Intended for healthcare professionals

One Foot In The Past

The mummy's curse: historical cohort study

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 21 December 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1482
  1. Mark R Nelson, NHMRC fellow (mark.nelson{at}
  1. Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Alfred Hospital, Prahran 3181, Australia


    Objective: To examine survival of individuals exposed to the “mummy's curse” reputedly associated with the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamen in Luxor, Egypt, between February 1923 and November 1926.

    Design: Retrospective cohort study.

    Participants: 44 Westerners identified by Howard Carter as present in Egypt at the specified dates, 25 of whom were potentially exposed to the curse.

    Main outcome measures: Length of survival after date of potential exposure.

    Results: In the 25 people exposed to the curse the mean age at death was 70 years (SD 12) compared with 75 (13) in those not exposed (P=0.87 for difference). Survival after the date of exposure was 20.8 (15.2) v 28.9 (13.6) years respectively (P=0.95 for difference). Female sex was a predictor for survival (P=0.02).

    Conclusions: There was no significant association between exposure to the mummy's curse and survival and thus no evidence to support the existence of a mummy's curse

    What is already known on this topic

    What is already known on this topic The methods of evidence based medicine have not been used to investigate the reality of the “mummy's curse”

    The arguments against the curse have been as anecdotal as the contemporary newspapers that reported it

    What this study adds

    What this study adds There was no association between potential exposure to the mummy's curse during the excavation of Tutankamen's tomb and death within 10 years

    No evidence was found for the existence of a mummy's curse


    • Funding No external funding.

    • Competing interests None declared.

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