When researchers ran CT scans recently on the mummified remains of Ramses III, they found shocking evidence as to the cause of his death that had never been noticed before: a deep, wide gash in his throat consistent with being slit.
“The big cut is in his throat and it was very deep and large,” said anthropologist Albert Zink, who was involved in the research. “It would have killed him immediately.”
According to ancient writings called the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, the pharaoh was killed as part of a plot by his second wife, Tiye, to get their son to the throne. It is said that Prince Pentawer (sometimes spelled Pentawere) knew about the plot beforehand and, after Ramses' death, took his own life after he went to trial for the murder. Interestingly, a second mummy which has been known as "Unknown Man E" underwent a scan, as well, and researchers now believe they've found Pentawer. Analysis shows this mummy was very closely releated to Ramses--sharing 50% of his DNA--and that the body was treated very strangely for that time period, as the organs were not removed and the body was covered with a "ritually impure" goat skin. These things could be related to the events that occurred before he died.
"From our genetic analysis we could really prove the two were closely related. They share the same Y chromosome and 50% of their genetic material, which is typical of a father-son relationship," Zink said.
Although there's still quite a bit of contention regarding how Ramses died--some say he was attacked by members of his harem in a revolt--the latest discovery is very exciting for researchers, who say it's possible the throat-slit occurred during the embalming process but that it is highly unlikely.
"Before now we knew more or less nothing about the destiny of Ramesses III," Zink said. "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. We were very surprised by what we found. We still cannot be sure that the cut killed him, but we think it did. It might have been made by the embalmers but this is very unlikely. I'm not aware of any other examples of this."