The Other Cursed Tomb- The Curse of Tamerlane

     Ever since famed archaeologist Howard Carter cracked open the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen in 1922, the western world has always been fascinated with the idea of an ancient cursed tomb. Indeed the odd coincidences surrounding Carter and his men following the exhumation of King Tut only fed the fear and fascination with such things. How many bad movies and television shows have used the "curse of the mummy" since. Well this is not about Carter, King Tut, or even Egypt. This is a tale of another cursed tomb of a long dead ruler, one that also had odd coincidences for those that disturbed the body. This is the story of the cursed tomb of Tamerlane.

    Most people read the last sentence and said "Who is Tamerlane?!". Well it is true that in your high school or even college history courses you have likely never heard that name. However, if you study the history of Asia, especially central Asia, Tamerlane is an important figure that looms large. Tamerlane was a descendant of Genghis Khan that created a dynasty that ruled over central Europe for nearly 140 years during the 15th and 16th centuries. Tamerlane challenged and often defeated new but emerging Ottoman Empire, the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and Syria, and the Sultans of Delhi. He carved out an empire in what are now the modern states of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. He was the last in the long line of nomadic conquerors, as the age of gunpowder would soon displace the power of the horse and bow in military matters.

     In 1941, his tomb lay in what was then the Soviet Union(now Uzbekistan). The Soviet Union, always looking for glory in competition with the west, sought to put themselves on the map of archaeology/anthropology and opened the tomb of Tamerlane to study his remains. While for the west it did not have the flash and appeal of a Pharaoh's tomb, the history of the Mongols in the USSR made for especially good press. The anthropologist in charge of the undertaking was Mikhail Gerasimov. According to accounts there was an inscription found that when translated read "When I rise from the dead, the world will tremble. Who so ever opens my tomb shall unleash an invader more terrible than I."

   So was the curse true? Well ,you can believe in curses if you want or just extreme coincidences, however that same day the Soviets started the process of exhumation, the German's began Operation Barbarossa, a surprise invasion of the Soviet Union that would lead to 20 million lost lives for the Soviet Union. While the Germans were not as successful as Tamerlane, that war cost more lives than Tamerlane and destroyed more property and material wealth than he could have in two lifetimes.

The Tomb of Tamerlane before significant renovations.


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