Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Curse of the Pharaohs : My Adventures with Mummies

The Curse of the Pharaohs : My Adventures with Mummies

Zahi Hawass
For ages 12 and up
National Geographic Children's Books, 2004   ISBN: 079226665X

Dr. Zahi Hawass considers himself to be very lucky because he has found something that he loves to do, and better still he has been able to make it his life’s work. Not only has Dr. Hawass been able to conduct digs in his homeland and discover some wonderful treasures from the past, but he also has taken it upon himself to make sure that the treasures and the sites that are found are protected, respected, and saved. His hope is that his finds will be appreciated by future generations of Egyptians, and other people who have an interest in Egyptian history.

During his time working as an archaeologist Dr. Hawass has heard a great deal about “the curse.” It is something that really began to get public interest after Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. It was said that members of Howard Carter’s work team died because of a curse that had been placed on the tomb thousands of years ago. The death of Howard Carter’s sponsor, Lord Carnarvon, soon after the opening of the tomb was only fuel for the rumours that went around about the curse.

Is there a curse? What Dr. Hawass explains that royal tombs rarely had a curse inscribed on their walls. Tombs of lesser persons sometimes had warning on the walls, and yet these warning were only for those who treated the tombs with disrespect. In other words, they surely would not be aimed at archaeologists who came to glorify the names of those who died, who came with respect, and who came to learn. Instead the curses were aimed at those who came to pillage the places of the dead, and who came to steal the funeral goods. The curses they were intended for robbers and looters.

Dr. Hawass shows us how false many of the so called curse rumours were, and reminds us that archaeology is a dangerous business. It is to be expected that an archaeologist is going to be threatened with injuries, snakes, falling rubble, illnesses and other hazards – it is an expected part of the job. Dr Hawass himself has experienced quite a few adventures, some of which could be explained by saying that the curse is at work. However there is a perfectly rational explanation for every one of the events, except for maybe a few. In these cases he does not pretend to have the answers, and is willing to accept that it possible that some “magic” of the ancient peoples may be reaching out across the centuries, and yet he does not feel that it is malevolent, quite the contrary. Whenever this extraordinary man has felt touched by the people of the past in some personal way, he has always considered it to be a gesture of friendship, and he has not been frightened by it.

This exceptional personal account of a life’s work, of a mystery, and of a period and place in history that has fascinated thousands, is highly readable and both entertaining and educational. We learn about digs, kings, and workers. We learn that the ancient Egyptians believed in their own curses and why. Using a convivial one-on-one style of writing, which suggests a chat over a cup of coffee, Dr. Hawass shares his love of archaeology with us and clarifies “the curse” mystery, taking away the fear and helping us put the stories in the correct context.