Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Curse of the Egyptian Magician...

Cue spooky music......wooooooowwoooooooowwoooooooo.....

Pediamenopet's Curse
By Dr. Zahi Hawass
Published by Asharq Al-awsat

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Pediamenopet was an Ancient Egyptian priest who built a tomb for himself in the region known as al-Asasif, west of Luxor. The tomb is known as Tomb 33 [TT33], and many myths and stories have emerged surrounding this tomb to the point that some archeologists even fear entering it. It is generally believed that Pediamenopet was one of the most important magicians in ancient Egypt, where witchcraft and magic was part of the ancient Egyptian priesthood. In fact, the skills and powers of ancient Egyptian priest's in witchcraft and magic have even been referred to in the holy Quran. Researchers and archeologists have had numerous accidents in this tomb, especially in the vertical shaft that must be traversed in order to reach Pediamenopet's burial chamber. This vertical shaft descends for approximately 7 meters in depth, and there have been a number of accidents here, with people falling down this vertical shaft and harming themselves, resulting in archeologists speculating that this vertical shaft is cursed.

The first recorded story of an accident taking place in this tomb was in 1798, when French scholars attached to the French Campaign in Egypt were recording and studying the antiquities of Upper Egypt. These French scholars worked day and night to document ancient Egyptian artifacts and antiquities, and in fact they were even able to publish an important encyclopedia called the "Description de l'Egypte" about Egypt. The story goes that one French scholar entered Pediamenopet's tomb, carrying only a candle in order to observe the engravings and hieroglyphics on the tomb's walls, however he fell down this vertical shaft to his death. Approximately two centuries later, a German archeologist was cataloguing the tomb in 1874, as part of research into a book he was writing on the importance of the engravings and hieroglyphics on the walls of the tomb, when he also fell down this vertical shaft.

There is no historical record of what happened in this tomb following the death of the French scholar and prior to the death of the German archeologist, however a similar such event – which we hope will be the last of its kind – also took place recently. Egyptian archeologist Professor Ali al-Asfar was recently accompanying some foreign archeologists on a tour of Tomb 33 when he also fell down this vertical shaft, however thanks to divine providence he was not killed in this incident, instead suffering multiple broken bones. Al-Asfar was sent to Germany for medical treatment, and we thank God that he has recovered, although this is not a full-recovery and he still suffers the after-affects of some of these fractures till this day. After Professor al-Asfar returned to Egypt, he resolved to transfer from his job at Luxor to any other position, and he is now the Director of the Giza Pyramid complex. The words "vertical shaft" now panic Dr. al-Asfar, and I don't think that he will ever resolve to descent a vertical shaft again, whether this is 7 centimeters underground or 7 meters!

After this incident, al-Asfar asked those responsible for Tomb 33 why this vertical shaft was not covered, as is the case with other shafts in other ancient Egyptian tombs. The answer was that a metal covering was made to cover this shaft on more than one occasion, but over time, as the shaft has had to be re-opened to allow archeologists and researchers to descend in order to reach Pediamenopet's burial chamber, this metal covering has been misplaced, and – for one reason or another – the shaft has remained uncovered.

As a result of this, there is much speculation surrounding the tomb's owner, the ancient Egyptian priest Pediamenopet, and the curse that he placed on the vertical shaft that leads to his burial chamber…and so Pediamenopet and this vertical shaft have become another ancient Egyptian myth!
Yeah, easy for the Egyptian government to blame a mummy's curse instead of owning up to gross negligence!  It's a good story, I'll give Hawass that; of course, he doesn't talk at all about the dozens of people who have safely traveled up and down the shaft to do archaeological recovery, not to mention a looter or two :)  After all, how else could this object have come up for sale at Christie's, heh?  Unfortunately there is no photo, but a piece of one of the deceased's Shabti fetched the price of  $8,963 USD at auction on 3 July, 1996 King Street, London:

Sale Information
Sale 5625
3 July 1996
London, King Street

Lot Description
Another upper part of a mottled stone shabti for Pediamenopet

Dynasty XXV/XXVI, circa 650 B.C.
With partial remains of four lines of hieroglyphic text from Chapter 6 of the Book of the Dead, 6½in. (16.5cm.) high; another, with two and a half lines of text, surface flaking, mounted, 5¾in. (14.7cm.) high; a stone shabti head, mounted, 2 3/8in. (6cm.) high; a green-glazed stone shabti head, 2¼in. (5.6cm.) high; the lower legs of a shabti with six lines of inscription remaining, 4¾in. (12cm.) high; another, with seven lines, 5in. (12.7cm.) high; and a painted limestone lower legs of a shabti with two lines of text, 2¾in. (7cm.) high (7)

From Tomb 33, Assassîf

Lot Notes
Item seven: "A Letter from W. E. Rouse Boughton, Esq. F.R.S. to the Rev. Stephen Weston, B.D. respecting some Egyptian Antiquities" and read to the Society of Antiquaries on 19 May 1814, in Archaeologia, XVIII, 1815, pl. IV.

Ahem, hey Dr. Hawass, how about tracking down this ancient piece of Egypt and bringing it back where it belongs. Or perhaps you expect the curse of the Egyptian Magician to do its work for you and the partial Shabti will walk back to Cairo.

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