فصل 03

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فصل 03

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Part three

King Tutankhamun’s Tomb

The Valley of the Kings

Perhaps the most famous of all the pharaohs of Egypt is Tutankhamun. The mystery surrounding the discovery of his tomb is one of the most fascinating and bizarre of our times. Was King Tutankhamun’s tomb protected by a terrible curse that has continued through the centuries?

Around four thousand years ago, the ancient Egyptians buried their pharaohs in pyramids along the Nile in northern Egypt. The pharaohs tombs were filled with precious jewels and rich treasures for their journey to another world after their death.

But tomb robbers entered most of the pyramids and stole these treasures. It was almost impossible to stop them.

In around 1,500 BC the ancient Egyptians began to build secret tombs in the Valley of the Kings, in the hills near the town of Thebes. However, over the centuries, robbers still found the tombs and stole most - but not all - of their precious treasures. A few tombs, including King Tutankhamun’s, remained almost untouched.


The Search for King Tut’s Tomb

European archaeologists became interested in ancient Egypt in the nineteenth century. They knew that there were treasures of immense scientific and artistic value inside the pharaohs tombs. But they also knew that many of them had been robbed centuries before.

In 1891 a young Englishman called Howard Carter arrived in Egypt and started working with the European archaeologists. After many years of work, he began to look for an undiscovered tomb: the tomb of the almost unknown King Tutankhamun, or King Tut, in the Valley of the Kings.

King Tut became Pharaoh at the age of nine and ruled until his death in 1323 BC, when he was only eighteen. His death is surrounded by mystery and no one really knows how he died. An X-ray of his mummy shows an injury at the back of his head. Did someone kill King Tut? And if so, why? Did he die of natural causes? This remains an unsolved mystery.

Howard Carter needed someone to sponsor his search for King Tut’s tomb. Fortunately, he was able to convince Lord Carnarvon, a wealthy British aristocrat, to help him. For five years, Carter and his workers searched for King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, but they found nothing. Carter returned to England to convince Lord Carnarvon to give him more money. In 1922 Lord Carnarvon agreed to sponsor him for one last try.

Carter brought a pet canary back with him to Egypt. When Reis Ahmed, one of Carter’s workers, saw the yellow canary for the first time, he exclaimed, ‘A golden bird! It will lead us to a tomb full of gold!’

Perhaps the bird was a good omen, because after a short time Carter’s workers discovered a step in a rock that had been hidden for centuries. They dug further and found fifteen more steps: they led to an ancient door that had never been opened.

‘Could this be the tomb of Tutankhamun, at last?’ Carter said. He could not believe his eyes. ‘I must contact Lord Carnarvon immediately. We can’t open the tomb until he’s here!’

Carter was sure that he had finally discovered King Tut’s tomb. When he went home that night his servant met him at the door with a few yellow feathers in his hand. He was terribly frightened and said, ‘Your pet canary was killed by a cobra! The cobra is the ancient symbol of the pharaoh. It ate your canary because it led you to the hidden tomb. You must not disturb the tomb of the pharaoh!’

Carter was not superstitious and did not believe what his servant told him. But it is interesting to note that cobras are rare in Egypt and are rarely seen in the late autumn, when the tomb was discovered.


The Curse of Tutankhamun

Carter sent a telegram to Lord Carnarvon, who immediately left for Egypt. On 26 November 1922 Lord Carnarvon watched Carter and his workers make a hole in the door of King Tut’s tomb. Carter entered the tomb holding a candle. Behind him Lord Carnarvon asked, ‘Can you see anything?’ Carter answered, ‘Yes, wonderful things!’ The tomb had not been opened for over 3,200 years.

Carter discovered one of the most magnificent treasures in history. The tomb contained an amazing collection of treasures-over three thousand precious objects, gold, jewels, a wonderful funeral mask and a stone sarcophagus with three gold coffins, one inside the other. The third gold coffin was made of more than 1,000 kilograms of gold. Inside it was the mummy of the boy-king Tutankhamun.

Rumours say that Carter also found a tablet of stone with this message: ‘Death comes on wings to anyone who enters the tomb of the pharaoh.’ This was the pharaoh’s curse, but he did not tell his workers because he did not want to frighten them.

About five months after the tomb was opened, Lord Carnarvon was bitten on his left cheek by a mosquito. This caused a serious infection and a fever. He was taken to hospital in Cairo, where he became very ill and died. When Lord Carnarvon died, the lights went out for several hours in Cairo. At the exact time of his death, Susie, his favourite dog back home in England, howled and died.

Something very strange happened when the mummy of King Tut was examined in 1925. It was discovered that the young pharaoh had a cut on his left cheek in the same place as the mosquito bite on Lord Carnarvon’s left cheek. Was this a coincidence, or was it the result of the curse?

Many mysterious and unexplained deaths followed the opening of the tomb. The French Egyptologist George Benedite, the American Egyptologist Arthur Mace and others died soon after visiting it. Were they all under the influence of the curse?

Strange things have happened more recently, too. Mohammed Ibrahim was the Director of Egyptian Antiquities at the Museum of Cairo. After signing an agreement to send part of King Tut’s treasures to an exhibition in Paris, he was killed by a car. The same thing happened to the new Director, Gamal Meherz, after he signed another agreement in 1972.


A Mystery Explained?

Today some experts say that the cause of these strange deaths was a mysterious virus or bacteria that was present in the tomb. Others disagree.

Could the deaths be a simple set of coincidences? When the tomb was opened in 1922, newspapers invented many mysterious stories about the curse, and people began to believe them. Howard Carter, who never believed in the curse, died of natural causes at the age of sixty-five.

What do you think? Would you enter King Tut’s tomb?

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