Monthly Archives: October 2013

The mummy’s curse: It came from an Egyptian tomb…

Well no, actually, it didn’t. But once a myth lurches into life, there’s no stopping it

…the epidemiologist Mark Nelson from the University of Tasmania, Australia, designed a formal trial of the curse based on protocols for testing the effects of drugs. He compared people who were in the tomb at key times with people who were in Egypt but not in the tomb. His report, published in the British Medical Journal in 2002, concluded that being in the tomb did not significantly hasten death. The ‘participants’ in the study lived on average for more than 20 years after the tomb was opened, whether they visited it or not.

…the mummy’s curse as we know it is a product of 19th-century England. Dominic Montserrat, an Egyptologist from the Open University, traced the first mention to a science-fiction book called The Mummy! (1827) by the little-known novelist Jane Webb Loudon, who was inspired after attending a public unwrapping of a mummy near Piccadilly Circus in London. Loudon set her story in the 22nd century and featured an embalmed corpse who threatened to strangle the book’s hero, a young scholar called Edric.

Climate Change Down Under

How many once-in-100-years disasters can a 22-year-old have lived through?

Every summer, friends who live in fire-risk areas tell me of their preparations – wetting towels, filling gutters. These are the mundane rituals that more Australians are getting used to. Rituals that sit strangely next to the horrifying spectacle of a 40-metre wall of fire that threatens homes and lives. We shouldn’t have to become accustomed to these tasks. We still have a choice.