November 26th, 1922 Lord Carnarvon asked Howard Carter “Can you see anything?” and Carter replied with those famous words; “Yes, Wonderful Things.”
The discovery of an almost intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings generated an explosion of interest through the media. The press arrived in their droves to Luxor to visit the site.
“Almost Intact” refers to the fact that the tomb was burgled twice, shortly after it was sealed. It is a small tomb, hurriedly constructed due to the early death of Tutankhamun. The boy pharaoh ruled from the age of 9 to 19 and his short reign did not allow enough time for the construction of a magnificent tomb.
After being burgled the tomb was resealed by priests. The entrance was then covered by stone chips either from a flood or the spill from the excavation of another tomb. Later some workers houses were built on the site, completely sealing off the entrance.
As the other tombs in the valley were systematically plundered in antiquity the tomb of the boy king lay unspoiled, forgotten and pristine.
Egyptology became the must have fashion accessory of the 1920’s. It made its way into art, furniture, design, clothing and entertainment.
Rumor abounded that Carter found a dreadful curse in the seals on the tomb entrance. The first victim of the curse was Carters pet canary. A messenger running to his home found a cobra in the cage of the deceased songbird. This happened on the day the tomb was opened, and the Cobra is a well known symbol of divine authority in ancient Egypt.
When Lord Carnarvon died six weeks after the opening of the tomb, from an infected mosquito bite the media went into a frenzy.
Carter gave a gift of a mummified hand set in a paperweight to his friend Sir Bruce Ingram. On the wrist was a bracelet inscribed with the text; “Cursed be he who moves my body. To him shall come fire, water and pestilence.”
Ingram’s house burned down and he rebuilt it. Then it was destroyed by a flood.
Although skeptical of curses himself Howard Carter reported
that he saw jackals in the desert for the first time in his 35 years working there, of the same type as Anubis, Egyptian guardian of the dead.
The concept of the mummy’s curse rapidly became the stuff of book and film. To this day the “Monster Mummy” remains firmly in the top rank of horror movie subjects along with the Werewolf, the Vampire and the Zombie.
In Memory of my Mother; by Patrick Kavanagh
I do not think of you lying in the wet clay
Of a Monaghan graveyard; I see
You walking down a lane among the poplars
On your way to the station, or happily
Going to second Mass on a summer Sunday –
You meet me and you say:
‘Don’t forget to see about the cattle – ‘
Among your earthiest words the angels stray.
And I think of you walking along a headland
Of green oats in June,
So full of repose, so rich with life –
And I see us meeting at the end of a town
On a fair day by accident, after
The bargains are all made and we can walk
Together through the shops and stalls and markets
Free in the oriental streets of thought.
O you are not lying in the wet clay,
For it is a harvest evening now and we
Are piling up the ricks against the moonlight
And you smile up at us – eternally.