The curse of the pharaohs or the mummy's curse is a curse alleged to be cast upon anyone who disturbs the mummy of an ancient Egyptian, especially a pharaoh. This curse, which does not differentiate between thieves and archaeologists, is claimed to cause bad luck, illness, or death.
Since the mid-20th century, many authors and documentaries have argued that the curse is 'real' in the sense of having scientifically explicable causes such as bacteria or radiation. However, the modern origins of Egyptian mummy curse tales, their development primarily in European cultures, the shift from magic to science to explain curses, and their changing uses from condemning disturbance of the dead to entertaining horror film audiences suggest that Egyptian curses are primarily a cultural, not exclusively scientific, phenomenon.
There are occasional instances of genuine ancient curses appearing inside or on the façade of a tomb, as in the case of the mastaba of Khentika Ikhekhi of the 6th Dynasty at Saqqara.
These appear to be directed towards the ka priests to protect the tomb carefully and preserve its ritual purity rather than as a warning for potential robbers. There had been stories of curses going back to the 19th century, but they multiplied after Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. Despite popular misconceptions, no curse was found inscribed in the Pharaoh's tomb.
The evidence for curses relating to Tutankhamun is considered to be so meager that Donald B. Redford viewed it as "unadulterated claptrap".
The "mummy's curse" first enjoyed worldwide acclaim after the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor, Egypt.
When Howard Carter opened a small hole to peer inside the tomb at treasures hidden for 3,000 years, he also unleashed a global passion for ancient Egypt. Tut's glittering treasures made great headlines—especially following the opening of the burial chamber on February 16, 1923—and so did sensationalistic accounts of the subsequent death of expedition sponsor Lord Carnarvon.
In reality, Carnarvon died of blood poisoning, and only six of the 26 people present when the tomb was opened died within a decade. Carter, surely any curse's prime target, lived until 1939, almost 20 years after the tomb's opening.
Anubis guarding Tutankhamun's treasury. But while the pharaoh's curse may lack bite, it hasn't lost the ability to fascinate audiences—which may be how it originated in the first place.