The best books to explain why people think mummies are cursed

Catherine Butzen Author Of Painter of the Dead
By Catherine Butzen

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Egypt – a remote era of history, but so well preserved! I love reading the old documents and finding out what they ate or why the worker Tilamentu was absent from the building site one day. (Turns out he had a fight with his wife). Pop culture likes to focus on the mummies, especially the cursed kind, and I couldn’t help wondering why. Where did those ideas come from? Did the Egyptians actually believe in curses? And what would someone like Tilamentu Q. Public think of it all? I hope you enjoy learning about it as much as I did!

I wrote...

Painter of the Dead

By Catherine Butzen,

Book cover of Painter of the Dead

What is my book about?

When the Egyptology department needs funds to offset a recent spate of museum thefts, Theodora Speer trades her painting smock for an evening gown. Charming donors isn’t usually her idea of a good time—but then, she doesn't usually get to meet handsome and mysterious men like Seth Adler. Seth is desperate to get close to a specific Egyptian mummy, and attending a fundraising gala seems just the ticket. He doesn’t expect to meet Theo... and he definitely doesn't expect her to interfere with his plans.

Frantic to escape, Seth kills himself in front of Theo. Except it turns out he’s not so dead after all, and it’s up to Theo to keep him that way. Even if it means fleeing the police, practicing ancient Egyptian magic, and confronting the real thief.
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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Red Land, Black Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt

Why did I love this book?

When my father and I were getting ready to visit Egypt for the first time, he asked me for a book to introduce him to Egyptology. I gave him Red Land, Black Land. It brings you right into the distant yet familiar world of ancient Egypt: we see families fighting in letters, bored kids falling asleep in school, and scribes gloating over how amazing they are compared to everyone else. The past can seem so strange, but this book brings it to life.

By Barbara Mertz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Red Land, Black Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating, erudite, and witty glimpse of the human side of ancient Egypt—this acclaimed classic work is now revised and updated for a new generation

Displaying the unparalleled descriptive power, unerring eye for fascinating detail, keen insight, and trenchant wit that have made the novels she writes (as Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels) perennial New York Times bestsellers, internationally renowned Egyptologist Barbara Mertz brings a long-buried civilization to vivid life. In Red Land, Black Land, she transports us back thousands of years and immerses us in the sights, aromas, and sounds of day-to-day living in the legendary desert realm that…

Book cover of Akhenaten: History, Fantasy and Ancient Egypt

Why did I love this book?

Before Tut, there was Akhenaten. Fashionable nineteenth-century folks went gaga for this mysterious “heretic pharaoh” who tried to overthrow the gods of ancient Egypt. And because we know so little about him, everyone could make him anything they liked! As a fan of mythology, I found it incredible to watch how people evolved their own stories about this strange figure – seeing him as homosexual, heterosexual, Christian, pagan, and more. And it gives us a clue about the origin of the “curse” stories, as we see Akhenaten himself condemned by his own people and vanishing into history. 

By Dominic Montserrat,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Akhenaten as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled Egypt in the mid-fourteenth century BCE, has been the subject of more speculation than any other character in Egyptian history. Often called the originator of monotheism and the world's first recorded individual, he has fascinated and inspired both scholars of Egyptology and creative talents as diverse as Sigmund Freud and Philip Glass.
This provocative biography examines both the real Akhenaten and the myths that have been created around him. It scrutinises the history of the pharaoh and his reign, which has been continually written in Eurocentric terms inapplicable to ancient Egypt, and the archaeology of…

Book cover of The Mummy's Curse: The True History of a Dark Fantasy

Why did I love this book?

The Victorians loved mummies and mummy stories... and before I read The Mummy’s Curse, I’d never heard of any of them! The nineteenth century’s obsession with Egypt and curses doesn’t get talked about much today. This book opened me up to a whole new world of stories, including some strange curse tales that never got quite as big as King Tut. (Which is a shame, because some of them are wonderfully creepy!)

By Roger Luckhurst,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mummy's Curse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the winter of 1922-23 archaeologist Howard Carter and his wealthy patron George Herbert, the Fifth Earl of Carnarvon, sensationally opened the tomb of Tutenkhamen. Six weeks later Herbert, the sponsor of the expedition, died in Egypt. The popular press went wild with rumours of a curse on those who disturbed the Pharaoh's rest and for years followed every twist and turn of the fate of the men who had been involved in the historic discovery. Long dismissed by
Egyptologists, the mummy's curse remains a part of popular supernatural belief. Roger Luckhurst explores why the myth has captured the British…

Book cover of An Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Sobekmose

Why did I love this book?

I remember being a kid in a museum, staring at the figurines making up a strange judgment scene. Gods weighing a man’s heart against a feather – what was that all about? If you want to understand the ancient Egyptians, you need a good Book of the Dead. This translation of the goldsmith Sobekmose’s burial copy won’t bring any cursed mummies back to life, but it gives you a road map to ancient Egyptian paradise... and some neat spells to control demons, if they happen to turn up along the way. 

By Paul F. O' Rourke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Book of the Dead of Sobekmose, in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, New York, is one of the most important surviving examples of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead genre. Such `books' - papyrus scrolls - were composed of traditional funerary texts, including magic spells, that were thought to assist a dead person on their journey into the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians believed in an underworld fraught with dangers that needed to be carefully navigated, from the familiar, such as snakes and scorpions, to the extraordinary: lakes of fire to cross, animal-headed demons to pass and, of…

Crocodile on the Sandbank

By Elizabeth Peters,

Book cover of Crocodile on the Sandbank

Why did I love this book?

I stumbled across a dog-eared copy of this book at a college library sale and immediately fell in love. Crocodile on the Sandbank brings us to late Victorian Egypt, reproducing both the good (unparalleled discoveries) and the bad (British attitudes towards Egypt) of that time. Through it all strides Amelia Peabody, a confident, educated spinster with a medical kit in one hand and a parasol for whacking dastardly criminals in the other. She’s here to explore ancient ruins and chew bubblegum, and a dignified lady wouldn’t dream of chewing bubblegum. And what’s all this nonsense about a walking mummy? Don’t be daft!

By Elizabeth Peters,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Crocodile on the Sandbank as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Amelia Peabody is Elizabeth Peters' most brilliant and best-loved creation, a thoroughly Victorian feminist who takes the stuffy world of archaeology by storm with her shocking men's pants and no-nonsense attitude!

In this first adventure, our headstrong heroine decides to use her substantial inheritance to see the world. On her travels, she rescues a gentlewoman in distress - Evelyn Barton-Forbes - and the two become friends. The two companions continue to Egypt where they face mysteries, mummies and the redoubtable Radcliffe Emerson, an outspoken archaeologist, who doesn't need women to help him solve mysteries -- at least that's what he…

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