The true identity behind a haunting expression of agony, eternalized in death, has baffled archaeologists for more than a century since a set of unusual remains were first unearthed at the Deir El-Bahari mortuary temples in Egypt.
Experts say the so-called ‘Screaming Mummy’ was preserved in a manner never seen before – his limbs were bound in leather, and the body wrapped in sheepskin, indicating it was considered to be ‘unclean.’
And, the mouth was left agape, as if he’d been poisoned.
After years of speculation, recent research suggests the remains belong to the disgraced son of King Ramses III, who plotted to kill his father and was sentenced to death by hanging.
The body was buried near royals at the famous tomb site on the west bank of the Nile, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.
But, while others were wrapped in white linen and carefully mummified, the Screaming Mummy was simply left to dry out in natron salt, with some even poured into his open mouth, and covered with sheepskin.
The body, also known as ‘Unknown Man E,’ is now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo for the first time.
It was first discovered in 1886, and experts long suspected the mystery man with the anguished face had been poisoned.
But, subsequent analyses in recent years indicate this may not have been the case.
According to the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry, markings around the mummy’s neck show the person was likely hanged.
This lines up with the ancient texts on the Harem Conspiracy, detailing the plot by Prince Pentawere and queen Tiye – the pharaoh’s son and second wife – to kill Ramses III.
DNA extracted from the bones of both the unidentified mummy and Ramses III, indicate the Screaming Mummy is Ramses III’s son, according to Ahram Online.
‘The gruesome mummy of Unknown Man E, also known as the “Screaming Mummy,” has long puzzled scholars,’ Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, the former Minister of Antiquities who led the Egyptian Mummies Project, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
‘Such unusual mummification has perplexed Egyptologists and no one has succeeded in knowing the story behind such a mummy until the launch of the Egyptian Mummy Project several years ago under my direction to create a complete database of forensic information related to the mummy collection at the Egyptian Museum.’
The death of Ramses III was a gruesome one, and many mysteries still surround the details of his murder.
CT scans showed that his throat was slit and his big toe cut off, likely in an attack by multiple assailants.
While the papyrus suggests the conspirators were arrested, the events of the trial were not accounted for – and, it remained unsaid whether Ramses III was actually killed as a result of the plan or not, according to the Antiquities Ministry.
WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE ASSASSINATION OF RAMSES III?
” The New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramesses III, also spelled Ramses, held reign over Egypt from 1186 to 1155 B.C.
Ancient documents reveal that one of his wives, Tiye, meant to have him assassinated in order to get her son Pentawere onto the throne.
Pentawere was second to his half-brother Amun-her-khepeshef, but in a plot that involved servants, administrators, and other members of the royal household, Tiye plotted to kill Ramesses III and overthrow his successor to name Pentawere pharaoh.
The pharaoh was killed, and the conspirators were brought to trial for his murder.
All – including Tiye and Pentawere – were executed.
When appointed pharaoh, Amun-her-khepeshef became Ramesses IV.
Recent research on the royal mummy reveals the pharaoh was assassinated by multiple assailants at once, coming at him from all sides with different weapons.
In addition to having his throat slit, advanced imaging techniques have revealed the pharaoh’s big toe was cut off.
And the injury may have been deliberately kept secret by Egyptian embalmers.
A new book by Egyptologist Zahi Hawass and Cairo University radiologist Sahar Saleem called ‘Scanning the Pharaohs: CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies’ describes the recent findings.
Using computed tomography (CT) scanning, the team was able to find new evidence linked to an ancient plot to kill Ramesses III, according to Live Science.
Ramesees III’s big toe was likely chopped off with an axe, Sahar Saleem told Live Science, which can be determined based on the shape of his fractured toe bones.”
The text only contains a cryptic phrase that translates to ‘the royal boat has turned upside down.’
Whether the body truly belongs to Prince Pentawere or not, the experts say its burial was one of unusual circumstances.
‘Two forces were acting upon this mummy: one to get rid of him and the other to try to preserve him,’ Bob Brier, an archaeologist at the University of Long Island in New York told National Geographic following an examination on the body in 2008.
The body is on display alongside a gilded mask and a beaded shroud recently returned to the museum by the United States.