Not surprisingly, conqueror Napoleon Bonaparte amassed a following to join him even while exploring his hobbies. In 1798-1801, his Egyptian campaign included a veritable army of 500 civilian scientists, as well as biological, linguistic, and chemical experts brought together to study the ancient civilization of Egypt. The expedition proved a monumental milestone in history and Egyptology when linguist Jean-Francois Champollion successfully deciphered the Rosetta Stone, cracking the code of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and providing the world the key to the modern-day study of Egyptology.
However, the discovery of the infamous Tutankhamun – King Tut – launched Howard Carter, British antiquities and archaeology expert, into headlines worldwide when he opened the boy king’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings on Nov. 26, 1922. The expedition was funded by Lord Carnarvon, who admired and trusted Carter’s supervision, modern archaeological methods, and scrupulous record-keeping. According to records from the British Museum, Carnarvon was impatient while Carter unsealed the tomb, asking, “Can you see anything?” Carter famously replied, “Yes, wonderful things.”
The tomb and its thousands of artifacts weren’t fully catalogued until 1932 and while Carter lived until the age of 64, many superstitious diggers and excavation assistants gave rise to the belief of the “curse of the pharaohs,” as an explanation of the untimely death of Carnarvon six weeks after the opening of King Tut’s tomb. Author Arthur Conan Doyle furthered the rumor, as did Carter’s friend Sir Bruce Ingham, who blamed a paperweight bearing the mummified hand of a child gifted to him by Carter when his house burned down. The curse continued when his rebuilt home was later destroyed by a flood.
Carter, who was skeptical of the curse, reported a strange account in May 1926, about a year after Tut’s tomb was discovered. Anubis, the jackal-headed guardian of the dead, was carved at the entrance to many Egyptian tombs, to protect the bodies in the afterlife. After 35 years of no sightings of the dark vulture-like dogs, Carter claimed to see groups of jackals roaming the deserts, not far from the unsealed tombs.