Tag Archive: Howard Carter


Without knowing details about the causes of histoplasmosis, South Africa’s Doctor Geoffroy Dean starts comparing its symptoms to diverse cases of similar illnesses throughout the world.  He arrives at the conclusion that the sickness from which numerous egyptologists suffered, particularly those who participated in Howard Carter’s work, is probably histoplasmosis.

Dean immediately writes a five point memo which he sends to London.  Firstly he affirms:

” – It is not surprising that no-one in 1923 thought about bats.  For histoplasmosis is a rare disease, and was more or less unknown at this time.

” – Second point:  it is a disease of which the symptoms are not very clear even today, and it is difficult to diagnose.

” – I am convinced that the conditions in which the egyptologists could have contracted it existed in Tutankhamun’s tomb or in the other mortuary chambers that they explored.

” – It is a disease which kills slowly and rather insidiously those who are not immunised.  This would explain why certain scholars died several months, even several years after having worked inside the tombs.”

 – Lastly, Dean considers that a person having contracted histoplasmosis, even in a benign form, and recovers, is immunised, vaccinated naturally.  This is why certain egyptologists, starting with Carter, were not victims of it.

This theory comports serious flaws.  For example, the symptoms described by Dean are far removed from those manifested by Lord Carnavon when he arrives in Cairo complaining of an infected mosquito sting.  This does not stop Geoffroy Dean’s memo from being received in Europe with great interest.  A London daily announces:

“An obscure doctor from South Africa elucidates the Tutankhamun mystery.”

Eminent British doctors declare that they admit the histoplasmosis and bat theory.  In the concert of praise addressed to Dean, there is one false note.  It comes from Egypt where a renowned egyptologist, Dr Selim Hassan, of Cairo University, refuses to take Dean’s theory seriously.  He declares:

“The idea that histoplasmosis and bats united to kill [Carter’s] friends is just as fantastic as affirming that they were victims of Tutankhamun’s curse or vengeance.  I, myself, penetrated the tomb, and am alive.  I affirm as well that I saw no bats there.”

It is true that nowhere, in the writings of Carter or any other egyptologist, are bats mentioned.  In the case of Tutankhamun, the necropolis was hermetically sealed for several millenia;  bats are extremely robust creatures but there are limits to their capacities for survival…

For Dean, the bats arrived upon discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.  During the dig, the subterranean corridor, which led to the sarcophage, remained open and allowed the bats to find shelter there.  They were abundant in the Valley of the Kings in 1923.

Dr Hassan does not convince everybody.  The British Medical Journal is not afraid to risk its prestige by upholding Dean’s point of view:

“If, as Dr Hassan affirms, there were no bats in the tomb nor any trace of bats, it does not prove the absence of histoplasmosis germs.  This disease can be transmitted by different types of subterranean mushrooms, and not necessarily by bat droppings.  Lord Carnavon’s death was attributed to pneumonia which could have been caused by different types of infection, including histoplasmosis.  It is possible that no bat had ever penetrated Tutankhamun’s tomb.  But it is important to underline one thing and it is the growth of mushrooms in such subterranean chambers, and histoplasmosis is an infection which comes from mushrooms.”

The debate continues over several months, until around the end of 1956, then it dies out on its own.  No-one talks about it today, and many egyptologists have never even heard of Dean’s theory.

***

The attempts to scientifically explain the death – supposedly abnormal – of the archaeologists whose names are connected with the study of Tutankhamun’s tomb, end there.  Once again, let us repeat that a lot of scholars have never accorded the slightest credit to all that has been said about the death of their colleagues.  The German egyptologist, G. Steindorf, tried, in 1933, to destroy the curse myth.  His enquiry proves that several victims attributed to Tutankhamun had never even approached the tomb, let alone been scholars who discovered or studied it.  For the others, for Carnavon and Mace, Steindorf attributes their deaths to coincidence or natural causes, rejecting any idea of fate, curse, or illness contracted inside the necropolis.

Other egyptologists have tried to demonstrate the absurdity of the legend.  Relying on their knowledge of Ancient Egyptian religion, its rites and its incantations, they consider that the fact of exhuming Tutankhamun’s mummy could not, in any way, constitute sacrilege.  On the contrary, it would be a pious act against which the strictest Egyptian priests would have found nothing to say, the true accomplishment of the pharaoh’s destiny.

To understand this theory, we must try to pierce the mystery of the birth, life and death of Tutankhamun.  Know in what conditions he was inhumed.  This is not an easy task.

***

One thing is immediately obvious to all egyptologists:  unlike what happened for most pharaohs, Tutankhamun’s contemporaries were not overly interested in leaving traces of his reign.  Everything leads us to believe that, after his death, his successors tried to efface the memory of his name.  They buried him with all of the usual ceremony, doubtless to conform to their religion, but they also did what they could for posterity to know nothing about Tutankhamun.

For a long time, it was thought that pharaohs were buried in the greatest secrecy, in hidden places.  The chroniclers of Ancient Rome even affirm that the workmen who worked on the necropolises, underground or carved into rock, were put to death once the work was finished.  Modern archaeologists have a completely different opinion.  They say that it is absurd to speak of secret funerals.  All of the documents which have been translated since Champollion pierced the mysteries of hieroglyphs, in 1822 – exactly one century before the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb – prove that, in reality, the Valley of the Kings was a place of pilgrimage.

To be continued.

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We know of sleeping viruses, like that of the measles which is capable of remaining ten years in the human brain, but can a virus survive three thousand years?

The scholars and labourers who worked at Tutankhamun’s tomb were not the only ones to complain of diverse illnesses engendered by an assiduous frequentation of necropolises, Egyptian or otherwise.  All archaeologists who have worked in subterranean tombs have known these sorts of maladies.  Among the French egyptologists, Pr Leclan, who spent part of his existence exploring pharaonic necropolises, has noted that the dust of the tombs provokes two sorts of reactions:

 – a skin reaction, skin irritation, eruption of sores on the hands, principally between the fingers;

 – slight respiratory difficulties, with inflammation of the throat, little dry cough, provoked by deposits of dust on the mucuses.

These are the known symptoms of the “Copte sickness” suffered by Howard Carter and his collaborators.  Pr Leclan declares:

“But these little problems do not deeply affect the health of a fit individual.  They go away in a few days, as soon as one ceases to live amongst old papyrus, mummies and skeletons…”

The idea of an allergy is therefore more credible.  Its parasite would be Pediculoides ventricosus.  However, the Copte sickness was never really mortal and does not completely explain all these deaths in serie.

It is evident that the respiratory difficulties noted by everyone can have unfortunate repercussions for people whose lungs are already fragile.  We have already said that this was the case with Lord Carnavon.

***

The strangest theory comes from South Africa.  It does away with any idea of curse and does not retain the virus hypothesis.  This time, the guilty party, or rather parties, are bats.

On 29 September 1955, John Wiles, a big strong blond man, employed by the Geological Society of Southern Rhodesia, starts out for his new place of work.  A cave situated near a village called Kariba, in the middle of the Urugwe natural reserve.  With the help of an engineer named Dawson and a driller named Schwartz, he has to explore the cave where, it is believed, large deposits of bat excrements are accumulated.  His society envisages using this sort of “guano” to make fertilizer.

With the help of a ladder made from the roots of a fig tree, Wiles hauls himself up to the cave’s opening.  He discovers that it is prolonged, underground, by a labyrinth of tunnels.  He descends farther and farther…  At more than one hundred metres down, he arrives at a vast room.  A nauseating odour fills his nostrils.  The ground is covered with a moist substance over which thousands of cockroaches and crickets are running.  Attached to the vault, flattened against the walls, there are myriads of giant bats.  Some of them have a breadth of sixty centimetres.

Overcoming his repugnance, Wiles gets to work.  For several days, he works in the cave’s warm, humid atmosphere, continually beating away bats who brush against him with their wings.  Half crawling, half sliding, he takes measures and plants rods into the layer of guano to determine its thickness.  On 12 October, his work finished, Wiles goes back to the surface.  He has to catch a train the next day to rejoin his family, on holiday in the town of Knysna, in the Cape province.

But firstly, he has to cash a cheque at the Kariba bank.  Closing time is near.  Wiles is afraid that he won’t be able to get his money.  He starts to run.  He has hardly run fifty metres, when his chest begins to burn.  He stops, breathes deeply to catch his breath… the burning is sharper.  He manages to stagger into the bank.

Night brings Wiles a bit of relief.  But the next day, in the train, he becomes worse.  He is suffocating.  When he arrives at Knysna, after a whole day of travelling, he is unrecognizable.  His wife, panicked, has to support him to his bed, onto which he collapses, incapable of moving.  Then she calls a doctor who takes blood samples for analysis.  Result negative:  the laboratory infirms the hypotheses envisaged by the doctor, finding no trace of the region’s most frequent illnesses, yellow fever, malaria or amibian dysentery.

Wiles’ state rapidly gets worse.  He can’t move, he can’t remain lying down, he is obliged to spend his days seated on his bed, his mouth open like a fish out of water.  The doctor then thinks that he can diagnose a pleurisy coupled with pneumonia.  But his treatment gives no result.  Desperate, he decides to send his patient to one of the best South African doctors, Dr Geoffroy Dean, who directs the Port Elizabeth hospital service.

After forty-eight hours of unfruitful examinations, Dean decides to draw up a list of illnesses usually contracted by men who explore caves and other subterranean cavities.  None appear to correspond to the symptoms presented by John Wiles.  Suddenly, he has an idea.  A few years before, while he was taking a course in the United States, he attended a conference where mention was made of a rare illness called histoplasmosis, engendered by a protozoan, histoplasma capsulatum, of which only one hundred and thirty cases were known, all of them in the Southern States.

Dean takes a series of samples from the poor Wiles whose state is growing worse every day, and sends the tubes to the United States to have them analysed.  The answer comes back ten days later:  probability of histoplasmosis.  Dean does what he can by treating Wiles with aureomycine and penicillin… the patient is saved.

For Dean, histoplasmosis is the cave illness.

Now better known, this disease is, according to specialists, due to a microscopic mushroom which proliferates in bat guano, but also in the droppings of pigeons and domestic poultry, because these animals possess an ideal body temperature for the development of the parasite.  As for all respiratory diseases, the patient is soiled by dusts, which can come from a farm, or a cave.

To be continued.

Another strange death is that of Jay Gould the day after his visit to Howard Carter.  He is stricken with a strong fever and dies the same evening.  And Lady Almira who, like her husband, seems to have been stung by an insect.  These five or six troubling deaths – those occurring a few hours or a few days after a visit to the tomb, or pulmonary congestions occurring a few weeks later – are sufficient to develop all sorts of hypotheses.

***

The most improbable of these hypotheses is from certain American scholars attached to laboratories in Oakridge.  It supposes that the Ancient Egyptians had discovered radioactivity.  They had noted the destructive effects of atomic radiations emitted by radioactive matter, without being able to domesticate them.  The priests had deposited some of this matter inside the tombs of the pharaohs, in particular that of Tutankhamun.

The partisans of this theory mention K. Dorbal, a Czech physicist, who perceived radioactive signals in the Khephren pyramid.  As well as this, the Egypt of the pharaohs had attained, in the domains of scientific and philosophical knowledge, a very advanced degree.  The study of hieroglyphs and pyramids shows us that one thousand years before the present era, the Egyptians knew more about mathematics and astronomy than the scholars of the Middle Ages.  In 2350 before our era, there was a library in Memphis containing several tens of thousands of volumes.  Most of this knowledge was engulfed in the great night of the barbarous times.  So, why not a few atomic secrets, too?

But the scholars who studied the objects and mummies found inside the tombs never presented any evident clinical signs of radiodermititis, the well-known illness of radiologists.  Also, no trace of radioactivity has been registered with a Geiger counter.  Another hypothesis:  a poison was put on the mummy’s bandelettes.  The sweet almond oil which impregnated them, had, in time, suffered a chemical transformation to become mortal prussic acid.  This acid was known to the Egyptians who transmitted it to the Romans – it is thought that Nero used it to kill Britannicus.  Certain hieroglyphs also allude to a mortal sap from the peach or almond flower.  But, if the pulmonary congestions are classed among the inexplicable cases, this poison cannot be the cause.  Pulmonary congestion is provoked by an abnormal flux of blood to the lung’s vessels, which engenders serious respiratory problems, while the poison kills by neurotoxicity.  Toxines fix themselves electrically onto the nervous system.  If there were poison, the embalmers would have been the first victims.  And with the passing of the centuries, could this toxic substance still be efficient?

Oral absorption is not very plausible for it means that the archaeologists must have licked the objects.  The hypothetical poison on archaeological material is able to penetrate the body through perspiration or small wounds.  But are there poisons capable of acting after such a long time?

***

The theory that the “curse” of the pharaohs is due to a virus has more partisans.  It would explain the differences in the times of the deaths.  It rests on the fact that all of the scholars who participated in the exhumation of Tutankhamun’s mummy, either directly, or from afar, suffered from a sort of epidemic.  Archaeologists, assistants, workers and even employees of the Cairo Antiques Service, complained of itchiness and skin irritation, accompanied by a strong  irritation of the throat, the larynx and even the bronchial tubes.  Carter consulted doctors who were incapable of determining the cause of these symptoms.  At the time, it was called “the Copte sickness”, without anyone really knowing what it was.

In 1962, two Egyptian scholars, Dr Mohamed Sayed Abdel, Professor of Work Medicine, and Dr Ezzedine Taha, Professor of Micro-Organism Chemistry at the National Research Centre in Cairo, called to treat archaeologists suffering from the same illness, announce that, examining a Copte mummy from the IVth Century before the present era, they discovered the germs of a still-living virus.  Is this virus responsible for the death of Lord Carnavon and a few others?

The magazine Histoire pour Tous reports the opinion of Pr Lepine, Head of the Virus Service at the Pasteur Institute and inventor of the French vaccine against polio.  He declares:

“I remain extremely sceptical.  Apparently, it could be the symptoms of “Q fever”, a fever that is widespread today in the Orient, and whose virus, very resistant, is conserved in dust.  We have no reason to believe that the archaeologists worked in a dust-free zone, on the contrary.  As well as that, we know that the preparation of mummies included their immersion in extremely antiseptic solutions:  it is very doubtful that any viruses could have resisted their action, just as it is not very likely that they could have survived thousands of years.  I would therefore only accept the hypothesis of my Egyptian colleagues with the benefit of an inventory, and with strict scientific controls.  We are still far from that.”

Pr Lepine recalls, with humour, that in the Middle Ages, mummy powder, baptised “moumiah”, was supposed to possess magical properties which made it almost a panacea.  It was apparently particularly sovereign for curing phthisis.  Four or five hundred mummies were sent each year from Alexandria to France and Italy, where they were reduced to powder before being administered to patients in the form of potions.  The consummation of “moumiah” resulted in a shortage of mummies in Egypt – which perhaps explains why the archaeologists of the XXth Century found so many empty tombs and sarcophages – the prices climbed so high that, in the XVIth Century, to meet the crisis and still keep on treating tuberculosis sufferers, the Faculty of Medicine in Paris suggested replacing the mummy powder by the fat from hanged men, which possessed, it said, identical properties.

It could always be said that a number of patients treated with moumiah died from the virus discovered by Sayed Abdel and Ezzedine Taha…

To be continued.

In 1924, the hecatomb continues.  It is the turn of Mace, Carter’s assistant, then that of Doctor Archibald Douglas Reed who came to X-ray the mummy.

Tutankhamun's gold mask at the time of its discovery.

In the years that follow, it is impossible for an egyptologist to die without immediately provoking  the resurgence of the curse.  To the point that certain scholars’ nerves are seriously affected.  Doctor Evelyn White has a nervous breakdown while working with Carter on the inventory and classification of the Tutankhamun treasure.  His case gradually degenerates into folly, until the day he writes a farewell letter to his family:

“I succumb to a curse which obliges me to disappear.”

Then he hangs himself.  He was a very pious person.

The Daily Mail titles:

“A shiver runs through England”

when it announces Archibald Douglas Reed’s death.

In 1925, Hall, the necropolis’ sketch artist, dies.  Benedite, Conservator of the Louvre museum, disappears in 1926 from a congestion.  Soon, another name is added to the list:  La Fleur, a vague relation of Carter’s, who dies shortly after having visited the Valley of the Kings.  He was a professor in an American university.

1929 sees the disappearance of numerous people having worked in the Valley of the Kings:  Naville, Carter’s boss, Woolf, an English industrialist, Gould, an American multi-millionaire, Ember and Greenfell, eminent egyptologists, and Lady Almina, Lord Carnavon’s wife.

It is said that an Egyptian Minister, wanting to investigate this series of mysterious deaths, goes to the site, accompanied by a snake charmer named Mussa…  Upon their arrival, a cobra and a viper come out of Tutankhamun’s tomb.  The charm doesn’t work apparently, for the snakes flee.  The Minister, whose name we shall never know – it’s a State secret [!] – dies for no apparent reason, shortly after returning to Cairo.  No-one knows what happened to Mussa.

On the eve of the Second World War, the curse fervents register their seventeenth victim.  The German, Otto Neubert, obligingly enumerates them in his book The Valley of the Kings.  Obligingly and abusively.  He cites, for example, the name of A. Lucas, Director of the Egyptian Government’s chemical laboratory at the Antiques Service.  Lucas is the principal “carer” of the objects found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, which means that he treats them to ensure their conservation.  Lucas does not die until 1945, at the age of seventy-eight, which is not bad for a man who is supposed to have been pursued for more than twenty years by an implacable curse.

Neubert also prematurely kills off Professor Douglas Derry and the scholar Garries Davis.  Let us examine these two cases a bit more closely.

Douglas Derry is the first to really hold Tutankhamun’s mummy in his hands.  The mummy is taken from the third sarcophage in a state of advanced decomposition.  Derry is given the task of trying to reconstitute it.  For weeks, he works at its restoration, which allows him to affirm that the young king must have measured 1.67 metres at his death.  Derry, far from being incommoded by this long familiarity with the mummy, publishes a book in 1956, thirty years after having finished with Tutankhamun.

As for Garries Davis, a renowned egyptologist who visits the tomb several times – and who is frequently mistaken, by Neubert and others, for Theodore Davis, the man who is the first to find a few articles marked with Tutankhamun’s seal – dies in 1951, at the age of seventy-six.

Others abusively named as victims of the pharaohs’ curse:  Sir Allan Gardiner and Bernard Bruyere, who are both present at the opening of the funeral chamber, and who both live to be more than eighty.

There is a very long list of egyptologists who escape the curse…  Gustave Lefevre, Member of the Institute, successor to Maspero at the Cairo museum, the one who organises the Tutankhamun exhibition in the Egyptian capital, dies in 1957, aged seventy-eight…  Burton, the photographer to whom we owe the photos taken hour by hour during the discovery and exploration of the tomb, dies after the end of the Second World War, as does Jean Capart, the man who recommends Lord Carnavon to Belgium’s Queen Elisabeth…  Callender, the companion of Carter’s last trips, dies very naturally at an advanced age, having been seen lunching gaily for years in the tomb, in Carter’s company.  When Mohamed Zacharia Groncim, Director of Egyptian Antiques, commits suicide in 1959, after having discovered the Sakkarah pyramid, near Cairo, the newspapers again evoke the “curse of the pharaohs”.

Howard Carter obviously constitutes the best example of the resistance that a scholar with a robust constitution can offer to the curse.  He has the habit of saying to his friends and any journalists who ask him about it:

“Look at me.  I’m as solid as the pyramids.”

He dies in England in 1939, seventeen years after his discovery, aged sixty-six.

Among all of these recorded deaths, the majority of them is perfectly explicable medically.  Bethell dies of tuberculosis, an illness from which few escape at this epoch.  Arthur Mace has to leave the Valley of the Kings shortly after the opening of the sarcophages, when the work is far from being finished.  He, too, is suffering from tuberculosis, and leaves for the Riviera – which does not stop him from continuing to collaborate with Carter in writing down the discovery and exploration of the necropolis…  Mace slowly fades away from “consumption” as his contemporaries call it… 

The two cases of suicide (Lord Westbury and Doctor Evelyn White) can’t confirm the curse theory.

There remain of course, out of the fifty or so searchers, egyptologists, scholars and doctors, and their families, who participate in the discovery and study of Tutankhamun’s necropolis, around half-a-dozen deaths in circumstances which can appear strange and which have never been clearly explained.  Other cases are more troubling, like that of the radiologist Reed who dies while not appearing to suffer from any illness.  Apparently a heart attack.  But aren’t there people today, apparently in good health, who collapse with sudden, unforseeable cardiac arrest?

To be continued.

Shortly after Lord Carnavon’s death, Tutankhamun’s tomb is re-opened.  In defiance of the “curse”, Howard Carter organises lunches in the access corridor, where he eats heartily in the company of Arthur Mace, Callender and the many egyptologists who take turns in helping him in his work.

In October, six months after Lord Carnavon’s death, Carter is ready to open the second catafalque chest where Tutankhamun’s mummy should lie.  This chest, which is like a miniature chapel, is covered by an extra-fine linen veil, studded with gilded bronze daisies.  For fear that it might fall apart, Carter has it imbibed with a special chemical solution which gives it sufficient suppleness for it to be removed.  Under the veil, Carter finds alabaster vases and a series of rods, in gold or silver, whose pommels represent the head of a very young man, wearing royal ornaments.  He doesn’t know it yet, but Carter has Tutankhamun’s face in front of him for the first time.

And the deaths continue:  Colonel Aubrey, half-brother to Lord Carnavon, six months after the Earl;  Ali Fahmi Bey, Governor of the province, and the archaeologist Goodyear.

It takes Carter another two years to get to the mummy itself.  Under the second chest, there is a third, surrounded by hunting accessories, bows, arrows, fly-swatters;  then a fourth chapel containing a sandstone tub in the form of a bath, decorated at each corner by the statuette of a goddess, similar to those which were against the walls of the first chest.  On this “bathtub”, a granite lid, broken in two (probably during the funeral) and painted in yellow to recall the colour of gold.

Inside the tub, Carter now sees a sarcophage in gilded wood which appears to be moulded on the mummy, it so faithfully reproduces its form and features.  The young king, who wears the pharaoh’s traditional headdress, surmounted by the heads of a vulture and a cobra, is holding in his hands, crossed on his chest, the sceptre and the flail, emblems of his power, in gilded wood incrusted with blue and red glass.  The face and hands glow more feebily than the body:  they are covered with an almost matt gold leaf.  One curious thing, the feet seem to have been filed down, the sarcophage being too big for the tub.

The cover removed, there appears a second sarcophage exactly inserted inside the first.  More richly decorated than the first, this second sarcophage is entirely gold-plated and garnished with glass of every colour.  On the breast, a necklace of olive and willow leaves and blue lotus flowers has been placed.

Under this sarcophage, a third, covered by a red linen veil, except for the face.  Carter and Mace, having removed this veil, stop, absolutely astounded:  this sarcophage is in solid gold.  1,85 metres in length, it weighs more than 1,000 kilogrammes.  An expertise will reveal that its weight in pure gold, whose thickness varies between 2.5 to 3.5 millimetres, is exactly 1,110.4 kilogrammes.  More than one tonne of gold!

The oils and balms abundantly poured onto the sarcophages by the priests have formed, in drying, a sort of glue which maintains the lid tightly welded.  Probably by design.  Carter and Mace have to spend several days dissolving this glue.  On 28 October 1925, eighteen days after the opening of the sandstone tub, the mummy is exposed.  Carter immediately notes that it is not in a very good state of conservation.  It is a sort of blackish magma, made from a substance resulting from the decomposition of the balms and diverse products destined to protect the body.  The mummy is entirely surrounded by linen and gold bandelettes covered in inscriptions.  Here is the text:

“I am your mother [it is the ancestor of the gods, the goddess Nut, who is speaking], it is I who has created your beauty, oh Osiris, King, Master of the Countries, Neb Cheprut-Ra, your soul lives and you are strong, you breathe the air and you go like a god as you enter into Amon, oh Osiris Tutankhamun, you leave us and you are united with Ra [the sun-god], how great is your nobility, how powerful your throne.  Your name is in the mouths of all of your subjects.  Your immortality will remain in the mouths of all of the living, oh Osiris, King Tutankhamun, your heart remains immortal in your body.  It is at the head of the living, like Ra will remain in the sky.”

This hymn to Tutankhamun’s immortality will later constitute one of the best answers to those who still refuse to believe in the famous “curse”.

***

Three years after the tomb’s discovery, the myth of the curse continues to grow and be embellished, fed by deaths.

The nurse who had assisted Lord Carnavon in his last moments, at the Continental Hotel, soon joins him.  Then a certain Richard Bethell, whom Carter had employed as secretary for a while.  And Bethell’s father, Lord Westbury, who commits suicide at the age of seventy-eight, three months after his only son’s death, by jumping from the seventh floor window of his London apartment.  Understandable despair.  During the funeral, the hearse hits two adolescents;  one of whom dies while being taken to hospital.

Lord Carnavon

A great part of public opinion cannot help but see the pharaohs’ vengeance in this.  Some do not hesitate to question the well-known circumstances of Lord Carnavon’s death.  They say that he wasn’t stung by a mosquito, but by a scorpion, and that he wanted it to be believed that it was a mosquito because, in Ancient Egypt, the scorpion was considered a sacred creature, the “guardian of the secrets of the mountains”, just like the cobra was the “guardian of the secrets of the plains”.  These “mystics” claim that Carnavon preferred not to mention the scorpion, for fear of giving credit to the pharaohs’ vengeance theory.

“Curse” believers cite the Egyptian doctors who examined Lord Carnavon.  They had said that the sting could have been from either a scorpion or a mosquito.

***

To be continued.

With consummated art, the author of the New York Herald‘s article about the death of Lord Carnavon manages to leave a doubt about the curse.  He cites a serious reference:

“The Conservator of the Louvre museum, Monsieur Benedite, while admitting that Carnavon’s death, provoked by a mosquito sting or by a fever contracted in the pharaoh’s tomb, can be considered as the effect of the poetic vengeance prophetised by the mystics, has declared that the digs must be continued, for, now, what is done, is done.”

In these conditions, how can it be expected that men with galloping imaginations, unencumbered by scientific preoccupations, do not let themselves be seduced by the most audacious theories?  For example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the father of Sherlock Holmes, whose inspired comment is prominently published by the New York Herald:

“A supernatural illness, or a microbe, called down by the Egyptian priests, could have provoked the troubles which led to the death of Lord Carnavon.  Elsewhere, there have been numerous examples of warnings addressed to those who exhume mummies…”

And Sir Arthur cites the case “of the son of Sir William Ingram” who, having exhumed a mummy, had found on it an amulette with this inscription:

“The person who touches me will be condemned to an early death, and his bones will never be buried.”

Sir Arthur affirms:

“Shortly afterwards, Ingram was killed during a hunt in Somalia and his body was swept away in the sudden flooding of a river before there had been time to bury it.”

Another element of choice for amateurs of the fantastic:  the blackout which plunged the Continental Hotel into obscurity at the precise moment of Lord Carnavon’s death.  The very next day, Carnavon’s son, Lord Porchester – who is from then on known as the sixth Earl of Carnavon – goes to the Embassy of Great Britain to accomplish the administrative formalities of the death.  Lord Allenby reveals to him that the whole of Cairo had been victim of this bizarre electrical failure.  Bizarre is the word:  an enquiry, led by the English Director of the Cairo Electrical Services, gives no result.  No-one was ever able to find any satisfactory technical explanation.  However, the reality of this failure is indisputable.  It is not possible to doubt the word of Lord Porchester and Lord Allenby.  We know, today, that electrical supply to a big city can be subject to these sorts of caprices.  Like the famous New York blackout, one evening in 1965, whose causes were never elucidated, either.  In the absence of pharaohs, the Americans incriminated, according to their temperaments, or their political convictions, the Russians, the Chinese, the African Americans… or the Martians.

From this moment, the “mystics”, to quote the New York Herald, let themselves go.  A thousand little incidents, which had gone unnoticed, resurge and are interpreted as destiny’s warnings.

There’s the story of Carter’s canary.  It was his only companion, apart from the searchers who were helping him at the digs.  He had brought it with him from a trip to England.  When the tomb was opened and he spent days working underground, Carter installed the canary’s cage at the top of the staircase.  One day, a cobra passed its head through the bars and swallowed the canary.  A cobra again…  The sacred serpent that had been found everywhere inside the tomb, on the headdresses of the statues and even on the gilded wooden chest containing Tutankhamun’s internal organs…  Doesn’t it symbolise the Pharaoh’s “guardian spirit” which has always had the mission of destroying his enemies?  There can be no doubt:  Carter’s canary had been the first victim of Tutankhamun’s vengeance!

After Carter’s canary, Carnavon’s dog…  It had remained in England after its master’s trip to London and Brussels, in December 1922.  On the night of Lord Carnavon’s death – it’s Lord Porchester who affirms it – the dog starts to howl.  Then it collapses, as if struck by lightning.

We can only report this fact, generally considered true, without being able to explain it.  However, it should be pointed out that stories of this kind abound in literature consecrated to relations between men and their closest domestic animals, dogs in particular.  It cannot be denied that there are sometimes, even between humans, strange cases of telepathy.  Who hasn’t heard of a mother suddenly waking up in the middle of the night because she has dreamed that her son is in danger, and learning the next day that he has indeed had an accident at that precise moment?  The most serious scholars hesitate to definitively class these bizarre episodes in the category of pseudo-scientific nonsense.  The domain of the spirit and its eventual influence on matter is still filled with unknown, without it being necessary, to try to explain it, to call upon supernatural influences, either beneficial or malevolent.  The day after Lord Carnavon’s death, it was of course very tempting and easy to attribute the death of the dog to the curse of the pharaohs.

Lord Carnavon

In accordance with his wishes, Lord Carnavon is buried at Bacon Hill, in the family domain of Highclere, in the middle of a lawn planted with Lebanon cedars.  In a tomb of white marble, at the top of a hill where he had undertaken digs.  The Carnavon manor, of neo-gothic style, like hundreds of others in the English countryside, contains no souvenir of the Egyptian adventure crowned by the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.  Did his wife, Lady Carnavon, fear to conserve some malevolent relic?  She has not left the slightest Egyptian souvenir.  The collections, the photographs of Lord Carnavon were rapidly dispersed to the winds by auctions throughout the United States.

***

Completely unworried, Howard Carter shrugs his shoulders when the curse is evoked in front of him.  In any case, he is in perfect health.

However, the archaeologist Lafleur, who arrives in April 1923, succumbs to a mysterious illness, a few weeks later.

To be continued.

The doors to the wooden catafalque are only closed by ebony latches, which are easy to open.  Howard Carter is worried that Tutankhamun’s mummy might not have been respected.

Howard Carter and Lord Carnavon open the doors to the funeral chamber.

He opens the two door panels.  Then breathes a sigh of relief;  he has before him a second chest, locked in the same way;  but, between the two door panels, appears, intact, Tutankhamun’s seal, with the royal mark, the jackal Anubis lying on nine prisoners, the nine enemies of Egypt.  Never, since the pharoah’s burial, has this chest been opened.  Carter and Carnavon are now sure of it.  They are triumphant.  They have discovered a royal burial more or less intact, with its hardly touched treasures, its sarcophages and its mummy.

Walking around the catafalque, they notice, in a corner, the little low door of which we have spoken.  They note that it is a simple unlocked opening, which leads to a new chamber, four metres by three metres fifty.  This is where the greatest marvels of Egyptian archaeology have been buried for more than thirty centuries.

Firstly, a new chest of gilded wood, surmounted by sculpted cobras crowned with a solar disc.  On each wall, the statue of a nearly-naked woman, covered only by a light veil which moulds her forms, her arms extended in a gesture of protection – or of possession:  the goddess of death.  It will be later known that this chest contains the pharaoh’s internal organs, in alabaster vases.

Placed on another chest, a statue of the jackal-god Anubis.  On a pedestal, a bull’s head with long pointed horns.  Against the walls, a whole fleet of boats, of which one, the biggest, painted in bright colours, possesses a central cabin and a mast from which still hang two spars.  Four complete promenade chariots, two hunting carriages in pieces.  And above all, piled on sledges, an unnumerable quantity of the most diverse objects:  home utensils, like a hand seed grinder, sieves;  toiletry articles, like boxes with mirrors;  writing equipment, with little ivory pots and slabs of black and red ink, and the reed which served as a pen;  statuettes, fans;  medicines;  and jewellery, including a big scarab in lapis-lazuli, earrings, gold bracelets decorated with stones, turquoises, amethysts, jades, cornalines;  sceptres.  A whole pile of objects which will allow the archaeologists to reconstitute the everyday life of the Ancient Egyptians better than they had ever been able to do before.  For these are the pharaoh’s personal things which are assembled here, those he used in his everyday life, or with which he adorned himself, and which had to follow him into death, until the day when, according to the prediction, he will live again…

The list is very long of all the riches discovered by Carter and Carnavon in this room, which they immediately baptise “treasure room”.  It will take ten years for Carter and his collaborators to list everything.  And the archaeologist will never find time to write a detailed catalogue.  So, even today, there is no work in which we can find the integral description of the objects found within the four rooms which compose Tutankhamun’s necropolis.

***

Lord Carnavon

For a few days, Lord Carnavon has been complaining about a mosquito sting.  The itchiness, banal at first, is getting worse.  He tells Carter:

“At night, it bothers me so much that I can’t sleep.”

Shaving infects the wound, glands swell at the angle of his jaw.  In the middle of March, Carnavon returns to Cairo to be treated.  It is not too late:  the doctors manage to get rid of the infection.  But Carnavon leaves the hospital too soon.  At the hotel, he is again feverish and his face becomes marbled with redness, a sort of erysipelas.  Carter writes in his Memoires:

“Throughout these three long weeks of suffering and misery, Lord Carnavon conserved his traditional courage.  The letters he wrote to me showed that he had all his wits about him.  However, he was under no illusion, or rather he no longer believed in his chances.  He told a friend:

‘I’ve heard the call, I’m ready.'”

At the end of the month, a pulmonary congestion accompanied by a 40 degree temperature and delirium, appear.   He is starting to die and Lord Carnavon keeps saying:

‘A bird is clawing at my face.’

His son, Lord Porchester, an officer in the Indian Army, is informed.  Carnavon was so well-known throughout the whole world by then, that Lord Porchester obtains, without too much difficulty, that a boat, which was not supposed to stop at Alexandria, make a detour there.  During the whole crossing, he has prayers for his father’s salvation said by the Muslim passengers crowded on the bridge.

The young man arrives in Cairo in the evening of 4 April.  A few hours later, Lord Carnavon succumbs in his arms, without having recognized him.  Here is how Le Figaro announces Carnavon’s death, in its edition dated 6 April 1923:

“The events have proven the predictions of the fellahs to be right.  The man who discovered Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s hypogeum has been the victim of subterranean divinities.  Lord Carnavon is no more.  And the menaces of the Egyptian High Priests against the profaners of mummies have come true…”

The New York Herald is much more sceptical.

“Lord Carnavon, who still had a heavy task to accomplish, loses his combat against death”

is this American newspaper’s title.  And in subtitle:

“Mystics evoke the legend of the vengeance of the pharaohs against tomb violaters.”

The New York Herald ironises:

“Who will succeed Lord Carnavon in sorting out the mysteries of Tutankhamun’s tomb?  That is the question which preoccupies European scholars and historians much more than that of knowing if he had been a victim of the mysterious curse against profaners of necropolises.  Superstitious people are adamant that Lord Carnavon was punished.  The absurdity of these stories is only too evident when it is known that the tomb had been forced a very long time ago and that precious vases had been stolen.”

To be continued.

Howard Carter is not very surprised at the demonstration of hostility by a hundred or so Arabs, at Tutankhamun’s tomb.  The speech that has just been addressed to him is too perfect to be spontaneous.  He knows that the religious sects are working to create a climate of fear around his discovery.  And not only by invectives:  tourists en route for the Valley of the Kings have been attacked several times by bands of bandits – but, are they really bandits? – who have robbed and wounded them;  it is said that one of them is dead.  Carter knows that the Egyptian authorities are not doing very much to prevent these incidents.  He is even asking himself if they aren’t encouraging them discretely.  The Cairo Government would not be annoyed to see the searchers pack their bags.  The Egyptian newspapers, imitated by certain European newspapers, openly accuse Lord Carnavon of being a mercenary man, who is only thinking about getting his money back, money that he has spent on the digs, and even to make a profit, by selling Tutankhamun’s treasure to the highest bidding museums or individuals.

Two days later, when he reads the first newspaper reports consecrated to the Visit of the Tomb, Carter has a new cause for disgruntlement.  In front of the door that is soon going to be opened, he had deciphered, for the journalists, an inscription which he had already translated for himself, considering it a simple curiosity, to which no particular importance should be given, for it figures at the entrance to numerous pharaonic necropolises.  He had read in a detached voice:

“Death will touch with its wings whomever disturbs the pharaoh.”

The journalists did not miss underlining the prediction and, naturally, connected it to the menaces proffered by the chief of the demonstrators who had stoned them.  Some ironise, others believe or pretend to believe.  In any case, they talk about the “curse” and Carter could have done without this supplementary publicity.

***

Lord Carnavon

Lord Carnavon is in no better humour than his assistant when he returns from England, on 7 February, in the company of his daughter.  He wants to forbid the Egyptian public servant entry to the tomb, and finally decides to proceed to the piercing of the last door in secret, alone with Carter and a few workers.  Carter tries to reason with him:  an official ceremony is planned for 18 February, in the presence of numerous guests, including the Queen of the Belgians and the Egyptian authorities.  If the tomb is opened without them, there is going to be a scandal…  Carnavon refuses to listen.  Since he is not going to be allowed to freely dispose of the treasure, he at least wants the privilege and the pleasure of giving the first blow of the pick!  Some, among those who believe in the curse of the pharaohs, will later see in this stubbornness, the fatal mark of destiny.

In the middle of the day, under a burning sun which is sure to keep away any prying eyes, Carnavon and Carter slip into the tomb, with precautions worthy of thieves.  At 1 : 50 p.m., Carnavon raises his pick.  Ten minutes later, the ray of the electric lamp, shone into the hole by Carter, is reflected from a yellowish surface, which glows feebily.  A wall of gold!  Under the flow of emotion, Carnavon recovers his cool head.  He tells Carter:

“That’s enough.  I simply wanted to be sure that we would not be ridiculous in front of the official guests.  The real tomb is there.  We shall wait for the ceremony to widen the breach.”

***

And here is the great day.  Sunday, 18 February 1923.  The beginning of the ceremony has been fixed at 8 o’clock in the morning, to avoid the heat.  The entrance to the tomb, at the top of the sixteen steps, is decorated with British and Egyptian flags.  On either side of the staircase, two rows of mounted guards greet the guests as they alight from their cars.  Lord Allenby, High Commissioner of Great Britain, arrives first, so as not to miss the Dowager Sultana of Egypt, who alights from her Rolls Royce, the Ambassadors of France and Belgium, several Egyptian Ministers and, all in white – white tailored suit, white fox stole – Belgium’s Queen Elisabeth, Lord Carnavon’s protectrice, on the arm of her son, Prince Leopold.

The guests – around twenty – having grouped themselves in the left-hand side of the antechamber, Carter, Carnavon, Callender and an American archaeologist, Arthur Mace, who is part of Carter’s team since November, attack the wall.  After having removed a dozen stones, Carter understands.  It is not a gold wall that he has in front of him.  It is one of the panels of an enormous chest which almost fills the room.  A chest of gilded wood.  The archaeologists have to double their precautions so as not to harm it, and it takes them no less than two hours to completely knock down the wall.

After which, Carter slips inside the chamber, between the wall and the chest, followed by Mace.  Two men cannot pass side by side:  this detail has its importance, for it is because of the narrowness of this passage that the objects of inestimable value, which had been placed by the priests inside a fifth little room, communicating with the funeral chamber by a low door, are able to be found intact.

For the moment, it is the big gilded wooden chest which intrigues Carter.  A chest?  Rather a sort of catafalque which measures three metres high by five long and three metres thirty wide.  The image of the falcon-god, Horus, is drawn on the sides.  Above the doors floats a winged sun.  Signs of magical appearance designed to protect the pharaoh’s sleep, decorate the door panels.  It is the burial place.  But, has it been respected?  Is Tutankhamun’s mummy still there?  This is what Carter is asking himself while the guests slip one by one along the walls and group behind him.

To be continued.

On his last visit to Tutankhamun’s tomb, the thief had probably been surprised by the inspectors whom the priests and the pharaohs regularly “appointed” to watch the tombs.  Like modern night watchmen, these inspectors were constantly making rounds.  When they discovered a theft, they “marked” it by placing a seal on the masonry which they, themselves, had applied to hermetically seal the tomb.

It therefore appears that Tutankhamun’s tomb, if it hadn’t totally escaped pillagers, had probably not been violated more than two or three times, no doubt a very long time ago;  the inspectors must have afterwards succeeded in sufficiently masking its entrance, to render it completely invisible.  The construction, above it, of the huts of Ramses VI’s workmen, would have finally plunged Tutankhamun’s tomb into oblivion, at the same time, protecting it from thieves for three thousand years.

So, Carter and Carnavon are reassured on the subject of thieves.  But something else worries them.  In the room, there is neither a sarcophage, nor a mummy.  Should it be concluded that they have only found a hiding-place of precious objects?  Is the real tomb of Tutankhamun somewhere else, or must it be admitted that the thieves were able to destroy the sarcophage and its mummy, or remove it?  Once more, an attentive examination tranquillizes them:  at the end of the antechamber, on the right, between the two statues of the king, they discern a new door, also sealed.  There are therefore other rooms, other treasures to exhume.  But Carter soon realises that this door has also been pierced, then resealed.  Another cold shower!

As can be imagined, Carter and Carnavon burn with desire to continue the dig.  To know if they are going to find the mummified body of the little unknown pharaoh of whom they have dreamed for more than fifteen years.  But their scientific minds win against their curiosity.  Before going any further, they decide to do a complete inventory of the antechamber’s riches.  This is the only way to definitively shield them from theft and assure their conservation.

***

For three months, Carter launches himself into laboratory work.  He decides to do everything on site, for fear of damaging the precious objects by transporting them to Cairo.  He buys photographic material, cartons and wrapping paper, planks on which to fix the most fragile pieces – enrobed in cotton wool.  Each object will be cleaned and manipulated with antisepticised instruments.  Carter installs his photographic workshop inside one of the ancient tombs discovered years before, that of Pharaoh Seti I, then a laboratory.  He hires some collaborators:  a chemist, an expert in Egyptian writing, a doctor specialised in anatomy, an Ancient Egypt historian, photographers and craftsmen used to the manipulation and cleaning of delicate objects.  Until mid-February, this team lists, numbers, photographs and classes the one hundred and sixty pieces found in the antechamber, from the biggest piece of furniture to the smallest piece of jewellery.  Under three a day, on average.  This seems very slow.  But so many precautions have to be taken.  The pearls, for example, fall into dust at the slightest knock…  And then, in December, administrative and diplomatic complications interfere with Carter’s efforts, obliging him to interrupt his work.

***

Lord Carnavon

The dig permit accorded to Lord Carnavon expires on 31 December 1922.  And the Egyptian Government, which fears – correctly – that Tutankhamun’s treasure will leave the country, does not hide its intention of taking over the tomb’s exploration.

So, Lord Carnavon leaves for London, at the beginning of December, to solicit the support of the British Government.  To his great disappointment, the public servants of the Foreign Office are extremely circumspect:  the Egyptian Protectorate is already giving enough worries to His Gracious Majesty, who does not wish to provoke a nasty quarrel with the Egyptian Government… over some old mummy!

Carnavon has more luck in Brussels where, on the recommendation of the Belgian archaeologist Jean Capart, he is received by the wife of Albert I, Queen Elisabeth.  The Queen, who will not cease until her death, in 1966, to protect the Arts, Sciences and Letters, promises him her support.  She intervenes with the Cairo authorities.  Action crowned with success:  Carnavon obtains the authorisation to continue the inventory of Tutankhamun’s tomb.  Just one condition:  a delegate from the Antiques Service will be permanently present at Carter’s side, to see that no piece leaves the territory.

***

In January, the work begins again at an accelerated pace.  The whole world is passionately following it now.  At the end of January, Carter accepts, to calm the impatience of international public opinion, to let journalists visit “his” antechamber.  He states that it will be the first and last time.

So, on 25 January 1923, thirty British, American, French and Egyptian reporters descend the famous sixteen steps behind Carter.  He tells them that a new little room, which he has baptised “the annexe”, has been discovered at the end of the antechamber, on the left, opposite the staircase.  It contains dozens of other objects, similar for the most part to those found in the first room.  As for the door which masks the entrance to the room where it is hoped that Tutankhamun’s sarcophage and mummy rest, Carter announces that it will be opened in a few days, at a date to be fixed by Lord Carnavon, whose return from England is imminent.

A disagreeable surprise awaits Carter and the journalists as they leave the tomb.  Behind a police cordon, about a hundred Arabs – not all of them fellahs – are gathered, and appear very excited.  Seeing the group formed by Carter and his guests, they start to hurl.  Small stones bombard the journalists who retreat hastily.  The policemen then decide to push back the demonstrators.  One of them cries out:

“In your country, tomb violators are condemned.  And when you do it here, it’s a feat which gives you rewards, that makes you rich…  You are just sacrilegious vandals who dig up bones to amuse the visitors to your museums.  Sorrow upon you!”

To be continued.

The news of Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb is beginning to spread and Professor Gaston Maspero, Director of the Cairo museum, fears that some religious sects and political movements hostile to the British domination might try to use it.  The politicians accuse the British of pillaging Egypt’s national heritage.  The priests cry sacrilege, tomb violation, recall the existence of old spells, of antique curses, with which the fellahs, who are helping the archaeologists in their impious task, could be threatened…  and the British would not escape the vengeance of the pharaohs, either.

This is certainly not the first time that the priests have tried to incite an uprising of the population, or at least of its more primitive elements, against the British.  For reasons which are doubtless more political than religious.  But Maspero is afraid that they might use the discovery of a new, almost unviolated tomb – which has never happened before – to stir up demonstrations and provoke violence.  He therefore recommends that Carter envisage security measures, as well.  In any case, this is another reason for opposing the transfer of Tutankhamun’s treasures to Europe.

***

Lord Carnavon

Such is the situation when, on the morning of 25 November, Carter, Lord Carnavon, Lady Evelyn and Callender descend, together, for the first time, the sixteen steps which lead to the entrance of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

The first door, in cement, having been broken down, the archaeologists enter the corridor that Carter had already rapidly inspected by the light of an electric torch, two weeks before.  Two metres high, slightly sloping, this corridor is, as we have already seen, encumbered by all sorts of debris fallen from the vault.  But not only of that.  Carter and his team notice that the ground is also covered in pottery, vases and albaster bowls.  Most of these objects are in pieces.  The presence of these debris momentarily removes their illusions:  there is no doubt that the tomb has been pillaged, and even more than they had feared.  If the thieves have abandoned so many objects in the entrance corridor, what must they have taken with them?

It takes no less than one whole day to clear the terrain and list the few debris of any interest.  On 26 November, at last, they arrive before the second door.  Carter speaks of this historic day in his Memoires:

“This was the day of days, the most marvellous that I have ever lived and certainly one of those that I can never hope to live again…”

Carter’s hands tremble as he takes an iron rod to again pierce a hole in a door.  Just a tiny hole, in front of which he lights a candle to find out if the air is toxic.  The candle flickers in a slight draught of warm air, but doesn’t go out.  Carter enlarges the breach, passes through his electric lamp and, taking a deep breath, places his eye against the hole.  First of all, he sees nothing, everything seems to be covered in dust.  And then, forms emerge from the shadows, gold reflects shine here and there.  His companions hear him mumble unintelligible words.  He remains there, stuck against the wall, without moving, with the air of a man struck by lightning.

Lord Carnavon starts getting impatient.  He demands to know if Carter can see anything.  Carter turns to him.  He is pale.  His voice is raucous.

“Yes. Fantastic things!”

In turn, Carnavon, Lady Evelyn and Callender peep through the orifice.  Then the four archaeologists look at each other, incapable of speech.  This silence lasts several seconds – Carnavon, who is the first to come to his senses, will later say, an eternity.  He takes Carter’s pick and attacks the wall.

When the breach is sufficiently large, the searchers are better able to understand the amplitude of their discovery.  In the vast room, eight metres by three metres sixty, that they have just opened, they are firstly struck by the presence of three big gold seats, entirely sculpted, whose arms are in the form of monstrous animals, marked with the name of Tutankhamun.  The Pharaoh’s throne, in particular, sparkling with gold and silver, enhanced with blue, red and yellow glass, representing scenes from the life of Tutankhamun and his wife:  as fresh, as bright as illuminations.

Against the right-hand wall, placed there like sentinels, two life-size statues of the king, face to face.

Once over the first astonishment, the archaeologists see that great disorder reigns in the room.  Strewn amongst building debris, there are chests encrusted with stones, albaster vases, balm bowls, pots encrusted with glass, crockery, gold, lapis-lazuli, turquoise, candle-holders, fly-swatters, torch-holders in painted wood, sceptres, trumpets, pieces of cloth, step-ladders, folding stools, jewellery, bouquets of leaves and flowers, beds, altars, a great wooden chest, also painted with panels depicting hunting and war scenes.  A whole fabulous mass of Arabian Nights that Carter and Carnavon embrace in one sweeping glance before exchanging their impressions.

Carter says that it is impossible that it had all been thrown together in such disorder at the time of the burial.  Carnavon thinks that it must have been thieves who put everything in such a mess.  But why did they leave so many things behind?

This mystery is partly cleared up after the first investigations.  Near the door, Carter finds, on the ground, a bag of jewellery, pearls, which are certainly not in their right place.  Farther in, but still on the way to the door, skin sacks lie empty.  The ancient Egyptians transported balms and creams in these sacks.  Continuing his search, Carter notices that part of the wall, near the entrance, has been roughly patched up.  No doubt:  an opening had been made at this place, to allow the passage of a small man, a child perhaps.  He must have come several times, for the balms of Libya, Syria or Phoenicia, reputed for healing illness and effacing fatigue, have disappeared from the albaster vases where they should have been;  for several jewellery boxes are broken and empty.

To be continued.

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