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CT provides insights into Ramesses III murder plot

CT provides insights into Ramesses III murder plot

March 29, 2016

A fresh report of CT scans confirms that murder was at work in the conspiracy to kill Ramesses III.

"Scanning the Pharaohs: CT Imaging of the New Kingdom Royal Mummies," a new book from Egyptologist Zahi Hawass and Cairo University radiologist Sahar Saleem, reports on scans of royal mummies from circa 1543 B.C. to 1064 B.C., including Tutankhamun, Seti I – as well as Ramesses III. 

Back in 2012, the authors had already made an announcement, stating the likely cause of Ramesses’ death was a slit throat. Yet another peculiar injury makes the plot thicker. "The site of foot injury is anatomically far from the neck-cut wound; also the shape of the fractured toe bones indicate that it was induced by a different weapon than that used to induce the neck cut," Saleem told Live Science. "So there must have been an assailant with an ax or a sword attacking the king from the front, and another one with a knife or a dagger attacking the king from his back, both attacking at the same time." 

Researchers knew that Ramesses’ death was a thought out plot, as a scheme was mentioned in papyrus court documents. According to those, one of pharaoh’s wives Tiye had plotted the murder so her son Penatawere could sit the throne. Both were put to death, according to the age-old documents, along with other plotters, who included family members and pharaoh’s stuff. The latest finding of researchers show the cut-off big toe was covered up by embalmers, who created a postmortem prosthesis out of linen soaked in resin. 

"This hid the big secret beneath the wrappings," Saleem said. "It seems to me that this was the intention of the ancient Egyptian embalmers, to deliberately pour large amounts of resin to glue the layers of linen wrappings to the body and feet." 

It was the CT imaging that provided the investigators the possibility to see greater detail without causing destruction to the mummy's fragile material. Concurrently, scans made in 2014 showed pharaohs who had back problems and tooth decay. What is more, CT scans revealed mistakes made by the embalmers.