On this day in 1923, in Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist and Egyptologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh, Tutankhamun.
As the ancient Egyptians saw their pharaohs as gods, they carefully preserved their bodies after death, burying them in elaborate tombs containing rich treasures to accompany the rulers into the afterlife. In the 19th century, archeologists from all over the world flocked to Egypt, where they uncovered a number of these tombs. Many had long ago been broken into by grave robbers and stripped of their riches.
When a 17-year-old Carter arrived in Egypt in 1891, he became convinced there was at least one undiscovered tomb–that of the little known Tutankhamen, or King Tut, who lived around 1400 B.C. and died when he was still a teenager. Backed by a rich Brit, Lord Carnarvon, Carter searched for five years without success. In early 1922, Lord Carnarvon wanted to call off the search, but Carter convinced him to hold on one more year.
In November 1922, the wait paid off, when Carter’s team found steps hidden in the debris near the entrance of another tomb. The steps led to an ancient sealed doorway bearing the name Tutankhamen. When Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb’s interior chambers on November 26, they were thrilled to find it virtually intact, with its treasures untouched after more than 3,000 years. The men began exploring the four rooms of the tomb, and on February 16, 1923, under the watchful eyes of a number of important officials, Carter opened the door to the last chamber.
In the years following the discovery, not less than 11 people present or associated with the dig perished, including Lord Carnarvon himself, who died six weeks after the opening of the final chamber; four additional personnel expired inside of one year. Coincidence? We think not.
Meanwhile, a mere 10 years later, the discovery spawned “The Mummy,” a Universal picture starring Boris Karloff. Following the glide path of most horror franchises, the Mummy series devolved with the casting of Lon Chaney, Jr. in the title role, and eventually, Abbot and Costello as the protagonist explorers. Ouch.
And here our lesson of Egypt, avarice and the Curse of Tutankhamun endeth.