Legendary Egyptologist Zahi Hawass on the mysterious death of Tutankhamun, the curse of Cleopatra and the imperialism of European museums

(ORDO NEWS) — In 2022, archaeologists celebrate two significant anniversaries: 200 years ago, thanks to the Rosetta Stone, they deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs, and 100 years ago, they found the mummy of Tutankhamun

In the fall of 2022, Egyptologists around the world are celebrating two anniversaries. 100 years ago, in November 1922, the British Howard Carter and George Carnarvon found the mummy of Tutankhamun, a young pharaoh in a golden funeral mask, in the Valley of the Kings.

And 200 years ago, in September 1822, the French orientalist Jean-Francois Champollion unraveled the key to deciphering hieroglyphs thanks to the Rosetta Stone – a stele with texts in three languages.

Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, ex-Minister of Antiquities of the Arab Republic of Egypt, promises to celebrate the double anniversary with high-profile discoveries: to find the tomb and mummy of Nefertiti and to uncover the mystery of Tutankhamun’s death.

Actually, in 2020, he has already made a discovery that is called the most important in Egyptian archeology since the time of Carter – he unearthed the lost “golden city” in Luxor.

From the “KP” dossier

Zahi Hawass is probably the most famous contemporary Egyptologist in the world. Born in Egypt, studied at the University of Alexandria, defended his doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania (USA). Honorary professor of many universities.

For a long time he headed the Supreme Council and the Ministry of Antiquities of Egypt. He supervised the excavations of many archaeological sites and DNA studies of the mummies of Tutankhamen and other pharaohs.

Hawass is often referred to as the Egyptian Indiana Jones for his unchanging Hollywood treasure hunter hat.

The mystery of the death of Tutankhamun

Tutankhamen, as you know, died very young, at the age of 18. But from what? Archaeologists, criminologists and physicians have been scratching their heads for several decades – either they killed him, or he was ill with malaria, or he fell from a chariot.

“We examined the body of Tutankhamun using computed tomography,” says Zahi Hawass in an interview with Spanish journalists. He flew to Madrid for the opening of the exhibition “Daughters of the Nile: Women and their role in the society of Ancient Egypt.”

And women in those distant times, by the way, could be clergymen, judges and participate in the construction of pyramids.

And we can definitely say that he was not killed. We found a broken left leg, most likely from an accident a few days before he died.

Near the mummy of Tutankhamen, 130 walking sticks were found. We are now re-examining the pharaoh’s remains using state-of-the-art methods to confirm whether he suffered from malaria.

The results will be known in October. And then it will become clear whether Tutankhamun died from an accident or from malaria.

However, most likely, Hawass is cunning and he already knows the answer – he just keeps the intrigue. On November 4, he will meet Lord Carnarvon’s great-grandson and dozens of archeological luminaries in the Valley of the Kings. And effectively present the opening.

In search of the Mummy

You all know the beautiful Nefertiti by sight – her elegant bust, stored in the New Museum in Berlin, has entered all history books. However, Egyptologists have not yet found the tomb of Nefertiti, the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, and do not know if her mummy has been preserved.

Perhaps Nefertiti is one of the mummies found in one of the tombs of the Valley of the Kings. Almost everyone has already been identified, there are two women left…

We think that the mummy number KV21B is Nefertiti, the age is the same. And KV21A – Ankhesenamun, the main wife of Tutankhamun. She was buried with two embryos. But there is no 100% certainty yet.

But there are other versions. Zahi Hawass has planned excavations this year at five different locations in the Valley of the Kings – hoping to find Nefertiti’s tomb.

We are also looking in Saqqara, next to the pyramid of Teti, and in another area where the remains of Nefertiti’s relatives, including her daughter, were found. In fact, we know very little about Nefertiti: she was married to Pharaoh Akhenaten for 17 years, gave birth to six daughters.

She probably outlived her husband. I think after his death she ruled Egypt herself under the name of Smenkhkare. To unravel the secrets of Nefertiti, you need to find her tomb or mummy.

The curse of Cleopatra

“The Curse of the Pharaohs” is a well-known story, although debunked. Zahi Hawass claims that Cleopatra’s personal curse haunts him.

For twelve years, together with his colleague from the Dominican Republic, Kathleen Martinez, he searched for the grave of the last queen of Egypt from the Ptolemaic dynasty in the vicinity of Alexandria. The statues of Cleopatra, discovered in the temple of Osiris, became a reference point for archaeologists.

During the excavations, a huge stone fell on my head, I had to operate on my eye. Another time I was stuck in a tunnel in complete darkness for an hour. Recently, Kathleen found new tunnels three kilometers long at a depth of 10 meters. I believe that Cleopatra’s grave is there.

Legendary Egyptologist Zahi Hawass on the mysterious death of Tutankhamun the curse of Cleopatra and the imperialism of European museums 2
Bust of Nefertiti found by German archaeologists

Return Nefertiti

But what Zahi Hawass is absolutely sure of is that Nefertiti must return to Egypt from Berlin. Like the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum in London, and the Dendera Zodiac (astronomical bas-relief map) from the Louvre in Paris.

The archaeologist writes petitions and calls for the return of treasures to their homeland in all countries of the world, where he comes with lectures or at scientific conferences.

And you can’t deny him logic. The Rosetta Stone was found by the French during the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt, and after the defeat in the war, they gave it to the British.

The same French simply carved the Dendera zodiac from the wall of an ancient Egyptian temple. The bust of Nefertiti was taken by the German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt to Berlin, and not in the most honest way.

These are three unique items illegally exported from Egypt. I think it’s time to bring them back, starting with the Rosetta Stone – the 200th anniversary of the decipherment of Egyptian writing is a great occasion, says Hawass.

The British stole it from the French, who also had no rights to it. European museums have not yet rid themselves of imperialism.

In general, passions rage around the Egyptian pyramids, mummies, gold and hieroglyphs even thousands of years after the death of the last pharaoh.

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