that since the blow could only have been delivered from behind, the only two people who could have struck it were his personal attendant or his cup-bearer as they were the only ones trusted to approach the pharaoh from the rear. But whom would they have been working for? Perhaps a spy, the unsavory Dudu, who was not an Egyptian at all and was later discovered to be in the employ of a Palestinian state. Even Tut’s wife has been mentioned among the suspects as she is linked to evidence of poisoning as the cause of death, and may have been in cahoots with the cup-bearer (in the conservatory, with the rope). 

“Buried With A Donkey, He’s My Favorite Honky.” 

Once again, there is no evidence that a donkey was among the vast treasure that accompanied Tut to the afterlife. By the Twentieth Century, every other tomb in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes had been discovered and plundered by legions of grave robbers. Even Tut’s tomb was robbed at least twice shortly after his death but the keepers of the necropolis replaced all the artifacts that were stolen. Somewhere along the line, construction of another tomb nearby resulted in the entrance to Tut’s tomb being buried by rock chips and hidden from all until 1922. 

In that year, an English archaeologist named Howard Carter discovered the entrance to the tomb and, inside, the solid gold casket, the golden mask, and the rest of the jewels, amulets, and artifacts that have become one of the most popular touring exhibitions in the world. He also unleashed the mummy’s curse. 

“Born In Arizona, Got A Condo Made Of Stone-a.” 

On a clay tablet outside the entrance to the burial chamber were the words, “Death will slay with his wings whoever disturbs the peace of the pharaoh.” The day the seal was broken on Tut’s tomb, Carter’s pet canary was eaten by a cobra (an unusual occurrence as cobra’s were out of season) and the lights went out in Cairo (not an unusual occurrence, even today). As the cobra is a well-known symbol of the pharoah’s powers, this event triggered a frenzy of media coverage and the “curse of Tutankhamum” was born—not all of it pure invention. 

Seven weeks after the discovery, Lord Carnarvon, Carter’s sponsor, died from an infected mosquito bite on his cheek, exactly in the location where one was found on the mummy! Carvaron’s dog dropped dead the same day. Five months after Carvaron’s death, his younger brother died. Within ten years, six of the people associated with the opening of the tomb had died in mysterious circumstances.

“He Coulda Won a Grammy, Buried in his Jammies.” 

Curses, in fact, were the preferred method of deterring grave robbers (although none seem to have worked particularly well). Some of the more imaginative as translated from hieroglyphics are:

“As for anyone who shall lay a finger on this pyramid…(he will be) one who eats himself.”

“I shall seize his neck like that of a goose.”

“He shall have no heir (or maybe hair, we’re not sure).”

“He shall be miserable and persecuted.”

“A donkey shall violate him, a donkey shall violate his wife.”

“He shall be cooked together with the condemned.”

“Listen all of you! Anyone who does anything bad to my tomb, then the crocodile, hippopotamus, and lion will eat him.” 

Anyone who thinks this is all a bit of nonsense should consider this recent wire service story from February 21, 2005. 

“Curse of King Tut Haunts Mourning Woman”

Dateline Cairo---A South African woman, owner of a piece of jewelry believed stolen from the tomb of King Tutankhamen, has asked the government in Cairo for help in breaking King Tut’s curse after two members of her family suffered untimely deaths.” 

Enough said. 

                                                                                    Karyn L. Planett