Scientists Confirm That Pharaoh Ramesses III Was Murdered

Posted: December 19, 2012 by phaedrap1 in News, Science

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online

Based on an in-depth analysis of two ancient Egyptian mummies, an international team of Egyptologists have uncovered a series of clues that may have solved a 3,000-year-old murder mystery.

According to the team’s report in the British Medical Journal, Pharaoh Ramesses III was likely killed by conspirators during an attempted coup around 1155 B.C., confirming reports found in an ancient text known as the Judicial Papyrus of Turin.

“This study gives clues to the authenticity of the historically described harem conspiracy surrounding Ramesses III, and finally reveals its tragic outcome,” the researchers wrote in their report.

In their investigation, the scientists performed a detailed inspection of the two mummies’ morphology to assess preservation of the specimens and to record signs of either injuries or postmortem damage. Their analysis was based on information gathered using computed tomography (CT) scans and both an anthropological and forensic analysis.

The Egyptologists also took bone samples from different sections of the mummies and transferred them into sterile tubes. A genetic analysis was then performed in a laboratory in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and also in a second laboratory at Cairo University to investigate a possible family relationship between Ramesses III and a mummy recovered alongside the pharaoh, referred to as “unknown man E.”

The CT analysis of Ramesses III showed a wide and deep cut to the throat of the mummy. The scientists speculated it was caused by a sharp blade and might have spelled immediate death for the recipient.

The scan also revealed the presence of a Horus eye amulet just inside the wound. This was most likely inserted by the ancient embalmers as a ceremonial part of the mummification process, the research team said. They also noted the neck was unusually wrapped by a collar of thick linens.

The forensic analysis of unknown man E showed him to be between 18-20 years old. An inflated thorax and compacted layers of skin around the neck of the mummy pointed to a violent action, like strangulation, which probably led to his death, the authors wrote.

The experts also noticed the unknown man’s mummy was covered with a “ritually impure” goatskin—a signifier that he could have been punished via a non-royal burial procedure.

The genetic analysis of the mummies showed that Ramesses III and unknown man E shared a paternal lineage and certain genetic markers strongly suggested they were father and son. The analysis was unable to differentiate among the several sons of Ramesses III.

Being able to identify the unknown man’s mummy as Ramesses’ son, Pentawere, would have been crucial to unlocking the ancient mystery as he was the only son who revolted against his father during the coup, according to the papyrus text. The documents said Pentawere was found guilty at trial, and then took his own life.

Unfortunately, the Egyptologists were unable to close the book on the so-called ‘harem conspiracy’ that attempted to remove Ramesses from power. The Judicial Papyrus refers to Ramesses III as “the Great God,” and suggests he died before or during the trials. However, the texts also say the court received direct orders from the god-king, who would have had to survive the original attack.

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