April 5, 2008

April 5 | George Herbert

June 26, 1866 – April 5, 1923: Age 56

George Herbert, or rather George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, was the man who financed the excavation of King Tut's tomb by Howard Carter. He was present in February 1923 when the tomb was opened, and the greatest treasures of Egyptian archaeology were exposed to light and air for the first time in millennia.

He was still in Cairo several months later when he accidentally opened an infected mosquito bite while shaving. The resulting blood poisoning killed him at 1:55 a.m. on April 5, 1923. At the same moment, all the lights in Cairo went out. Back in England, Herbert's dog, Susie, let out a howl and died.

Over the next 10 years, a dozen others who went inside the tomb met untimely deaths, leading to speculation about the Pharaoh's Curse. Herbert's own son was so frightened that when boxes of treasure arrived back in England, he hid them unopened in the gap between two rooms. Herbert's hotel room in Cairo has never since been made available to anyone else.

Over the course of his life, Herbert collected a vast trove of Egyptian antiquities. The terms of his will stated that, should his wife wish to dispose of his collection, it should be offered to the British Museum for 20,000 pounds, a fraction of their real value. Lady Carnarvon made the offer, but gave the Museum until 4pm the same day to pay in full. When they could not, she was free to sell the collection to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for a much higher price: $145,000.

Sources: Wikipedia, Top News

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