The Inconvenience Of Tutankhamun

>> Thursday, September 13, 2012

For Immediate Release
Staff - Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets

SCHENECTADY, NY--Respected and widely-read blog Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets is pleased to be the first news organization to break the exciting discovery of a team of Egyptologists regarding a nearly-two-centuries-long misunderstanding of Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Linguists and scholars at the Cryptic Underground Remnants Scientific and Educational Society, based in Schenectady, New York, have discovered that an Egyptian hieroglyph depicting three birds, a human figure with arms crossed and a chair, and previously collectively translated by scholars as "curse" or "hex" in fact should be more properly translated as "inconvenience".

This collection of symbols, the word "inconvenience" or its derivatives and related words, appears within a number of tombs associated with ancient Egyptian royalty, most notably the tomb of the young Pharoah Tutankhamun, who ruled Egypt for approximately one year in the Fourteenth Century BCE.

A collection of symbols appearing near the entry way of Tutankhamun's tomb, discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter and the Earl of Carnarvon, and appearing prominently in site photographs, has therefore been mistranslated for nearly a century. Rather than saying, "Let he who enters and desecrates this tomb be cursed evermore," as usually rendered, the warning ought to be phrased, "Let he/they (who) disturb this place of the dead (suffer) many inconveniences."

Further investigation by the historians and scholars of the Society have confirmed that the archaeological team led by Carter and Carnarvon did, in fact, amazingly enough, suffer a series of otherwise inexplicable inconveniences following their breaching of Tut's tomb and removal of artifacts and attributable to the irritating warning therein.

For instance, a study of Carter's diary shows that on November 27th, 1922, the day immediately after Carter and Carnarvon first entered the tomb, Carter spent nearly fifteen minutes looking for the key to a travel locker he had with him, only to realize the key was still in the pocket of a pair of pants that were at the bottom of a laundry bag full of dirty socks, intended to be sent back to town for cleaning. At almost exactly the same time, Carnarvon was having difficulty making exact change for a delivery person who'd brought an important package out to the dig site, and ultimately had to borrow fourpence from his personal secretary. (The Society is currently trying to verify an allegation that the personal secretary was exactly fourpence short of the price of a cup of coffee he tried to order the following morning, and had to break a shilling.)

Before his death in April, 1923 from an infected mosquito bite, Carnarvon recorded in his diaries and reported to friends a long series of petty irritations and small delays that were probably almost certainly a result of his intrusion into the tomb. On several occasions, he missed phone calls. Several times, messages were taken for him by household staff in which the contact information left behind was omitted, obscured, or hard-to-read. A houseguest borrowed a book Carnarvon really needed and Carnarvon couldn't immediately find it (it was discovered in the guest bedroom the houseguest stayed in, but only minutes after Carnarvon returned from the library he visited in order to consult their copy, and Carnarvon's household insisted they'd looked there several times). A pair of favorite shoes got very muddy. His car fell prey to an unusual number of flat tires. His hat fell off while it was raining and he got very wet. He misplaced the notes he'd made for a public address on the discovery of the tomb, and was forced to go back and get them. One of Lady Carnavon's dearest friends, referred to in Lord Carnarvon's diary as "That Hideous L. with her grating laugh that drives me MAD" came to visit and missed her departing train, resulting in her overstaying her welcome by one entire day and part of the subsequent evening.

This is only a partial list.

Carter, for his part, spent the next sixteen years until his death in 1939 acquiring a reputation for never having exact change, needing rides from friends and associates, locking himself out of his office, and annoying telephone operators when trying to place phone calls by misremembering the name of the person he was trying to reach and having the operator he was talking to try several similar-sounding variations which were usually way off or attempting to get the operator to identify his intended recipient by describing to the operator what they looked like or the kinds of clothes they sometimes wore. (A professional associate who received one of Carter's infamous calls in error remembers hearing the famous Egyptologist on the other end of the line, saying, "Drat--no--I didn't mean--did I say 'Hodgins'? I think I must have meant Watts. Big fellow, wears those hats, you know, the ones with the brim? No, wait, he hasn't got a telephone, has he?")

A typical diary entry from Carter during the post-discovery era:

Wednesday, 16 May 1928--Arrived at hotel late, lost reservation. Room obt. in hotel cross street, not nearly so nice. Upstairs neighbours stompy people, sound like g-d- elephants. Found packed mismatched pair of shoes for tomorrow lecture, similar tan colour, but both lefts. Suit wrinkled. Rained. No umbrella. Naturally.

The above entry, curiously, begins to fade midway through before resuming in a different shade of ink.

Society researchers continue to collate data, but it seems a significantly similar trend afflicted all of those associated with the 1922 Carter/Carnarvon expedition. We have reports from individuals at many levels of the expedition of lost subway tokens, prolonged visits by family members, unfulfilled catalogue orders, forgotten-until-the-very-last-minute birthdays, neighbors throwing late parties the nights before important events, arrivals just after somebody else just left, last-moment substitutions, hidden fees, misfiled papers, retyped pages, spilled beverages, et cetera. Taken individually, any one of these occurrences might be an ordinary fluke, the minor annoyances that afflict any one of us once or twice a day; taken together, they form a vast network of inconvenient events beyond mere coincidence, a measurable synchronistic web of irritation and aggravation.

It is not clear whether or not the threatened inconveniences affect institutions as well as individuals, but it does seem noteworthy that preliminary inquiries to the Cairo Museum, where the Tutankhamun relics were stored and displayed from their discovery, show an abrupt drop in complaints of stopped-up toilets in the public restrooms subsequent to 1961, when a number of the relics first went on traveling display and spiking again whenever the exhibits are returned. Data is inconclusive, however, as janitorial records prior to 1937 are sparse and it appears many of the Museum's relevant documents were actually lost in 1952 during a period of civil unrest, a circumstance only discovered when they were asked for.

(For the ScatterKat, who inspired this, went along
with it in banter while we were getting ready for work,
and who seems to think I'm amusing for some reason.)

Photograph, "Tuthankamen's famous burial mask, on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo," by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, ©2003; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


John Healy Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 7:24:00 PM EDT  

Shocking! If only modern translation had been available.
Had they only known.
These kind of bumps in the road can mount from irritation to true horror after a surprisingly short time.
This is the kind of cutting edge reportage that draws me back to this blog time after time.
That and the free donuts.
It's OK to mention those isn't it?

Eric Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 9:26:00 PM EDT  

Well, John, there is a reason we're "respected and widely-read," and it obviously isn't our literary merit or trustworthiness....

timb111 Friday, September 14, 2012 at 12:27:00 PM EDT  

How come I never get free donuts? I keep coming back.

Awesome post. You need some like buttons over here.

Eric Friday, September 14, 2012 at 4:03:00 PM EDT  

No doughnuts for Canadians. These are American doughnuts. I get them from Los Grandes Arcos down the block.

I kid, of course. Thanks for the vote!

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