Egyptian boy pharaoh Tutankhamen's travelling exhibition "Gold of the Pharaohs" has opened in Melbourne for a sell-out season. And once again the perennial "Curse of the Mummy" myth has surfaced. There are some strange circumstances that give breath to the myth but like all things the truth is in the eye of the beholder.
3,275 years ago when Tutankhamen's tomb in the Valley of the Kings, on the West bank of the Nile at Thebes [now Luxor] was sealed, the High Priest Ay placed an inscription above the door. Loosely translated from ancient text it reads, "Death will come on swift wings to whoever toucheth this Pharaoh."
On the 26th November 1922, Lord Carnarvon [above] and his archaeologist Howard Carter broke the seals and entered Tutankhamen's tomb for the first time. Five months later Lord Carnarvon was dead.
Exceedingly wealthy, Lord Carnarvon from Highclere Castle in Scotland, sponsored the excavation of the royal tomb. When he and Carter opened the tomb they exposed treasures unsurpassed in the history of archaeology.
Some months later, after Carnarvon had finally obtained permission to start clearing the tomb, he was bitten on the cheek by a mosquito. That night he returned from the tomb to his suite in the Winter Palace Hotel, on the East Bank at Luxor, Carnarvon accidentally cut himself shaving over the mosquito bite. His cut-throat razor could have been rusty. The cut became infected. Carnarvon returned to the Continental-Savoy Hotel in Cairo to recuperate but he died of blood poisoning on 5th April, 1923.
Co-incidentally, minutes after Carnarvon died, his prized pet dog, a cute little Terrier called Suzie, left behind in Highclere Castle, rolled over and also died. Thus the curse was born.
Lord Carnarvon's partner Howard Carter, the first to enter the tomb, defied the curse to live to a ripe old age. However, despite being the world's most famous egyptologist, Carter was never officially recognised for his achievements and died a broken old man.
His last years were spent sitting on the outside steps of Luxor's Winter Palace Hotel, hoping to earn a few pounds by recanting his story of how he unearthed the greatest archaeological discovery of all time.