Ramses III Throat Slit; Researchers Solve Ancient Murder Mystery

By iScienceTimes Staff on December 19, 2012 12:20 PM EST

Ramses III
The mummified remains of Ramses III yielded no clues to the cause of his death for decades, but researchers have finally discovered that Ramses III throat was slit. (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

New research in the British Medical Journal BMJ reveals that an assassin slit Ramses III throat. Researchers performed a CT scan as well as anthropological and forensic analysis on the mummified remains of Ramses III and discovered that Ramses III throat had been slit. He ruled Egypt from 1188 to 1155 B.C.E.

"The CT investigation revealed a serious wound in the throat of Ramesses III's mummy, directly under the larynx. The injury was roughly 70 mm wide and extended to the bones (fifth to seventh cervical vertebra), severing all soft tissue areas in the anterior side of the neck ... all organs in this region (such as the trachea, oesophagus, and large blood vessels) were severed. The extent and depth of the wound indicated that it could have caused the immediate death of Ramesses III," researchers wrote in the report.

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The plot to assassinate Ramses III was discovered in an ancient papyrus called the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, which detailed the punishments meted out to those accused of being involved in the conspiracy. However, it did not detail whether the plot was successful or the manner of Ramses III death.   Ramses III throat was slit as part of a plot organized by his second wife Tiye, who wanted her son Prince Pentewere on the throne.

"Finally, with this study, we have solved an important mystery in the history of ancient Egypt," Albert Zink, a paleopathologist at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy, told Reuters.

Researchers discovered that, although Ramses III throat was slit, his body was prepared in order to heal his wound in the afterlife. An amulet, called the Eye of Horus, was placed in the wound where Ramses III throat was slit.

"This was most probably done by the ancient embalmers," Dr. Zink told the New York Times. "They tried to heal his wound for his afterlife."

The fatal wound where Ramses III throat was slit was obscured by the wrappings his embalmers placed around him. Researchers had always suspected foul play but, until now, never found any signs of trauma on the pharaoh.

Researchers also examined a second mummy, known as the Screaming Mummy because he was mummified with his mouth open. Through genetic testing, researchers discovered that the mummy was related to Ramses III. Other clues indicate that the Screaming Mummy was likely Prince Pentewere, the royal son who was supposed to have benefitted from Ramses III throat being slit. Unlike Ramses III, the Screaming Mummy was embalmed in a way designed to hurt, not help, his place in the afterlife.

"What was special with him, he was embalmed in a very strange way ... They did not remove the organs, did not remove the brain," Dr. Zink told the AFP. "He had a very strange, reddish color and a very strange smell. And he was also covered with a goat skin and this is something that was considered as impure in ancient Egyptian times."

Although Ramses III throat was slit by an assassin in his harem, the plot failed to produce the results Queen Tiye was looking for. Her son was likely executed and Ramses chosen heir, Amon Hir Khopshef, ascended to the throne. He was just a boy, and died during a battle when he was only nine-years-old

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