Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Curse of the Tomb of Pencilkhamun

Kaleb, Erika and Matthew during the reign of Pencilkhamun.
During my undergraduate work in mathematics, my three children—Matthew, Kaleb, and Erika—and I lived in a small, two bedroom apartment. The night before one of my final exams, the students in my class had a study group. I attended and stayed for about three hours. When I got home, it was apparent that the kids had been busy. 

The children had taken cardboard boxes and fashioned an Egyptian throne out of them. They decorated the throne with authentic Egyptian hieroglyphics that they had looked up on the internet. They also researched ancient Egyptian games and made a replica of a popular ancient game out of cardboard. They taped together a small cardboard Egyptian table and decorated it with hieroglyphics. When I walked in the door, they were sitting on the floor playing the game, according to the the authentic rules, at the little Egyptian table. 

I was astonished. I always know that my children are amazing but there are some moments when the sure knowledge of their brilliance hits me like a bucket of water in the face. The kids gave me the guided tour of their creations and showed me how to play the game. I then hurried them off to bed because we all had school the next morning.

A few weeks later, with finals over, I felt it was time to address the state of the apartment. We started cleaning the boys' room first. I noticed that there were clean and folded clothes belonging to Kaleb sitting on the floor. I picked them up to put them back in his dresser. I tried to open the drawer, but it was stuck. Upon further inspection I saw that the boys had carefully masking taped the drawer shut. Thinking the taping was just a product of one of their usual “I'm bored” antics, I started to pull the drawer open. Matthew and Kaleb heard the tape peeling away from the wood of the dresser and both of them yelled—just as I was freeing the drawer and opening it all the way—“Don't break the seal of the tomb of Pencilkhamun!!!” Too late.

Matthew and Kaleb hurried over to me and pointed at the broken seal. (Apparently, Pencilkhamun had been entombed the night of the final exam study group.) They warned me that the tomb had been carefully sealed and, as was done in ancient Egypt, there was a curse upon anyone who dared break the seal. Indeed, I could see the faint pencil hieroglyphics adorning the masking tape seal. They felt a little sorry for me, but decided that since the damage was done I could see what was inside.

Inside the tomb was a long, rectangular metal box—a sarcophagus. They opened the sarcophagus and within it lay Pencilkhamun's mummy. The internal organs (the lead) had been carefully removed and preserved, then Pencilkhamun was mummified and wrapped in masking tape bandages. Along with Pencilkhamun, the tomb contained artifacts that Pencilkhamun might need in the afterlife. We examined the artifacts and Pencilkhamun carefully. Then, we came to the conclusion that we should try to appease the ancient Egyptian gods and reseal the tomb in hopes that I would be protected from the curse.

We carefully put everything back into the tomb the way it was. We then repaired and resealed the tomb. I found another drawer for Kaleb's clothes. 

Since then, when things go wrong, I'm pretty sure it's because of The Curse of the Tomb of Pencilkhamun.

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