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Tut’s Toxic Tomb, 24 April 2024, Nat Geo UK, “Curse Unleashed”



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Tut’s Toxic Tomb, a new documentary series from National Geographic UK, takes us into the mysteries surrounding the tomb of ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun and the infamous “Curse of the Pharaoh.” The first episode, “Curse Unleashed,” airing on Wednesday 24 April, sees paleoanthropologist Ella Al-Shamahi investigate the truth behind the legend, exploring whether toxins within the tomb played a role in the deaths of those who entered.

The discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter was a historic moment, revealing over 5,000 artefacts, a sarcophagus, and the famous headdress. However, the excitement soon turned to trepidation as stories of a curse began to circulate, linking the deaths of those who entered the tomb to an ancient pharaoh’s wrath.

The episode focuses on the death of Lord Carnarvon, the financial backer of Carter’s expedition, who entered the tomb in early 1923 but died just weeks later from an infection. This may have fuelled the curse rumours, although Carter himself lived for nearly two more decades, dying in 1939. Experts suggest that Carnarvon’s death was due to his already poor health and the unsanitary conditions outside the tomb, making it more likely that he contracted the infection elsewhere.

The show also explores another potential origin for the curse story. When Carter and his team encountered a statue of the god of the dead, Anubis, guarding the burial chamber, they found a small brick inscribed with a warning, likely intended to ward off grave robbers. This inscription may have been the inspiration for the curse legend.


Egyptologist Dominic Montserrat offers a different theory, suggesting that the curse story originated from a 19th-century London stage show featuring authentic mummies being unwrapped, which inspired writers to pen tales of mummy revenge.

Tut’s Toxic Tomb aims to separate fact from fiction, using scientific analysis to determine if toxins or ancient pathogens played a role in the deaths associated with Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Tut’s Toxic Tomb airs on National Geographic UK at 8.00 pm on Wednesday, 24 April 2024.


Isabelle aka Izzy Jacobs is the UK previews specialist at Isabelle is particularly drawn to crime dramas, but she also has a not so secret love for all things reality TV. In addition to her work at, Isabelle is also an avid traveler and a devoted foodie.

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