Ramesses III, Egypt’s last great pharaoh, had his throat slashed in a royal coup led by his son and one of his wives, according to new forensic analysis.
Computed tomography (CT) imaging revealed a serious wound in the throat of pharaoh’s mummy, just beneath the larynx.
Possibly caused by a sharp knife or a blade, the injury was about 2.75 inches wide and extended almost to the spine, cutting all the soft tissue on the front of the neck.
“Accordingly, all organs in this region, such as the trachea, oesophagus, and large blood vessels, were severed,” a team of Egyptian and European researchers led by Albert Zink, a paleopathologist at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman of the European Academy of Bolzano in Italy, wrote in the current issue of the British Medical Journal.
“The extent and depth of the wound indicated that it could have caused the immediate death of Ramesses III,” they added.
The second Pharaoh of the 20th dynasty, Ramesses III ruled from about 1188 to 1155 B.C. He was the last significant king of the New Kingdom.
Ancient documents describe him as the “Great God” and a military leader who defended Egypt from repeated invasion of an ethnic group that the Egyptians called the Sea Peoples.
He was about 65 when he died, but the cause of his death has never been clear.
The researchers could see a Horus eye amulet embedded in Ramesses III’s wound. The charm symbolized royal power, protection, and good health.
“Most probably, the ancient Egyptian embalmers tried to restore the wound during mummification by inserting the amulet, generally used for healing purposes, and by covering the neck with a collar of thick linen layers,” the researchers said.
Ancient documents including the Judicial Papyrus of Turin clearly state that in 1155 B.C. members of Ramesses III’s harem attempted to murder him as part of a palace coup to change the line of succession.