Egypt expert refuses to dismiss Tutankhamun curse as ‘ancient sounds’ inhabit UK gallery

The curse of the pharaohs is an alleged spell believed by some to be cast upon any person who disturbs the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian person, especially a pharaoh and can cause bad luck, illness or death. In 1922, Howard Carter discovered KV62, the tomb of Tutankhamun, in the Valley of the Kings, famously describing “wonderful things” after breaking through a crack in the wall. Of the 12 people present during the opening of the sarcophagus, six died mysteriously within the months following, including Carter’s sponsor – Lord Carnarvon – leading many to buy into the theory and attribute many more misfortunes to it.

However, of the 150 treasures present, Tutankhamun’s trumpet has caused the most controversy and has now gone on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London.

Archaeologist Tarek El Awady told “The unique thing about the trumpet is that it is the oldest musical instrument from the ancient world.

“Actually, it was played to over 150 million people from all over the world, listening to the music coming from the instrument.

“So we have, for the first time, the sounds coming from the ancient world.”

So we have, in our exhibition, the oldest musical instrument ever found

Tarek El Awady

Rex Keating, a radio presenter and documentary maker, found out about the trumpets in 1939 and decided it was time for the public to hear them.

The British Army bandsman was called in to play, but was not aware that the trumpet had not been designed to create multiple notes.

In a final attempt to play the instrument, the musician placed a modern mouthpiece on the end, put the instrument to his lips, and it shattered.

The trumpet was repaired and in a second attempt, a haunting sound was played out to radio listeners.

Dr El Awady explained what happened, adding:  “It was played by a very famous musician – James Tappern – in 1939, broadcast live from Cairo Museum.

Dr El Awady explained what happened, adding:  “It was played by a very famous musician – James Tappern – in 1939, broadcasted live from Cairo Museum.

“It was an amazing thing to happen, to listen to the same music heard by Tutankhamen.”

But, a few months later, World War 2 broke out.

The next time the silver trumpet sounded was in 1967, just prior to the Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel.

When it was played again in 1990, its sounding was followed by the outbreak of the Gulf War. 

It’s most recent outing in 2011 was almost immediately followed by the Egyptian Revolution.

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Coincidence or not, the separate incidents have left many nervous ahead of its journey to the UK.

Pressed on whether Britons should be worried, Dr El Awady refused to rule out the possibility of a curse.

Instead, he suggested those that show respect to the artefacts will escape without scuffer.

He continued: “The first spoken words by Howard Carter when describing the treasures was ‘wonderful things,’ these were the only two words that he could find to describe the treasure.

“After the discovery, a few months after, Lord Carnarvon died, and because of his death, the news spread everywhere about the curse of the mummy and Tutankhamun.

“They were very interesting stories, but every tiny and big accident was somehow related to the curse of the pharaohs. 

“I have to tell you that I have been working for the last 25 years with Tutankhahum and I have never experienced a bad accident.

“Because I take care of the monuments and our goal is to preserve them for the next generation.”

He was speaking following the opening of the new exhibition in London: “Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh.”  

More than 150 artefacts have travelled from Egypt to the Saatchi Gallery and will be on display now until May 3, 2020.  

For the first time ever, 60 items have left the country, before they return to their permanent home in the new Grand Egyptian Museum next year.  

Recently closed in Paris, the exhibition became France’s most visited of all time with an attendance of over 1.4 million.   

Dr El Awady stated: It’s a very exciting thing to be able to tour the world with King Tutankhamun.  

“But it’s also a huge responsibility, we are travelling with 150 masterpieces from the tomb of Tutankhamun.  

“So we are working according to well-placed plans for the transportation, the packing of the artefacts, the installation of the artefacts, and we do have a well-trained team to do the job for the King.”    

Tonight, Dan Snow will attempt to uncover the secrets of Tutankhamun during his new Channel 5 show set to coincide with the exhibition.

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