Scientists finally solve the mystery behind the ‘Phoraoh’s curse’ that killed those who opened King Tutankhamun’s tomb

Scientists claim to have the answers to the unsettling “curse” that some believe is responsible for the deaths of 20 people who opened King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Tutankhamun is perhaps the most famous of the Ancient Egyptian kings. He took the throne at the age of nine and ruled the empire until he was 19.

There was a popular theory that the pharaoh was murdered by a blow to the head but that was disapproved following a CT scan that suggests he broke his leg just before he died, according to National Geographic.

The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 by archaeologist Howard Carter sent shockwaves through the world, unveiling a treasure trove of ancient artifacts and ushering in an era of fascination with ancient Egypt. However, amidst the awe and wonder, a dark and ominous shadow loomed over the expedition – the infamous Curse of the Pharaohs.

A scientist claims to have cracked the case of the ‘Pharaoh’s curse’ that was believed to have killed more than 20 people. Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty

The infamous “Pharoh’s curse” comes after many of the first men to step foot in Tutankhamun’s tomb following its excavation died prematurely – some in very unfortunate circumstances.

For example, Lord Carnavon, the financial backer of the expedition, met a tragic end just months after the tomb’s unveiling. A seemingly innocuous mosquito bite on his face led to blood poisoning, claiming his life in 1923. Two of Carnavon’s half-brothers also met untimely deaths shortly after visiting the tomb, fueling speculation about the curse’s reach.

Prince Ali Kamel Fahmy Bey of Egypt became another victim of the curse when he was shot dead by his wife in 1923, adding a macabre twist to the tale. Similarly, George Jay Gould I, son of the renowned financier Jay Gould, succumbed to a fever after visiting the tomb, further entrenching the belief in the curse’s deadly power.

Even Howard Carter’s secretary, Richard Bethell, met a grim fate when he was allegedly smothered in his bed in 1929, adding another layer of intrigue to the curse’s legacy.

However, the deaths of at least four of the men have now been provided with a plausible explanation.

It’s believed that a handful of the tragedies resulted from toxic levels of radiation from the uranium and poisonous waste that have remained inside the tomb since it was closed over 3,000 years ago, per Ross Fellowes’ study in the Journal of Scientific Exploration (JSE).

Exposure to these can lead to cancers, one of which killed an archaeologist named Howard Carter, who was the first person to enter Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.

Carter died in 1939 likely of a heart attack after a long battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer “that affects the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s germ-fighting immune system,” per Mayo Clinic.

Another person who walked through the treasured filled rooms was Lord Carnarvon and he passed away from blood poisoning five months later. In addition, British Egyptologist Arthur Weigall, who is credited with starting the ‘myth’ of the curse, died of cancer at 54 years old.

According to Daily Mail, other people who were involved in the excavation died in their fifties, of medical conditions including poisoning, malaria, X-ray exposure, asphyxia, stroke, diabetes, heart failure, and pneumonia.

Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon during the excavation. Credit: Hulton Archive / Getty

Fellowes penned in his study that “both contemporary and ancient Egypt populations are characterized by unusually high incidences of hematopoietic cancers, of bone/blood/lymph, for which a primary known cause is radiation exposure”.

However, this radioactivity isn’t reserved for just Tutankhamun’s tomb as “unusually high radiation levels” have been documented in Old Kingdom tomb ruins and spread throughout sites in Egypt.

It’s believed the ancient Egyptians were aware of the toxins, with the expert adding: “The nature of the curse was explicitly inscribed on some tombs, with one translated presciently as, ‘they that break this tomb shall meet death by a disease that no doctor can diagnose.'”

Workers removed a tray of chariot parts from Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. Credit: Heritage Images / Getty

While the deaths can be seen as bizarre, the curse theory was also likely fueled by the peculiar incidents that occurred when the tomb was opened.

Per The New York Post, two of the oddities were Carnarvon ‘s aforementioned mosquito bite and that his dog allegedly let out a haunting howl and suddenly dropped dead during the excavation.

Another strange event was that the Egyptian city of Cairo reportedly suffered a sudden power outage and a freak sandstorm, as cited in National Geographic.

“People love to say it’s the curse [whenever strange things happen around King Tut],” Ashraf Selim, a radiologist at Kasr Eleini Teaching Hospital at Cairo University in Egypt, joked.

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