King Tut's Curse

Tut's mask
© Photo copyright Larry Orcutt

The tomb of the boy king Tutankhamen was opened by Howard Carter on 26 November 1922. Not pillaged since ancient times, the tomb yielded treasures that remain the most spectacular ever discovered in the Valley of the Kings.

One product resulting from the contemporary frenzy of the news press was the story of King Tut's curse, which has since been retold many times. Most versions have Howard Carter finding a clay tablet in the Antechamber of the tomb. A few days after cataloguing it, the tale goes, Alan Gardiner deciphered the hieroglyphics. The tablet read:

Death will slay with his wings whoever disturbs the peace of the pharaoh.

Both Carter and Gardiner regarded the curse as nonsense, we are told, but lest the find scare away the local workers, all mention of the tablet was wiped from the record. The tablet itself disappeared, of course, never having been photographed or sketched.

Other versions of the curse story exist. One has the text on the door of the second golden shrine:

They who enter this sacred tomb shall swift be visited by wings of death.

Another has the curse inscribed on a stone, which Carter later buries:

Let the hand raised against my form be withered! Let them be destroyed who attack my name, my foundation, my effigies, the images like unto me!

Yet another has the curse written on the mud base of a candle set upon the Anubis shrine:

It is I who hinder the sand from choking the secret chamber. I am the protection for the deceased and I will kill all those who cross this threshold into the sacred precincts of the Royal King who lives forever.

The effectiveness of any curse associated with Tut's tomb can be gauged by its results within the following decade:

Though the curse of Tut was pure modern invention, some ancient Egyptian tombs did include maledictions of various degrees. Read some of them here.

Catchpenny Mysteries © copyright 2000 by Larry Orcutt.