Most of us have heard the term “Beware the Mummy’s Curse.” Many individuals working in archeology or tomb robbery have died soon after opening and entering tombs or handling their contents.
Perhaps the caution began when Lord Carnarvon, an elderly and medically frail expert in Egyptian archeology, was involved in the excavation of King Tut’s tomb in 1922. After 5 years, 11 who had entered the tomb were dead.
Since such tombs typically had fruits, vegetables, meats, clothing and furniture, molds would naturally form in these dark places and form spores and their surface toxins that could last thousands of years. The first to enter these tombs, before they were aired out, would get a huge dose of mold toxins.
This seems to be the general belief of scholars from all over the Middle East, Europe and America.
This was further supported by the examination of the mummy of Ramesses II of ancient Egypt, which was examined in a research Museum in Paris in 1976, and over 89 different species of molds were found in or on the mummy. The researchers were fortunately careful enough to be wearing special masks.
One of the most serious recent mold toxin Archeology disaster occurred when the tomb of a famous 15th century Polish leader, King Casimir, was opened in 1973 by 12 researchers. The wooden coffin was heavily rotted inside the tomb. In a few days, four of the 12 were dead. Soon six more died. One of the two survivors was Dr. Smyk who was an expert microbiologist and suffered 5 years with new neurological balance trouble. He studied some tomb artifacts in great detail and found clear Aspergillus and Penicillin species that make dangerous mycotoxins, such as aflatoxins mentioned later in this book.
Is it any wonder that experts on this topic, like Dr. Barbara Janinka from the Polish Institute of Engineering and Dr.’s Poirier and Feder, in their book Dangerous Places: Health, Safety, and Archaeology, remind us of an old observation about archaeology-when you go home after a hard day in the field and blow your nose, you blow out dirt,” Feder said. “Clearly you have been breathing it in, and if you have been exposed to molds, spores, or fungi that lay dormant in the earth, there is at least a possibility of being exposed to some nasty stuff.”
However, if the reader does not follow the required home, school, office, church or synagogue mold prevention hygiene steps, the same molds that have killed archeologists in the past, can become part of your world. And in many cases, in ways much more than a runny nose or red eyes!
Examples of scholars who believe toxic molds like Aspergillus and Penicillium species make poisons like Ochratoxins, and have been responsible for Archeologist deaths include: Dr. Ezzeddin Taha of Cairo University, the Italian physician Dr. Nicola Di Paolo, French physician Dr. Caroline Stenger-Phillip, physician Dr. Hans Merk and microbiologist Dr. G. Kramer–both from Germany.
B. Janinska. Historical buildings and mould fungi. Not only vaults are menacing with “Tutankhamen’s Curse.” Foundations of Civil and Environmental Engineering. (2002): 43-54.