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Last on

Thu 20 Sep 2012 11:30 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 20 September 2012

Roger Luckhurst goes in search of the original Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, and finds out that it may be more Western invention than Egyptian reality...

Since its earliest days Hollywood has been obsessed with the idea of the curse of the pharaohs, the mummy that reawakens to wreak vengeance on the world. Yet Egyptologists deny such curses exist in Egyptian tombs. The popular legend of the curse is thought to date from the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter and his backer Lord Caernarvon in 1922, and Caernarvon's subsequent death from an infected mosquito bite. Newspapers were quick to alight on the idea of a curse, and equally quick to blame the curse for any subsequent death even tenuously connected with the excavation.

But Roger Luckhurst believes that the origin of the mummy curse story goes back far earlier than Caernarvon, back into the nineteenth century, when Britain's empire was at its zenith and two curse stories, centring on two swashbuckling sons of empire, Walter Ingram, and Thomas Douglas Murray, set Victorian society alight. What can these earlier tales tell us about the idea of the Mummy curse?

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