Harem Conspiracy Proof: Multiple Assailants Killed Ramses III
A theory about the assassination of Ramses III was confirmed by researchers at the University in Cairo, revealing the true gruesome details of his murder. They say that he was killed by multiple assailants and given postmortem cosmetic surgery to hide this fact. For some time, researchers debated if the Harem conspiracy , as the murder plot against the pharaoh was called, was foiled. It’s now known that he was assassinated in a gory, multiple assailant attack. The mummification team in charge of the pharaoh’s body tried to hide that, but modern technology revealed the truth.
Ramses (also written as 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 book by Egyptologist Zahi Hawass 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).
Scanning Famous Mummies
Live Science reported in 2016 that 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 research has also uncovered information connected to the genealogy and relationship between people whose mummified bodies are a part of the exhibition in Cairo. One of the most surprising stories appeared during the scanning of the mummy of Ramses III .
The mummy of pharaoh Ramesses III. ( Theban Royal Mummy Project )
The Marks of Multiple Assailants
The scans reveal Ramses III's throat was slit, likely killing him instantly and countering any notions that he died a natural death. Ahmed Samir, a curator at the Egyptian Museum, explained:
“After we made a CT scan around his neck, we found bandages as you can see here. We didn’t know why the bandages are a little bit thicker than the other bandages. After we made the CT scan we found that he had been assassinated by cutting his throat. He could not survive it because it’s big enough to cut the neck and to make the king die within a few minutes. This is a very amazing find after 3,000 years, we revealed the secret about which way he had been assassinated.”
They also discovered in 2016 that the pharaoh’s toe 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.
(Sahar Saleem and Zahi Hawass )
The body of Ramses 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.
"This hid the big secret beneath the wrappings. It seems to me that this was the intention of the ancient Egyptian embalmers, to deliberately pour large amounts of resin to glue the layers of linen wrappings to the body and feet," Saleem said to Live Science .
Sarcophagus of Ramesses III. ( Public Domain )
Proving the Harem Conspiracy
There is an ancient papyrus which documents the murder plot against Ramses III. The court document tells the tale of the Harem Conspiracy which cost Ramses 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, later known 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. Dr. Bettany Hughes recently explained some of the details of the Harem Conspiracy:
"Ramses was a man with lots of enemies. He had to fight off invading armies from the Middle East to defend Egypt. But the real trouble came from within the kingdom, his wife, Queen Tiye, wanted her son on the throne, so she hatched a plot to assassinate her husband. Now, we know all about this because it’s recorded on a papyrus that’s now in Turin and this historical event is known as the Harem Conspiracy."
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The Screaming Mummy
It’s also interesting 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 the fight for his succession.
The mummy of Unknown Man E. ( National Geographic Society )
According to some researchers, the “Screaming Mummy” looks like he was poisoned. However others say 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 )
Top 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 )