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Murder Mystery Solved: Eygptian King Ramses III's Throat Was Slit

Dec 20, 2012 03:14 AM EST

Researchers have solved the mystery shrouding the death of Egyptian king Ramses III, who ruled from around 1187 B.C. until his death in 1156 B.C.

It seems the king was killed by slitting his throat, according to forensic analysis. The century-old mystery about the death of the king has been debated by many historians.

Ancient documents including the Judicial Papyrus of Turin show that members of the king's harem plotted to kill him.

The documents inform of the trials and punishments awarded to the members of the harem including Ramses III's secondary queen Tiy, and her son, Prince Pentawere. It appears that Pentawere, one of many sons of the king, wanted to become the heir to the throne.

But the king chose an older son of a senior wife to be his successor. Revolting against the king's decision, Pentawere was said to have conspired along with his mother and other members of the harem to kill the king. The documents do not clearly mention whether the king's assassination was carried out successfully, reports Los Angeles Times.

Previous examinations of the king's body did not reveal any trauma. To resolve the mystery, a team of researchers led by Albert Zink, a paleopathologist at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy, re-examined the king's mummy found in a royal tomb. They performed CT scans and DNA tests and found a deep 2.7in wide wound in his throat. According to medical scientists, the wound could have been caused by some sharp blade and killed the king instantly, reports BBC.

"Before now we knew more or less nothing about the destiny of Ramses III. People had examined his body before and had done radiographs but they didn't notice any trauma. They did not have access to the CT scans that we do," Dr Zink told BBC.

"We were very surprised by what we found. We still cannot be sure that the cut killed him, but we think it did," he said.

Zink and his colleagues also noticed a Horus amulet inserted into the wound. The amulet likely was inserted by ancient Egyptian embalmers during the mummification process, as they were believed to have healing properties.

The king's mummy was found along with another body of a young man, which researchers suggested was probably the king's son, Pentawere. DNA tests of the unidentified young man's body, dubbed as "unknown man E," revealed that the person died at the age of 18 and was a blood relative to the king.

The research team found that the young man's body was not properly embalmed. His brain and other organs were not removed as part of the mummification process. His body was covered in impure goat skin, which could be inferred as an ancient punishment in Egypt. The body had wrinkles around the neck and an inflated chest, which could possibly mean that the man was strangled to death, the BBC report said.

The findings of the study are published in the British Medical Journal.

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