Mummy of Ramesses I

The mummy of Ramesses I had been stolen from the Royal Cachette in Deir el-Bahari (TT320) by the Abu-Rassul family of grave robbers and sold by Turkish vice-consular agent Mustapha Aga Ayat at Luxor to Dr. James Douglas who brought it to North America around 1860.

It is currently believed to be that of Ramesses I was stolen from Egypt and displayed in a private Canadian museum for many years before being repatriated.

Wall painting depicts King Ramesses I, Tomb of Ramesses I (KV16), Valley of the Kings.
Wall painting depicts King Ramesses I, Tomb of Ramesses I (KV16), Valley of the Kings.

The mummy’s identity cannot be conclusively determined, but is most likely to be that of Ramesses I based on CT scans, X-rays, skull measurements and radio-carbon dating tests by researchers at Emory University, as well as aesthetic interpretations of family resemblance. Moreover, the mummy’s arms were found crossed high across his chest which was a position reserved solely for Egyptian royalty until 600 BC.

Related: Mummy of Seti I

Douglas used to purchase Egyptian antiquities for his friend Sydney Barnett who then placed it in the Niagara Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame in Niagara Falls Ontario, Canada. The mummy remained there, its identity unknown, next to other curiosities and so-called freaks of nature for more than 130 years.

When the owner of the museum decided to sell his property, Canadian businessman William Jamieson purchased the contents of the museum and, with the help of Canadian Egyptologist Gayle Gibson, identified their great value.

Mummy of Ramesses I Photo: Alyssa Bivins
Mummy of Ramesses I
Photo: Alyssa Bivins

Inscriptions reveal that Ramses reigned about one year and four months. He was buried in a small hastily prepared tomb in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes. Later, during a time of political upheaval, the mummy was disinterred and moved to a secret resting place.

The mummy became part of the collection of a small museum in Niagara Falls, Canada, in the mid-19th century. When the museum closed in 1999, the collection was obtained by the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Georgia, which then verified the mummy’s identity as Ramesses I. In 2003 the mummy was returned to Egypt.

Related: Mummy of Ramesses II

While Ramesses I was the founder of the 19th Dynasty, his brief reign mainly serves to mark the transition between the reign of Horemheb, who had stabilized Egypt in the late 18th Dynasty, and the rule of the powerful kings of his own dynasty, in particular his son Seti I, and grandson Ramesses II.

Mummy of Ramesses I

Mummy of Ramesses I in the Luxor Museum

New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, reign of Ramesses I, ca. 1292-1290 BC. Now in the Luxor Museum, Luxor.