Modern magic was first discovered in the late 1800s. Although mythology and folklore have, through the ages, claimed magical ability for various civilizations, a 17-year-old archaeologist by the name of Howard Carter was the first person to be able to reliably reproduce measurable results induced by magical incantations. In October of 1891, Howard Carter set sail from Britain for Alexandria, Egypt, employed to use his artist's skills at Bani Hassan, the gravesite of the Sovereign Princes of Middle Egypt during 2000 B.C. Carter's task was to record and copy the scenes from the walls of the tomb. Young and energetic, Howard Carter was a diligent worker with much enthusiasm. He would work the day through and then sleep with the bats in the tomb at night. Carter created two sets of works: one of pictorial reproductions of wall-paintings and other decorative elements, the other of the thousands of hieroglyphic characters inscribing the walls of the tomb.

After several weeks of tireless efforts, Carter (who had a budding interest in Egyptology himself) began trying to decipher some of the hieroglyphics during his rather lonely evenings. For guidance, he used the innumerable academic texts and translated examples published since the discovery of the Rosetta Stone nearly 100 years earlier. A beginner in this effort, Carter apparently sounded out each pictogram as he deciphered, trying to memorize their sounds as well as their meanings as he went along. After several late evenings, he had successfully deciphered a single line of text from one of his many parchments, and while repeating the sounds over and over to himself, began writing their rough English translation on the parchment. Carter was quite surprised when the translation he had written appeared to be a command to bring forth fire - from where or for what purpose, he could not, at that time, guess. On looking up from his work he was a great deal more surprised to find a blackened scorch mark obscuring part of the wall in front of him - a mark that he was certain had not been there before, considering he had recently finished reproducing that very section of the tomb in watercolor.

The next day Carter described this strange occurrence to Faran al Endouin, a young Egyptian graduate student whom Carter had been sent to assist. Examining the parchment Carter had been working on, Al Endouin recognized and corrected a minor detail in Carter's translation. Carter repeated his actions of the night before by reading the corrected version aloud from the parchment the two men held between them. The results put a swift end to their casual experimentation: Al Endouin grimaced in pain and fell to the ground, and Carter was left holding the smoldering remains of the now-destroyed parchment. Thus, the secret to an ancient and forgotten magic was unlocked, though it would take many months of diligent trial and error before Carter, Al Endouin, and a growing cadre of scholars would be able to reproduce the exact circumstances and methods required to created another magically-charged inscribed parchment.

Since then, universities, museums and scholarly societies have devoted significant funds to the study of magic and the reproduction of magical scrolls, and the field has gained tremendous momentum. The race to unearth new incantations has caused some unfortunate side-effects, however; as grave-robbing has increased, as have violent attacks at many recently-discovered tombs and crypts. Many say this is because the Service of Antiquities, a French organization which founded the Boulaq Museum in Cairo where Egyptian monuments and treasures can be exhibited, continues to allow archaeologists to keep a percentage of their finds. They have also been accused of encouraging plundering of ancient sites outside of Egypt by paying for items retrieved from them. In spite of these misfortunes, or perhaps because of them, the field of magical study has advanced rapidly. Original parchments, apparently placed in tombs at the time of their sealing, have been discovered in various sites, confirming that the ancient Egyptians themselves cast magic from scrolls just as skilled casters do today. New methods of reproducing magical scrolls from original carvings and parchments have been discerned, although this knowledge is, of course, closely guarded by those who are fortunate enough to know the secret. Several incantations are now in common use, and experts have even developed methods of casting these magics by memory, without using a written version. Recently, a major and dramatic find unearthed in early-dynasty Egyptian tombs of far-flung Porto de Maio, Morocco, more than doubled the incantations known to that point, and many interested parties are clamoring aboard steam ships headed for the island.

After his momentous entry into Egyptology, Howard Carter went on to work with the famous Flinders Petrie at el Amarna in Egypt, where Carter became a full-fledged archaeologist, and continued his work deciphering and translating ancient texts in the hopes of revealing further insights into the uses of magic. He was later appointed Principle Artist to the Egyptian Exploration Fund for the excavations of Deir el Babri, the burial place of Queen Hatshepsut, where he continued his research and discovered two new incantations. At the mere age of 25, Carter was offered the job of Inspector General of Monuments for Upper Egypt by the Director of the Egyptian Antiquities Service. Unfortunately, Carter's burgeoning career at the Egyptian Antiquities Service came to an end in an unfortunate incident between the Egyptian site guards and a number of drunken French tourists. Carter is reported to have "made rather over-good use of his not-insignificant knowledge of arcane enchantments," although to date he has refused to comment on the issue. The incident put a black mark on Carter's reputation, and shortly thereafter he was posted to an obscure Nile Delta town, forcing Carter to resign from the Antiquities Service in 1905. For some years, he attempted to make a living as a professional artist and tour guide, until in 1908 when the enigmatic Lord Carnarvon returned Carter from his archaeological banishment and hired him to perform excavations for Carnarvon's personal collection. Happily for the field, Carter's research has once again flourished. Despite persistent reports of Carter's obsession with finding Tutankhamun's tomb, where he apparently believes a rich treasure of magical incantations is inscribed, it is rumored that this partnership with Carnavon may carry Carter to Porto de Maio to see first-hand what magics might be stored in the area's ancient places.

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