Scholars have long been puzzled about the death of Ramesses III, believed to have ruled from about 1186 B.C. to 1155 B.C. during Egypt's 20th dynasty. New research suggests he had his throat slit by conspirators in his harem.
While ancient papyrus court documents show that members of the king's harem plotted to kill him as part of a palace coup, it has remained unclear whether the assassination scheme was successful. Shown here, the Temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu in Egypt. Column on east wall of First Court in the temple.)
The researchers of the new study also examined a mummy suspected to be the pharaoh's traitorous son, Prince Pentawere, which they dubbed "unknown man E."
To solve this mummy murder mystery, researchers conducted computed tomography (CT) scans on Ramesses III's mummy, finding wounds in his neck (stars). (Arrow points to embalming material seeping into the wound and bone.)
"The large and deep cut wound in his neck must have been caused by a sharp knife or other blade," the team wrote in a paper on their findings, published in the British Medical Journal on Monday (Dec. 17, 2012). Shown here, a CT scan of his neck, showing a foreign object (arrow), wound margins (stars), and skin above and below the wound (triangles).
They added that the cut, which severed his trachea, esophagus and large blood vessels, would have killed him instantly.
The researchers also found an amulet bearing the eye of Horus lodged in the mummy's throat and think it served as a lucky charm.
Because of unknown man E's contorted expression, some researchers have speculated that man E was poisoned or buried alive. The new analysis found that his lungs were overinflated (stars show air in thorax), which could be a sign of death by suffocation or strangulation, perhaps consistent with a suicide.
This CT image shows the lower neck region and shoulder joints of unknown man E. Scapulae are shifted to the lateral side (arrows), and soft tissues are inflated because of gas formation (star).