Egyptian Pharaoh's Throat Was Slashed During Coup, Research Suggests

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Ramesses III probably lost life in attack staged by one of his wives and a son

MONDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- A new study reveals how conspirators may have murdered the Egyptian king Ramesses III, who reigned from 1186 to 1155 B.C.

Forensic, radiological and genetic analyses showed the Pharaoh's throat was probably cut during a coup staged by one of his two known wives and her son, Prince Pentawere, over who would inherit the throne.

The researchers, led by Albert Zink from the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman of the European Academy of Bolzano/Bozen in Italy, examined CT scans of Ramesses III's mummy as well as a mummy known as "unknown man E," who is believed to be his son.

Wide and deep throat wounds were found in Ramesses III's mummy. The researchers noted these wounds were most likely caused by a sharp blade. They added this injury could have killed him instantly.

The researchers also found a Horus eye amulet inside Ramesses III's wound. His embalmers probably inserted this amulet to promote healing. Layers of thick linen were also placed around the Pharaoh's neck like a collar, the researchers explained.

Meanwhile, an examination of the unknown man revealed an inflated thorax and compressed skinfolds around the mummy's neck. The researchers concluded the 18-to 20-year old man died from strangulation or another violent act.

The study also revealed the unknown man's body was mummified with a "ritually impure" goatskin. The researchers pointed out this non-royal burial procedure could have been a form of punishment.

DNA evidence also showed the mummies shared the same parental lineage. The researchers said their findings strongly suggest the two mummies were father and son.

They argued that the unknown mummy could very well be Prince Pentawere, although his cause of death remains uncertain.

The study was published online Dec. 17 in the BMJ Christmas issue.

More information

The American Board of Forensic Anthropology provides more information on forensic anthropology.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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