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.

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

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.

Ramesses 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 Ramesses III
Mummy of Ramesses III

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.

The king 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.

One of Ramesses III’s notable achievements was his successful military campaigns. He defended Egypt against various invading forces, including the Sea Peoples, who posed a significant threat to the stability of the region. Ramesses III’s victory over the Sea Peoples is considered a significant military achievement and helped to secure Egypt’s borders.

Ramesses III also focused on building and renovating temples and monuments throughout Egypt. He constructed the famous mortuary temple known as Medinet Habu, located on the west bank of the Nile in Thebes. This temple served as a grand memorial to the king and showcased his devotion to the gods.

Inside the Tomb of Ramesses III (KV11) in the Valley of the Kings
Inside the Tomb of Ramesses III (KV11) in the Valley of the Kings

Additionally, Ramesses III implemented economic and administrative reforms to strengthen Egypt’s economy and maintain stability within the kingdom. He encouraged trade and commerce, promoted agricultural development, and implemented measures to combat corruption and maintain law and order.

Furthermore, Ramesses III is known for his patronage of the arts and literature. He supported the construction of magnificent tombs and commissioned elaborate funerary texts, such as the Book of the Dead, to ensure a prosperous afterlife.

Overall, Ramesses III’s achievements include military successes, architectural contributions, economic reforms, and support for the arts. His reign left a lasting impact on ancient Egyptian history and culture.

New Kingdom, 20th Dynasty, reign of Ramesses III, ca. 1186-1155 BC. Now in the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC), Cairo. CG 61083