Scans show throat-slitting end for Egypt's last Pharaoh


A picture taken on April 26, 2009 shows a wooden coffin containing a linen-wrapped mummy found in a necropolis southeast of the pyramid field of Lahun at the entrance of Egypt's Fayyum oasis, some 130 km southwest of Cairo.


Khaled Desouki

The mystery surrounding the death of Egypt's last Pharaoh, King Ramses III, has been stripped away by computed tomography (CT) scans revealing a fatal cut to the throat, according to research published today in the British Medical Journal

"I have almost no doubt about the fact that Ramses III was killed by this cut in his throat," palaeopathologist Albert Zink of the EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy told reporters today, according to The Australian. "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."

It could have been a post-death grave attack, said Zink, but the chances of such an incident are very slim, reported BBC

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The powerful Egyptian ruler's death 3,000 years ago has been the subject of fierce scholarly debate. 

Zink and colleagues subjected the ancient mummy to CT scans and DNA at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo with the following objective: "To investigate the true character of the harem conspiracy described in the Judicial Papyrus of Turin and determine whether Ramesses III was indeed killed."

The Judicial Papyrus of Turin describes a coup led by palace members that resulted in the Pharaoh's death, but there were questions as to whether or not it had been carried out, said BBC

Researchers also identified another mummy as the possible relative of the King (and potential murderer), a body DNA analysis suggests was his son Pentawere. But his body bore strange markings, scientists said, describing neck indentations suggesting strangulation. 

The mummy was also wrapped in rather insulting goatskin -- definitely not palace material and something Zink said may be evidence of punishment, according to BBC. "He was badly treated for a mummy," Zink observed. 

Whether or not Pentawere murdered his father is likely the subject of future Oedipal academic debate, but at least the Ramses question is more or less settled: "This study suggests that Ramesses III was murdered during the harem conspiracy by the cutting of his throat," researchers concluded.