Why did the princess's hand come to life at this particular moment during her eternal
vigil outside the gates of Osiris? Count Hamon did not pretend to know the answer to this riddle,
but he believed that the ancient Egyptians possessed strange and remarkable powers, and had the
key to many mysteries unknown to modern man. He obviously connected this weird and
fantastic story with the discovery by modern Egyptologists of the tomb of the princess's brotherin-
Now this famous tomb had an unusual history. As everyone knows, the Egyptians had
for centuries buried their kings in the pyramids, which were just huge shells of masonry built
around the royal burial chamber. But they had been a singularly ineffective form of protection,
for every pyramid had been plundered of its treasures by generations of tomb robbers, who
thrived in Ancient Egypt undeterred by the awful curses laid by the priests upon those who
disturb the holy sleep of the royal departed. The Pharaohs eventually abandoned pyramid burial
and made their tombs in the cliffs of the Nile. Even so, the tomb plunders sought them out, and
at the time of the fall of the Egyptian Empire (1150 B.C.) Not one royal tomb remained
It was quite by accident that the burial place of Tutenkhamen remained undisturbed
throughout the centuries. Shortly after his burial had taken place, tomb robbers broke into the
splendid sepulcher, and were discovered in the act. The grim fate of the robbers can be left to
the imagination. The loot was all replaced, with the exception of some of the gold vessels which
apparently proved too much of a temptation for certain officials and mysterious disappeared
during the replacement of the treasures. After that the tomb remained undisturbed, and probably
well guarded. Two hundred years later the excavations for the tomb of Rameses VI resulted in
the tomb of Tutenkhamen being completely buried underneath tons of limestone rubble.
The actual discovery of the tomb on 4 November, 1922 - four days after the princess
retrieved the precious hand which would at long last gain her access to the realms of Osiris-was
made by Howard Carter, a well-known Egyptologist whose expedition in the Nile Valley was
financed by Lord Carnarvon. The richness and beauties of Tutenkhamen's tomb had long been
told in legend. It was said that it had been filled with the most priceless treasures. A story had
been told for centuries that Akhnaton had chosen Tutenkhamen to succeed him because he
possessed some kind of supernatural power, and that these powers had protected his sacred tomb
throughout the ages. The opening of the tomb therefore was surrounded by foreboding from the
When he read of the imminent opening of Tutenkhamen's tomb Count Hamon wrote
urgently to Lord Carnarvon recounting his fantastic experience with the hand of the dead
Pharaoh's sister-in-law, and begged him not to defy the curse and enter the forbidden tomb,
which he would do at the risk of his life.
'The ancient Egyptians possessed knowledge and powers of which we today have no
comprehension,' wrote Hamon. 'Take care not to offend their spirits.'
Carnarvon was at first so impressed by this warning that he decided not to open the tomb
and tempt the ancient curse, but carter would not listen. He had no intention of giving up years
of labor on account of an ancient curse which was calculated to frighten the superstitious and the
ignorant. Carter was so determined that Carnarvon gave in. After all, he had given his warning.
On 22 February, 1923, they entered the tomb, Carnarvon being first, followed by Carter
(the order was apparently important), the event being accompanied by a blaze of world-wide
publicity. This was the first and only time that such a tomb had been found intact, and even the
archaeologists who know more or less what to expect were astonished at the unparalleled
magnificence of the tomb furnishings of the young Pharaoh.
It was a somber moment when these artistic wonders and treasures of the ancient world
were revealed once more to human eyes after their three-thousand-year entombment in the Nile
cliffs. Tutenkhamen lay in a splendid sarcophagus of blue and gold. The outer coffin richly
wrought in gold was uniquely beautiful. The mummy case, made in his likeness, was inlaid with
gold and lapis lazuli.
For many long and devoted months Carter worked among these ancient and mysterious
splendors, salvaging the magnificent treasure, most of which was put in the National Museum at
Cairo. When he opened the mummy-case, he found that the consecration balm had made the
body adhere to the bottom of the golden coffin. The examination of the body showed that
Tutenkhamen had been about eighteen years old, and no sign could be discovered that he had not
met a natural death.
Carter immersed himself in these fascinating excavations which occupied him until 1924,
completely undisturbed by the curse which was presumed to have descended upon him.
It is not to be supposed that such spirits as have an eternal vigil at these ancient places of
burial are less perturbed when the plunder takes place in the interests of archaeology. Taking a
mummy from its coffin was considered an act of the most appalling desecration, the perpetrator
of which was threatened with swift and fearful retribution, whatever his motive might be.
During the excavation of Tutenkhamen's tomb Lord Carnarvon was bitten by a mosquito,
and after several months of illness he died in Cairo on 5 April, 1923. A few years later his
brother committed suicide and his stepmother died after another mysterious insect bite.
Naturally much was made of the ancient curse. But Carter, an inveterate tomb-opener,
and who had done the real work of excavating Tutenkhamen's tomb, suffered no ill-effects and
continued his work until 1939 when he died at the age of sixty-six.
But those who believe in the tomb curse sat that it applies to the first man to enter the
burial chamber, and Lord Carnarvon, whose expedition it was, claimed that honor himself and
was swiftly struck down.
Nevertheless the fact remains that many tombs of the Pharaohs upon which the solemn
curse was laid have been opened and plundered with apparent impunity throughout the ages.
Carnarvon seems to have believed in the curse, and it has been observed that people who believe
in curses are more likely to be struck down by them.
More effective was the curse laid upon those who handled the mummy-case of another
princess of Ancient Egypt who had been a high-priestess in the Temple of Amon-Ra. She was
supposed to have lived in Thebes in about 1600 B.C. The outside of the case bore her image
worked in gold and enamel. It was in an unusually good state of preservation and was brought
by the late Douglas Murray many years ago while on a visit to Egypt.
Murray knew nothing about the curse at the time, and though he confessed to a slight
aversion of this object of ancient curiosity, he could not resist the temptation to acquire it, which
he did and had it packed up and sent to London.