*MISTERY OF RAMESSES III*
In a plot seemingly straight from the pen of Shakespeare, the mystery of the murder of Egypt’s King Ramses III, who ruled from about 1187 until 1156 B.C., has been solved.
Papyrus trial documents have shown that in 1155 B.C., members of Ramses' harem hatched a plan to take his life as part of a palace coup to change the line of
succession. The conspiracy was spearheaded by Tiye, the less powerful of his two known wives, and her son, Pentawere. However there hasn’t been enough evidence to
show whether or not the plan was pulled off, and if so, what method of murder was used. The speculation has stumped Egyptologists for years, and although there have
been examinations of the mummy, no trauma to the body has ever been discovered. Enter modern science. Dr Albert Zink, a paleopathologist from the Institute for Mummies
and the Iceman of the European Academy of Bolzano/Bozen in Italy and a team of researchers undertook anthropological and forensic analyses of the bodies of Ramses
and the man assumed to be Pentawere. Working in Cairo, the researchers were able to run CT scans and DNA tests on the mummies to determine the cause of death and
whether the two bodies were related. The findings of their work, published in the British Medical Journal, show CT scans revealing that Ramses' throat, neck and arteries
were violently slashed, causing an immediate death. A deep, 2.7-inch wide wound to the throat just under the larynx was found, which the scientists say was most likely
caused by a sharp blade. "Damage to the throat after death appears to be unlikely, because the collar around the mummy's neck was intact and undamaged at the
unwrapping in 1886, where a thick layer of bitumen was removed with a hammer from the mummy," Zink said. "Further evidence of an assassination comes from the
presence of a Horus eye amulet in the wound. The presence of the amulet deep in the soft tissue of the wound together with the homogeneous material that penetrated the
wound up to the bone substantiate the supposition that the wound was already present at the time of embalming." The study also reports that the unusual mummification of
Pentawere, whose DNA does indeed match Ramses', suggests a non-royal burial that included using a goat skin to cover his body. (Using goat or sheep skin was rare for
dynastic burials because the materials were considered impure.) The procedure appears to be a punishment for conspiring against the king, according to the researchers.
"The large and deep cut wound in his neck must have been caused by a sharp knife or other blade," the team wrote in a paper on their findings, published in the British
Medical Journal on Monday (Dec. 17). They added that the cut, which severed his trachea, esophagus and large blood vessels, would have killed him instantly. The
researchers also found an amulet bearing the eye of Horus lodged in the mummy's throat and think it served as a lucky charm. "Most probably, the ancient Egyptian
embalmers tried to restore the wound during mummification by inserting the amulet (generally used for healing purposes) and by covering the neck with a collar of thick linen
layers," the researchers wrote.
The conspiracy against Ramesses III is believed to have been led by one of his wives, secondary queen Tiye, and Prince Pentawere, their
son. Ancient texts suggest Pentawere was found guilty at trial, and then took his own life, but his body has never been definitively identified. A genetic analysis of this
mummy showed he shared the same paternal lineage as Ramesses III, "strongly suggesting that they were father and son," noted the researchers. Because of his contorted
expression, some scientists have speculated that unknown man E was poisoned or buried alive. The new analysis did not provide a more conclusive cause of death, but
they did find that his lungs were overinflated, which could be a sign of death by suffocation or strangulation, perhaps consistent with a suicide.
Usimare Ramesses III was the second Pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty and is considered to be the last great New Kingdom king to wield any substantial authority over
Egypt. Ramesses III was the son of Setnakhte and Queen Tiy-Merenese. He was probably murdered by an assassin in a conspiracy led by one of his secondary wives and
her minor son.