The Korea Herald


Scientists solve 3,000-year-old pharaonic whodunit

By 박한나

Published : Dec. 18, 2012 - 10:41

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Statue in temple of Ramses III at Karnak in Luxor (123rf) Statue in temple of Ramses III at Karnak in Luxor (123rf)

An assassin slit the throat of Egypt's last great pharaoh at the climax of a bitter succession battle, scientists said Monday in a report on a 3,000-year-old royal murder.

Forensic technology suggests Ramses III, a king revered as a god, met his death at the hand of a killer, or killers, sent by his conniving wife and ambitious son, they said.

And a cadaver known as the "Screaming Mummy" could be that of the son himself, possibly forced to commit suicide after the plot, they added.

Computed tomography (CT) imaging of the mummy of Ramses III shows that the pharaoh's windpipe and major arteries were slashed, inflicting a wound 70 millimeters wide and reaching almost to the spine, the investigators said.

The cut severed all the soft tissue on the front of the neck.

"I have almost no doubt about the fact that Ramses III was killed by this cut in his throat," palaeopathologist Albert Zink of the EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy told AFP.

"The cut is so very deep and quite large, it really goes down almost down to the bone (spine) -- it must have been a lethal injury."

Ramses III, who ruled from about 1188 to 1155 BC, is described in ancient documents as the "Great God" and a military leader who defended Egypt, then the richest prize in the Mediterranean, from repeated invasion.

He was about 65 when he died, but the cause of his death has never been clear.

Sketchy evidence lies in the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, which recorded four trials held for alleged conspirators in the king's death, among them one of his junior wives, Tiy, and her son Prince Pentawere.

In a year-long appraisal of the mummy, Zink and experts from Egypt, Italy and Germany found that the wound on Ramses III's neck had been hidden by mummified bandages.

"This was a big mystery that remained, what really happened to the king," said Zink of the study, published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

"We were very surprised and happy because we did not really expect to find something. Other people had inspected the mummy, at least from outside, and it was always described (as) 'there are no signs of any trauma or any injuries.'"

It is possible that Ramses's throat was cut after death, but this is highly unlikely as such a practice was never recorded as an ancient Egyptian embalming technique, the researchers said.

In addition, an amulet believed to contain magical healing powers was found in the cut.

"For me it is quite obvious that they inserted the amulet to let him heal for the after-life," said Zink.

"For the ancient Egyptians it was very important to have an almost complete body for the after-life," and embalmers often replaced body parts with sticks and other materials, he said.

The authors of the study also examined the mummy of an unknown man between the ages of 18 and 20 found with Ramses III in the royal burial chamber.

They found genetic evidence that the corpse, known as the Screaming Mummy for its open mouth and contorted face, was related to Ramses and may very well have been Prince Pentawere.

"What was special with him, he was embalmed in a very strange way.... They did not remove the organs, did not remove the brain," said Zink.

"He had a very strange, reddish color and a very strange smell. And he was also covered with a goat skin and this is something that was considered as impure in ancient Egyptian times" -- possibly a post-mortem punishment.

If it was Pentawere, it appears he may have been forced to hang himself, a punishment deemed at the time as sufficient to purge one's sins for the after-life, the researchers said.

History shows, though, that the plotters failed to derail the line of succession. Ramses was succeeded by his chosen heir, his son Amonhirkhopshef. (AFP)

<한글 기사>

3천년 전 '람세스 3세'의 의문사..풀리다

3,000년 전 승계를 위한 권력다툼이 최고조에 달한 시기에 궁중의 음모로 살해된 이집트의 마지막 위대한 파라오 '람세스 3세'를 둘러싼 미스터리가 풀렸다.

전문가단이 월요일(현지시각) 발표한 과학 수사 연구 결과에 따르면, 고대 이집트의 제20왕조의 제2대 왕(재위 BC 1187~BC 1156)인 람세스 3세가 그의 아내와 야심에 불탄 아들이 보낸 암살자에 의해 살해됐으며, 흉기에 목에 찔려 사망한 것으로 알려졌다.

또한 “소리지르는 미라” (Screaming Mummy) 로 알려진 시체는 이 공작을 벌인 후 자살을 한 람세스 3세의 아들일 가능성이 있다고 말했다.

람세스 3세 미라의 CT이미지를 통해 봤을 때 파라오의 기관지와 동맥에 흉기로 찔린 흔적이 있으며, 척추에 이르기까지 70밀리미터 깊이의 상처를 발견했다고 말했다.

이 연구에 참여한 고 생물학자 알버트 징크(Albert Zink)는 “람세스 3세가 목에 입은 상처로 인해 사망했다는 사실에 의심의 여지가 없다”고 말했다. 그는 또 “이 자상은 굉장히 깊으며 꽤 큰 편이다. 뼈에 닿을 정도로 깊숙히 들어갔다. 치명적인 부상이었음에 틀림없다”고 말했다.

람세스 3세는 기원전 1188년부터 1166년까지 이집트를 집권했으며 고대 자료들에서는 그를 “위대한 신”으로 추종하는 것을 볼 수 있다.

그가 살해될 당시 나이는 65세로 그의 사인에 대해서는 최근까지 명확하게 밝혀진바 없었다  

다만 당시 재판을 기록한 파피루스를 참고한 불확실한 증거들에 따르면 왕의 죽음을 둘러싼 4번의 재판이 열렸는데 음모자로 지목된 사람 중 그의 아내 티(Tiy)와 그의 아들 펜타웨어 (Pentawere) 왕자가 있었다.

이집트와 이탈리아, 독일 전문가단이 일년간 미라를 감정한 결과, 람세스 3세는 목의 상처가 미라로 만들어지는 과정에서 붕대에 숨겨져 있었던 사실을 발견했다.

“이 왕(람세스 3세)에게 정말 무슨 일이 일어났었는지는 큰 미스터리로 남겨졌었다”고 징크는 연구논문에서 밝혔다.

그는 또 “우리는 무엇을 발견하리라고 기대하지 않았기 때문에 매우 놀라고 기뻤다. 다른 이들은 외관상으로만 미라를 검사하고 ‘어떤 외상이나 부상을 입은 흔적이 없다’라고 말하곤 했다”고 덧붙였다.