Ramesses III (ruled 1186 BC – 1155 BC) was a pharaoh of the New Kingdom Period. Some revealing information about his death has been published in a new book by Egyptologist Zahi Hawas and the Cairo University radiologist Sahar Saleem. Their work is entitled Scanning the Pharaohs: CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies (American University in Cairo Press, 2016).
According to Live Science, Hawass and Saleem studied royal mummies from the 18th to 20th dynasties of Egypt, spanning from about 1543 BC to 1064 BC. They examined the mummies of famous pharaohs like Hatshepsut, Tutankhamun, Thutmose III, Seti I, etc. All of the mummies were from the collection of the Cairo Museum. With new technology the remains of the ancient royals became a priceless source of information.
CT imaging shows a detailed view of King Tut’s mummified skull – including the resin embalmers filled it with. (Sahar Saleem)Details have been discovered about the medical conditions from which they may have suffered, as well as the mummification processes they underwent, their age, and causes of their death. Using Multi-Detector Computed Tomography and DNA analysis, Hawass and Saleem completed research which has provided more information on the mummies than ever before. Moreover, utilizing 3D images, the anatomy of each face has been discerned for a more accurate interpretation of facial features.
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The mummy of pharaoh Ramesses III. (Theban Royal Mummy Project)Previously, the same team reported that Ramesses III's throat was slit, likely killing him instantly. Now, they have made a new discovery connected with his assassination. The toe of the pharaoh was hacked off, likely with an ax - suggesting that he was set upon by multiple assailants with different weapons.
As Saleem wrote in an email to Live Science:
"The site of foot injury is anatomically far from the neck-cut wound; also the shape of the fractured toe bones indicate that it was induced by a different weapon than that used to induce the neck cut. So there must have been an assailant with an ax/sword attacking the king from the front, and another one with a knife or a dagger attacking the king from his back, both attacking at the same time."
A three-dimensional CT scan of the feet of Ramesses III, showing the thick linen wrappings.The body of Ramesses III was mummified, but before it happened, ancient specialists of mummification conducted cosmetic surgery on the body. They placed packing materials under his skin to "plump out" the corpse and make him look more attractive for his journey to the afterlife. They also tried to hide cuts on his body. He received a postmortem prosthesis to allow him to have a complete body in the Afterlife as well.
(Sahar Saleem and Zahi Hawass)
(Sahar Saleem and Zahi Hawass)
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Sarcophagus box of Ramesses III. (Public Domain)There is an ancient papyrus which documents the plot of killing Ramesses III. The court document tells the tale of a harem conspiracy, which cost Ramesses III his life. The story says that he was murdered by his wives, or at least one of them – Tiye. It is believed that she did it because of succession issues. Tiye was the mother of Pentawere, who was in line for the throne after his half-brother, known later as Ramesses IV. It seems that Tiye and other members of the royal harem decided to kill the pharaoh and install Pentawere as the ruler.
What's more interesting is that some researchers, including Zahi Hawass and Bob Brier, believe the so-called “Screaming Mummy,” also known as Unknown Man E, is Pentawere. This may be evidence that he helped his mother in a fight for his succession.
The mummy of Unknown Man E. (National Geographic Society)According to the researchers, he looks like he was poisoned. They are convinced, however, that he died of suffocation or strangulation. Moreover, the mummy was found without a grave marking, which would have prevented him from reaching the afterlife. This action was a typical way for the ancient Egyptians to punish a person who committed a horrible crime. However, he was well mummified, which suggests that this man had a strong position on the court.
The uninscribed coffin of Unknown Man E with inset photo of interior. (Pat Remler/www.archeology.org)Featured Image: Ramesses III offering incense, wall painting in KV11. (Public Domain) Detail: A CT scan depicting a sharp knife wound in Ramesses III’s neck with an amulet placed within to promote healing. (Sahar Saleem)
By Natalia Klimczak