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“Screaming Mummy” may be that of Prince Pentawere according to archeologists

A mummified body, first uncovered by archaeologists in the late nineteenth century at Deir el Bahri mortuary temple, has now possibly been identified as Prince Pentawere, a son of King Ramses III by one of his secondary wives. The announcement has been made by the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry and is a result of a project to collate all the forensic information relating to mummies held by the Egyptian museum. As a result of comparing the DNA of the mummies remains and that of King Ramses, a direct link was found.

The mummy was not properly embalmed; the limbs were bound in leather and the body wrapped in sheepskin, an indication that the body was “unclean”. It was thought for some time that death had been by poisoning as the mouth was gaping open and the neck hyperextended backwards. However, the recent examination has revealed the cause of death was by hanging, but the question must be, was this by his own hand or as punishment?

The “Screaming Mummy” Photo: DT57.C2 vol59. Catalogue General Antiquites Egyptiennes du Musee du Caire: The Royal Mummies via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

The eighteen-year-old prince was the son of a secondary wife of Ramses, Tiye and second in line to the throne. Both he and his mother were involved in what was called the “Harem Conspiracy” – a bid to both assassinate King Ramses and replace him with the Prince. The King was indeed murdered; however, the plotters failed in the second part and paid the ultimate price. According to contemporary scrolls, that after being found guilty at a trial, the judges left the Prince alone, and he took his own life. We may never know whether foul play had a hand in the hanging, but it is clear that following his death, relatives made an attempt to mummify the body.

Those not of noble birth involved in the conspiracy would have died by being burned alive and their ashes spread through the streets. Religion at that time considered mummification was the only way a body could get to the afterlife and not face complete personal annihilation; unlike later Christian views suicide was not something that put that at risk. It is clear therefore that, in an attempt to mummify the body his relatives had hoped he would still achieve the afterlife, and they would meet him again in the fullness of time.

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