Notebook

Soon it became generally accepted that Tutenkhamen had somehow killed Lord Carnarvon. Howard Carter found it necessary to repeat time after time that Tutenkhamen’s tomb contained no biological booby traps, no poison and no curse, but to no avail. The speculation grew and grew, with many choosing to believe that Carter was collaborating with “the authorities” to hide the evidence. Conspiracy theories are notoriously difficult to disprove. Could Lord Carnarvon have been infected by a mosquito that had been contaminated by Tutenkhamen’s embalming fluid? No; before the Aswan High Dam raised the water table, there were no mosquitoes in the dry Valley of the Kings. Could he have been poisoned by inhaling the toxic bat dung heaped on the tomb floor? No, because there were no bats in the sealed tomb. Could he have been killed by the potent curse carved over the entrance? No, because, contrary to many reports, there was no such curse…

In 1934 the American Egyptologist Herbert Winlock attempted to disprove the theory of the curse by studying the facts. He found that a mere six of the 26 people present at the tomb opening had died within a decade… Of those who had first crept into the burial chamber, only Lord Carnarvon – a man already in ill health – had died prematurely. Howard Carter would outlive Lord Carnarvon by 16 years, and Lady Evelyn would not die until 1980. But still, rumours about the “curse” of Tutenkhamen persist.

Joyce Tyldesley, “Egypt: How A Lost Civilization Was Rediscovered”.

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