Scientific thinker Jorge Wagensberg said in one of his aphorisms that gaps in knowledge are usually floods of solid beliefs. One of those “solid beliefs” is that of the curse of Tutankhamun, for which any person who approaches the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh will be condemned to die shortly.
It all started when, in November 1922, Egyptologist Howard Carter discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. From that moment on, people related to the discovery began to die. The most famous case is that of Lord Carnarvon, patron who financed the excavation, who died after being bitten by a mosquito on the cheek. It appears that while shaving the wound that caused the fatal death became infected.
Carnarvon’s death was followed by that of his brother, Aubrey Herbert, who witnessed the discovery of the mummy. The man who struck the last blow to the wall that was shielding the chamber where the sarcophagus was found was not saved either. In the same way that he was not saved from the curse the man who X-rayed Tutankhamun’s mummy. They say that when going to do the autopsy, the mummy was found a wound on the same cheek where Lord Carnarvon was bitten by the mosquito.
In short, the belief in the curse of Tutankhamun became more and more solid, and the tabloids of the day spread the legend throughout the 1920s, continuing to this day. The success of such belief is attributed to the imagination of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, and writer of great influence in his day.
It was in 2012 when the curse he hit hard again. A virus transmitted to humans through dromedaries was moving slowly but surely through the Middle East. It was a disease similar to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome that was first reported in Asia in 2003) and that was causing havoc, spreading through Saudi Arabia and leaving a trail of deaths in its wake. It was MERS, caused by a coronavirus typical of the bats that inhabit Egyptian tombs. Again, the cursed legend of the pharaonic mummies was gaining strength.
MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) is a viral respiratory disease caused by a coronavirus that, to understand us, is a first cousin of the one that has us on alert today. However, the difference between covid-19 and MERS lies in the ability to adapt to human transmission. While MERS involves intimate contact, COVID is transmitted much more easily.
What is important about all this is that a belief like the curse of Tutankhamun, which originated in the 1920s, found no place in our century. Discarding magical theories, scientific research led to the discovery of MERS and, with it, the discovery of the bat as a natural reservoir for most existing coronaviruses.
Based on this fundamental fact, advances are being made in the activation of the different vaccines to alleviate the epidemic that is ravaging our lives today. The secret of this epidemic lies in our relationship with the environment, with the natural habitat of animals, a sacred place that we have desecrated without regard and, until now, with impunity. That is the real curse.
The jumps from animal viruses to human beings should not surprise us, indeed, they should be part of our knowledge to prevent conspiracy beliefs and theories from occupying a place that does not belong to them.
The stone ax is a section where Montero Glez, with a will to prose, he exercises his particular siege to scientific reality to show that science and art are complementary forms of knowledge.