December 18, 2012

Murder!

Filed under: Egypt, Mummies, Pop culture — acagle @ 8:25 am

In Egypt? The dickens you say! King Ramesses III’s throat was slit, analysis reveals

Conspirators murdered Egyptian King Ramesses III by slitting his throat, experts now believe, based on a new forensic analysis.

The first CT scans to examine the king’s mummy reveal a cut to the neck deep enough to be fatal.

The secret has been hidden for centuries by the bandages covering the mummy’s throat that could not be removed for preservation’s sake.

Reading the paper now, a few things stand out. The laceration is rather more severe than suggested in the BBC article:

The CT investigation revealed a serious wound in the throat of Ramesses III’s mummy, directly under the larynx (fig 1⇓). 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 (fig 2⇓). The trachea was clearly cut and its proximal and distal ends were retracted and separated by about 30 mm. A small, focal cortical interruption at the anterior surface of vertebral body was visible, at the seventh cervical vertebra (fig 2). Accordingly, all organs in this region (such as the trachea, oesophagus, and large blood vessels) were severed.

That appears to me to be quite sufficient to cause death; although it could have been caused post-mortem I don’t recall anything like that being done on any other mummies.

They also examined another mummy and found that it wasn’t mummified according to procedure:

We estimated unknown man E to be about 18-20 years old, based on the incomplete fusion of epiphyseal lines in the long bones, as seen in CT scans. Unknown man E underwent an unusual process of mummification for the 20th dynasty of ancient Egypt (1186-1070 BC), because there was no evidence of removal of the inner organs or brain.11 The skin has a reddish colour and the body was covered by a goat skin. Use of goat or sheep skins in dynastic burials was rare because these materials were regarded ritually impure.12 13 The red coloration of the mummy’s skin could have been caused by a mixture of natron, crushed resin, and lime, which had been detected under a layer of bandages during the unwrapping in 1886.

Kind of an odd accumulation of things. It was clearly mummified because the preservation is so good, but it seems to have undergone a degree of putrefaction beforehand. It’s got a few odd things near the throat that might suggest strangulation, but that is somewhat superficial. They suggest that if this is Pentawere, the burial procedures weren’t followed exactly as a sort of punishment. I don’t know though. . . .I suppose they could have done a half-assed job of it — not removing internal organs, allowing putrefaction to at least start, etc. — as punishment, but it seems to me equally likely that the body had been left for a period of time for whatever reason and mummification was done quickly to halt the decay process but without the whole detailed procedures. But they are closely genetically related, sooo. . . . .

Interesting stuff. The R-III mummy was the inspiration for the original Mummy movie and all of the intrigue and assassination by a member of the harem seems like inspiration for the 1999 Mummy movie as well.

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