Mummy of Ramesses III

Before the discovery of the mummy of Ramesses III it had been speculated that he had been killed by means that would not have left a mark on the body. Among the conspirators were practitioners of magic, who might well have used poison. Some had put forth a hypothesis that a snakebite from a viper was the cause of the king’s death. His mummy includes an amulet to protect Ramesses III in the afterlife from snakes.

King Ramesses III is considered to have been the last great king of the New Kingdom. He was not the son of Ramesses II; his father was Setnakhte, the founder of the 20th Dynasty. He was a great admirer of his ancestor Ramesses II and he followed in his footsteps, especially as a great warrior and in his building works.

The King was buried in his tomb (KV11) in the Valley of the Kings, West Thebes; it had been begun for his father but was abandoned on the latter’s early death. Due to the tomb being robbed, the mummy was moved several times by the priests, and the king was reburied three times. The last tomb was where the mummy was found in the Deir el-Bahari Cachette (DB320) in 1881. His mummy had pierced ears, which was the fashion during this period. His tomb (KV11) is one of the largest in the Valley of the Kings.

Mummy of King Ramesses III. National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, Cairo. CG 61083
Mummy of King Ramesses III. National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, Cairo. CG 61083. Photo: Patrick Landmann

A subsequent study of the CT scan of the mummy of Ramesses III’s body by Sahar Saleem revealed that the left big toe was likely chopped by a heavy sharp object like an ax. There were no signs of bone healing so this injury must have happened shortly before death. The embalmers placed a prosthesis-like object made of linen in place of the amputated toe. The embalmers placed six amulets around both feet and ankles for magical healing of the wound for the life after.

King Ramesses III built a great temple on the west bank of the Nile at Luxor called Medinet Habu, and many structures in Karnak and Luxor temples, in Heliopolis, Memphis, Abydos and Hermopolis. He saved Egypt from an invasion of the so-called “Sea people”, who were more dangerous than the Hyksos, and defeated them in a naval battle. He seems to have died when he was in his sixties as the result of a harem conspiracy; the records of the trial of his murderers still survive.

Now in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC), Cairo. CG 61083