Carefully injecting only minimal interest in his voice, Jack said, “And…?” Too much enthusiasm and he’d get the entire history of the Egyptian pyramids. Again.
“Don’t you see? The discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb—while not necessarily the most significant—was, and still is, the most famous of the Egyptian finds. His funerary mask became iconic, as, too, have the countless tales of impropriety and the largely fictional ‘curse of the mummy’.”
“Yeah, I get that, Daniel,” Jack said. “Teal’c made me sit through that movie five times.”
Carter returned and slid into the seat beside Daniel.
“Never mind,” Jack continued.
An abandoned section of the paper caught her interest. She pulled it closer. Jack only wished that he’d thought of the same strategy, because Daniel was off and running. “Which one?”
“Which what, Daniel?”
“Which movie? Hollywood thrived on a story about the curse begun by a French historian named Christianne Desroches-Noblecourt and propagated by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.” He glanced around to check there was no danger of being overheard. “Admittedly the curse—Anubis’s doing by the way—had some basis in fact, besides the obvious problems we’ve encountered opening tombs, because five members of Carter’s original team were dead within two years.”
“Actually, I was talking about the pharaohs’ curse.”
“Saw that movie, too.”
Pretending he hadn’t heard the remark, Daniel continued to speak. “Fear of the supposed pharaohs’ curse led to hysteria so far reaching that by 1928, there’d been a US Senate investigation into the safety of Egyptian mummies in the United States.”
Carter actually looked like she was interested. “Seriously?”
Daniel nodded. He was getting way too excited about this. “The result of the investigation saw most US held mummies promptly donated to the British Museum.”
One of the flies returned, fat and lazy, buzzing around their plates. Jack batted it away while Daniel fell into lecture mode. “It was an amazing period in history. Museums and wealthy philanthropists were literally buying concessions to excavate Egypt in the archeological equivalent of a gold rush. Lord Carnarvon wasn’t a professional Egyptologist, but he hooked up with someone who was, Howard Carter. In those days there were no antiquity laws, so Carnarvon, who was pretty much Carter’s walking ATM, amassed the most extensive and valuable private collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world. Still, he didn’t have the one thing that he really wanted.”
“Which was?” Sam asked.
“Don’t encourage him!”
“Theodore Davis’s concession to the Valley of the Kings,” Daniel said without missing a beat. “In 1915, just six months before he died, Davis abandoned those rights believing that there was nothing more to be found. Jack, this is pivotal to the entire Stargate program.”
That got his attention. “Okay, but can you at least make it the abridged version? One more lecture about Egypt and I will have to cause you pain.”
Outside, a couple of old Buicks and a dust-covered Dodge pickup trundled by, windows wound down low in deference to the stifling mid-afternoon heat. While Packard may have been offering air conditioning in their automobiles since 1940, he doubted it would be commonly seen in New Mexico for another fifteen-twenty years.