Ramses III’s 3,000-year-old murder mystery ‘solved’

Updated 18 December 2012
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Ramses III’s 3,000-year-old murder mystery ‘solved’

PARIS: An assassin slit the throat of Egypt’s last great pharaoh at the climax of a bitter succession battle, scientists said yesterday in a report on a 3,000-year-old royal murder.
Forensic technology suggests Ramses III, a king revered as a deity, met his death at the hand of a killer, or killers, sent by his conniving wife and ambitious son, they said.
And a cadaver known as the “Screaming Mummy” could be that of the son himself, possibly forced to commit suicide after the plot, they added.
Computed tomography (CT) imaging of the mummy of Ramses III shows that the pharaoh’s windpipe and major arteries were slashed, inflicting a wound 70 mm wide and reaching almost to the spine, the investigators said.
The cut severed all the soft tissue on the front of the neck.
“I have almost no doubt about the fact that Ramses III was killed by this cut in his throat,” paleopathologist Albert Zink of the EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy told AFP.
“The cut is so very deep and quite large, it really goes down almost down to the bone (spine) — it must have been a lethal injury.”
Ramses III, who ruled from about 1188 to 1155 BC, is described in ancient documents as the “great deity” and a military leader who defended Egypt, then the richest prize in the Mediterranean, from repeated invasion.
He was about 65 when he died, but the cause of his death has never been clear.
Sketchy evidence lies in the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, which recorded four trials held for alleged conspirators in the king’s death, among them one of his junior wives, Tiy, and her son Prince Pentawere.
In a year-long appraisal of the mummy, Zink and experts from Egypt, Italy and Germany found that the wound on Ramses III’s neck had been hidden by mummified bandages.
“This was a big mystery that remained, what really happened to the king,” said Zink of the study, published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
“We were very surprised and happy because we did not really expect to find something. Other people had inspected the mummy, at least from outside, and it was always described (as) ‘there are no signs of any trauma or any injuries.’“
It is possible that Ramses’ throat was cut after death, but this is highly unlikely as such a practice was never recorded as an ancient Egyptian embalming technique, the researchers said.
In addition, an amulet believed to contain magical healing powers was found in the cut.
“For me it is quite obvious that they inserted the amulet to let him heal for the after-life,” said Zink.
“For the ancient Egyptians it was very important to have an almost complete body for the after-life,” and embalmers often replaced body parts with sticks and other materials, he said.
The authors of the study also examined the mummy of an unknown man between the ages of 18 and 20 found with Ramses III in the royal burial chamber.
They found genetic evidence that the corpse, known as the Screaming Mummy for its open mouth and contorted face, was related to Ramses and may very well have been Prince Pentawere.
“What was special with him, he was embalmed in a very strange way ... They did not remove the organs, did not remove the brain,” said Zink.
“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” — possibly a postmortem punishment.



If it was Pentawere, it appears he may have been forced to hang himself, a punishment deemed at the time as sufficient to purge one’s sins for the after-life, the researchers said.
History shows, though, that the plotters failed to derail the line of succession. Ramses was succeeded by his chosen heir, his son Amonhirkhopshef.


At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

Updated 12 min 8 sec ago
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At least 161 dead in northeast Congo in apparent ethnic clashes

  • A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation
  • Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo: At least 161 people have been killed in a northeastern province of Democratic Republic of Congo in the past week, local officials said on Monday, in an apparent resurgence of ethnic clashes between farming and herding communities.
A series of attacks in Ituri province has mostly targeted Hema herders, who have long been in conflict with Lendu farmers over grazing rights and political representation, although the exact identity of the assailants remains murky.
Open conflict between Hema and Lendu from 1999-2007 resulted in an estimated 50,000 deaths in one of the bloodiest chapters of a civil war in eastern Congo that left millions dead from conflict, hunger and disease.
Tit-for-tat attacks between the two groups in late 2017 and early 2018 killed hundreds of people and forced tens of thousands more to flee their homes, but a tenuous calm had taken hold until this month.
Pascal Kakoraki Baguma, a national lawmaker from Ituri, said the latest violence was sparked by the killing last Monday of four Lendu businesspeople.
“Members of the Lendu community believed that these assassinations were the work of the Hema,” Kakoraki said. “This is why they launched several attacks on Hema villages.”
“Sources affirm that 161 bodies have been found so far. But the death toll goes beyond the bodies recovered, as there were other massacres of civilians and police officers,” he said.
Jean Bosco Lalo, president of civil society organizations in Ituri, said 200 bodies had been found since last week in predominantly Hema villages, including the 161 mentioned by Kakoraki. Lalo said the toll would rise once his teams gained access to other villages where killings had been reported.
Ituri Governor Jean Bamanisa said provincial authorities were still working to establish the exact death toll and declined to say who was responsible.
He said the assailants’ tactics were to “empty out the villages, burn them and pursue those who had fled to the surrounding areas with bladed weapons.”
Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January, is trying to restore stability to the country’s eastern borderlands, a tinderbox of conflict among armed groups over ethnicity, natural resources and political power.
Several rebel leaders have surrendered or been captured during his first months in office, but armed violence has persisted, particularly in North Kivu province, south of Ituri, which is the epicenter of a 10-month Ebola outbreak.