RAMSES III (1195 – 1164 B.C.)

Ramses III

Ramses III, the 2nd king of the 20th Dynasty, ruled for about 31 years during the New Kingdom. His reign is marked by a long list of achievements, including an impressive building program, military successes, and a number of expeditions. He was the leader of Egypt at a time when the rest of the Mediterranean World was in turmoil. The fall of Mycenae and the Trojan War displaced many people and forced them to relocate elsewhere, unsettling the entire region. The long period of stability in the Middle East initiated by Thutmose III’s conquest and creation of a strong Egyptian state and solidified by Ramses II’s treaties with the Hittites was unraveling Failed harvests and famine didn’t help matters.. [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com +]

Ramses III is best known for defeating the Sea Peoples — a combination of several different peoples that some historian gave birth to the Phoenicians. The "Sea People," ravaged the Near East and advanced south towards Egypt and were halted by Ramses III in the fifth year of his reign. Among his other accomplishments were revived trade with the Land of Punt, reestablishing law and order throughout the country and launching a tree planting campaign. His monuments include the temple at Medinet Habu. [Source: Mark Millmore, discoveringegypt.com discoveringegypt.com ^^^]

Ramses III is also known for being at the center of a harem conspiracy that may have killed him. Mark Millmore wrote in discoveringegypt.com: “Ramses III had two principle wives plus a number of minor wives and it was one of these minor wives, Tiye, who was the cause of his destruction. She hatched a plot to kill him with the aim of placing her son, Prince Pentaweret, on the throne. She and her confederates stirred up a rebellion and used magic wax images and poison as their weapons. The conspiracy failed and the traitors were arrested but not before Ramses was mortally wounded.” He was buried in the Valley of the Kings. His mortuary temple was unique in that the entrance was a copy of a Syrian migdol. ^^^

Websites on Ancient Egypt: UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, escholarship.org ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Egypt sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Discovering Egypt discoveringegypt.com; BBC History: Egyptians bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/egyptians ; Ancient History Encyclopedia on Egypt ancient.eu/egypt; Digital Egypt for Universities. Scholarly treatment with broad coverage and cross references (internal and external). Artifacts used extensively to illustrate topics. ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt ; British Museum: Ancient Egypt ancientegypt.co.uk; Egypt’s Golden Empire pbs.org/empires/egypt; Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org ; Oriental Institute Ancient Egypt (Egypt and Sudan) Projects ; Egyptian Antiquities at the Louvre in Paris louvre.fr/en/departments/egyptian-antiquities; KMT: A Modern Journal of Ancient Egypt kmtjournal.com; Ancient Egypt Magazine ancientegyptmagazine.co.uk; Egypt Exploration Society ees.ac.uk ; Amarna Project amarnaproject.com; Egyptian Study Society, Denver egyptianstudysociety.com; The Ancient Egypt Site ancient-egypt.org; Abzu: Guide to Resources for the Study of the Ancient Near East etana.org; Egyptology Resources fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk

Ramses III’s Reign and Family

Ramses III and Prince Amenherkhepeshef before Hathor

Pierre Grandet, a French Egyptologist, wrote: Usermaatra Meryamen Ramesses Heqaiunu Ramesses III ascended the throne on the 26 th day of the first month of the shemu season of his father’s last year (year 4 or 4 + x ) and reigned 31 years and 49 days (he would die on the 15 th of the third month of shemu in his 32 nd year). By its length and achievements, this reign is the last significant one of the New Kingdom. Until the end of the 20th Dynasty, none of his successors can be credited with the completion of any meaningful achievement. [Source: Pierre Grandet, 2014, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2013 escholarship.org ]

During the first few years of his reign, Ramses III continued the work of his father, Setnakhte, and consolidated his power and unified the country. Egypt was ready in the fifth year of Ramses III’s reign when the Libyans attacked. They had attacked 27 years before when Merenptah repulsed them and the same thing occurred under Ramses III’s well-organized and efficient army. [Source: Mark Millmore, discoveringegypt.com discoveringegypt.com ^^^]

“According to K. A. Kitchen, Ramesses III had two main queens: Isis-ta-Hemdjeret and an unknown Queen X. These two ladies bore the king at least ten sons (and probably many daughters, who left no trace in the written record). Three of these sons would succeed their father: Ramesses IV and VI, both sons of Isis, and Ramesses VIII, son of Queen X; the intervening kings, Ramesses V and VII, were sons of Ramesses IV and VI, who both died without living heirs. After Ramesses VIII, the crown passed to his nephew Ramesses IX, grandson of Ramesses III by prince Montuherkhopshef (a son of Queen X, by then already deceased) and father and grandfather of Ramesses X and XI. He probably had other consorts and offspring, as is thought to be the case of the lady Tiy and her son Pentawera who, by the end of the reign, would play a prominent part in the Harem Conspiracy.”

Early Years of Ramses III’s Reign

Pierre Grandet, a French Egyptologist, wrote: “The new King was crowned at Karnak, then established his residence at Qantir. On his very accession day, he ordered the building of a funerary temple at Medinet Habu, deliberately shaped to emulate the Ramesseum. Although it was endowed with serfs and land as early as year four, effective construction would not begin before year five, when a large stone-gathering expedition was sent to the sandstone quarries of the Gebel el-Silsila. [Source: Pierre Grandet, 2014, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2013 escholarship.org ]

“While Medinet Habu was being constructed, the Deir el-Medina workers completed for Ramesses III the tomb initially begun for Sethnakhte (KV 11) in the Valley of the Kings, in addition to a set of tombs for queens and princes in the Valley of the Queens (Queen Isis [QV 51], and princes Amenherkhopshef [QV 55], Khaemwaset [QV 44], Paraherwenemef [QV 42], Ramesses [QV 53], and Sethherkhopshef [QV 43]). They also would begin, in the Valley of the Kings, the unfinished princely tomb KV 3.

“Although the king’s tomb conforms essentially to the plan of similar late New Kingdom structures, it contains some unusual features, such as a bakery scene, paintings of rows of arms and vessels, and the depiction of harpists playing their instruments for various divinities—hence its being formerly known as “the harpers’ tomb”. The king’s mummy was transferred to Deir el-Bahri’s cachette in year 15 of Smendes and has been preserved in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo since its rediscovery in 1871.

“In year five, Ramesses III commissioned an inventory of the resources of all the temples of Egypt. However, before it was even begun, the inventory was interrupted by the outbreak of war and would not be re sumed before year 15.”

Ramses III’s Funerary Temple at Medinet Habu

Medinet Habu

Pierre Grandet, wrote: “The construction and decoration of the temple would last from year five to year twelve. The monument stood completely surrounded by two fortified concentric walls, which also incorporated an 18th Dynasty processional chapel, various economic and administrative facilities, and a small royal palace. Medinet Habu, the First Pylon. mortuary nature it was decorated, in addition to scenes and texts of a purely religious kind, by a large set of commemorative ones, which make it, after Papyrus Harris I, the second most important historical source of the reign. [Source: Pierre Grandet, 2014, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2013 escholarship.org ]

“Besides a clergy of 150 priests, the temple was endowed with a workforce of 65,000 men and almost 2,400 kilometers 2 of agricultural land (that is, about 1/10th of Egypt’s land). The sheer size of these endowments raises the question of their origin. We would speculate that the bulk of them was taken from the Ramesseum, as this temple’s Middle Egyptian agricultural domain, which would have once necessarily been as large as Medinet Habu’s, had shrunken to almost nothing by the time of Ramesses V.

“Medinet Habu’s administration was entrusted to a Great Steward Merybastet, whose name (“Beloved of Bastet”) denotes a Bubastite origin. This appointment would be the beginning of a true family success story, as this individual’s two sons, Usermaatranakhte (in year 21 of Ramesses III) and Ramessesnakhte (in year two of Ramesses IV), then his grandson Amenhotep, would successively become First Prophet of Amun (the second for about 40 years), until the office’s passing to Herihor’s family under Ramesses XI. Clearly, the fact that it provided this important family’s basis of power was the reason precluding Medinet Habu from losing its economic importance after the death of its founder, in contrast to the other Theban funerary temples.”

Wars During the Reign of Ramses III

Pierre Grandet wrote: “Ramesses III fought three wars, all of them defensive campaigns against attempted invasions of Egypt: in year five, against the Libyans; in year eight, against the “Peoples of the Sea”; and in year eleven, against a second Libyan wave. The rapid succession of these attempts, the interaction between their actors, and their chronological connection to the destruction of Hatti and of other states in the ancient Near East generally lead to the conclusion that they were caused by some common factor, or factors, that have yet to be clearly identified. [Source: Pierre Grandet, 2014, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2013 escholarship.org ]

Edfu massacre

First Libyan war (year 5): “In year five, the Libyans, who had already attempted to invade Egypt under Merenptah, moved against Egypt through Marmarica (the border region between Libya and Egypt). This wave consisted of the Libu , the Meshwesh , and the Seped peoples, with the Libu in a leadership role. According to our sources, they were defeated in a single battle northwest of Memphis, with enormous casualties: approxima tely 12,000 dead and 4,000 prisoners. [Source: Pierre Grandet, 2014, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2013 escholarship.org ]

“Second Libyan War (year 11): Three years after the battle against the Peoples of the Sea, Ramesses III fought a second coalition of Libyan invaders, composed of seven tribes: the Meshwesh , Libu , and the lesser Isbetu , Qeyqeshu , Sheytepu , Hesu , and Beqenu. This time it was the Meshwesh and their chief, Mesher, son of Kaper, who played the leading role. Though armed with powerful Mycenaean swords, carefully represented in Medinet Habu’s pictorial record, the invaders, who had come all the way from Cyrenaica through Marmarica in the hope to settle in Egypt, were once again defeated in the desert northwest of Memphis.” A stelae depicting a review of booty and captives after the Second Libyan Campaign shows the counting of dead enemies’ hands. Their chief, Mesher, and two underlings are brought to the king before tables laden with Mycenaean swords.

“Although these wars were military successes in the conventional sense (and presented Egypt with a wealth of booty), they could not prevent the Pulasti and Sikala from settling in Canaan’s coastal plain, nor the Libyans from persistent ly raiding the western bank of the Nile until the end of the New Kingdom . The Pulasti would give their name to the Biblical “Philistines,” then to the land of “Palestine”, where their presence would, less than a century after Ramesses III, bring to an end all Egyptian control over the country. As for the Libyans, who would gradually become, by way of capture or mercenary enlistment, the largest ethnic group in th e Egyptian army, they would eventually seize political power by the end of the New Kingdom; thus all independent kings until the end of Pharaonic Egypt would be of Libyan descent.”

Invasion of Sea Peoples

The Sea Peoples annihilated the Hittite Empire and looked they might do the same to the Egyptians. The Great Harris Papyrus, the longest know papyrus, describes how many people throughout the region were made homeless. ‘The foreign countries plotted on their Islands and the people were scattered by battle all at one time and no land could stand before their arms.’

Pierre Grandet wrote: “In year eight, Egypt was faced with another threat of invasion—this time on its Mediterranean shore and its northeastern frontier—by a group of peoples of probable heterogeneous ethnicity, but whom the Egyptians clearly perceived as a kind of confederation of related tribes. This perception was mainly due to two features common to all these tribes: their being equipped with Mycenaean weaponry and their geographical origin being “their isles” or “the sea,” an Egyptian designation for the Aegean world, the confederation comprised two main peoples: the Pulasti and the Sikala, helped by the lesser Shakalusha , Danuna , and Washasha , Peleset, Shekelesh, Denen , and Weshesh ). [Source: Pierre Grandet, 2014, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2013 escholarship.org ]

“Less than one generation earlier, a group of peoples of the same origin (including the Shakalusha ), had been party to an attempted Libyan invasion of Egypt in year five of Merenptah, and had been dubbed “Peoples of the Sea” in the commemorative inscription of this king’s victory. Some of them had been known to the Egyptians as sea-raiders and mercenaries since the reign of Akhenaten, in the 18th Dynasty, and took to plundering the Nile Delta and other parts of the Mediterranean in the following centuries. When captured, they were often included in the Egyptian elite troops, as the Shardana of Ramesses II’s guard at the battle of Qadesh— a position that they still retained under Ramesses III.”

“Around 1200 BCE, these peoples began a large and destructive migration to the south and east of the Aegean. While the bulk of them proceeded by land, their advance was preceded by nautical raids against the coast and the islands of the Eastern Mediterranean. C ilicia, Cyprus, Ugarit, and even the Hatti fell to their attacks, which reached inland as far as Karkemish on the Euphrates. In year eight of Ramesses III, they invaded Amurru, whose territory adjoined Egypt’s, where they took the time to regroup their forces before moving south, allowing the pharaoh to mobilize his forces.”

Battle with the Sea People

Ramses III Defeats the Sea Peoples

The Sea Peoples This great movement of people was well armed and desperate. Mark Millmore wrote in discoveringegypt.com: “The Sea Peoples were on the move. They had, by now, desolated much of the Late Bronze Age civilizations and were ready to make a move on Egypt. A vast horde was marching south with a huge fleet at sea supporting the progress on land. To counter this threat Ramses acted quickly. He established a defensive line in Southern Palestine and requisitioned every available ship to secure the mouth of the Nile. Dispatches were sent to frontier posts with orders to stand firm until the main army could be brought into action. [Source: Mark Millmore, discoveringegypt.com discoveringegypt.com ^^^]

“The clash, when it came was a complete success for the Egyptians. The Sea Peoples, on land, were defeated and scattered but their navy continued towards the eastern Nile delta. Their aim now, was to defeat the Egyptian navy and force an entry up the river. Although the Egyptians had a reputation as poor seamen they fought with the tenacity of those defending their homes. Ramses had lined the shores with ranks of archers who kept up continuous volleys of arrows into the enemy ships when they attempted to land. Then the Egyptian navy attacked using grappling hooks to haul in the enemy ships. In the brutal hand to hand fighting which ensued the Sea People are utterly defeated. ^^^

The advance of the Sea Peoples was finally stopped in the Nile delta and their power was broken. Some of the them, including the biblical Philistines and the Phoenicians — both of whom are regarded as descendants of the Sea Peoples — settled in Palestine and The Levant respectively. With the exception of the defense against the attack from the Libyans, the rest of Ramses III’s long reign was peaceful.

Pierre Grandet wrote: “Medinet Habu sources, both textual and iconographic, reduce this campaign to two main battles, addressing the twofold threat the Sea Peoples represented: first, the repelling of an attempted landing by a group of enemy ships, crushed between Egyptian warships coming from the high sea and Ramesses III’s infantry waiting for them on the shore; and second, an inland battle, fought against a migrating group of the same invaders, who possessed chariotry and were accompanied by carriages laden with their women, their children, and all their belongings . Although a precise localization of both these battles is impossible, our sources locate them on the shore of the Delta and in “Djahy,” an Egyptian name for Canaan. [Source: Pierre Grandet, 2014, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2013 escholarship.org ]

Peaceful Years of Ramses III’s Reign

Ramses III and the Memphis gods

Pierre Grandet wrote: The inventory of the resources of Egypt’s temples, which had been ordered by Ramesses III in year five but subsequently postponed by his wars, was resumed and completed in his year 15. It was a preparatory step to a systematic program of reorganizing the cults of the gods, which left traces in more than 70 places in Egypt and led to the employment of several Upper Egyptian quarries. This program essentially implied the founding and funding of new cults by the allocation of resources (men, land, cattle) and the building or restoration of temples, as well as the passing of measures to legally exempt their dependents and their temporal domains from the provisions of the general law. [Source: Pierre Grandet, 2014, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2013 escholarship.org ]

“After the completion of Medinet Habu in year 12, the main architectural works of the reign were the building and decorating of bark stations located at Karnak, in the first court of the Amun Temple and in the precinct of Mut, as well as the construction and partial decoration of the Temple of Khons. Similar structures were erected in various places in Egypt, especially Helio polis and Memphis, but have generally left only scanty remains. Like Medinet Habu itself, some temples of Upper and Middle Egypt located on the west bank of the Nile (Hermopolis, Thinis, Assiut, and Abydos) required heavy fortified walls to cope with the recurring Libyan threat. To the same end, Ramesses III re sumed Ramesses II’s policy of settling the Fayum and Middle Egypt’s west bank with military colonies of former prisoners of war. “Around year twenty, three expeditions were sent abroad for the needs of the cult and of the king’s works: 1) an expedition on the Red Sea to the land of Punt, from which was brought back incense, as well as cuttings and seeds from incense trees, with the intent to grow them in Egypt; 2) a combined terrestrial-nautical expedition to the copper mines of Timna, north of the Gulf of Aqaba, possibly made easier by a short campaign against the people of Seir (Edom) and the building of a fortified well in or near el-Arish; and 3) in year 23, a turquoise-quarrying expedition to the mines of Serabit el-Khadim in Sinai.

“In year 30, the king celebrated his Sed Festival at Memphis. A year earlier, the Upper-Egyptian vizier To had been appointed vizier of both Upper and Lower Egypt to better manage the administrative aspects of the event. The four preceding months had been marred, in Thebes, by a series of strikes by the Deir el-Medina workers, as the authorities, focused on the celebration of the coming festival, were unable to deliver to them in due time the grain that constituted their wages. The workers then went asking for grain from the various West-Theban mortuary temples, which all had large granaries, until the local government found a solution. This disruption of Deir el-Medina’s lines of supply has been repeatedly interpreted as the first symptom of the final collapse of New Kingdom Egypt’s economic system that would take place a century later, but this view seems emphatically naive (would one say, for example, that failing to pay workers on time in 1829 portended the stock market crisis of 1929?). It seems in fact be tter explained by the administration’s all-consuming focus on the coming celebration of the pharaoh’s jubilee: the strikes would precisely end with its celebration.”

Ramses III and the Harem Conspiracy to Kill Him

Khaemwaset and Ramses III

At the end of Ramses’ reign a conspiracy to kill the king by several members of his household including one of his minor wives. The mastermind of the scheme it was said was his minor wife Queen Tiy so her son Prince Pentaweret, could claim the throne. Ramses III had handpicked another, older son from a more senior wife as successor. The plot ultimately failed. The older son assumed the throne and became Ramses IV. [Source: Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com, Los Angeles Times]

Records describe how Ramses III commissioned 14 people to judge over 40 people who were implicated in the conspiracy. The commission was given powers to collect evidence, carry out trials and decide punishments, included the death penalty, something that was normally only the king could decide. Because of the large number of implicated people, the conspirators were tried in three groups. All of the accused except one were found guilty. Most were sentenced to death, with the option of committing suicide rather than having their body burned and ashes scattered, eliminating any hopes of an afterlife. Ramses died before the trial was completed. But the ancient documents chronicling the trial, known as the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, were not clear whether Ramses III had been murdered or died at a later date from another cause.

Pierre Grandet wrote: “Just before Ramesses III’s death, a large conspiracy was unveiled that led to the execution of approximately 30 people. Although their prosecution was publicly reported, the names of some of them were quoted in the form of infamous nicknames, e.g., Mesedsura , “Ra hates him” (the original name being Meryra , “beloved of Ra”). The whole point of the conspiracy is a matter of debate, since our principal source, the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, is missing its first page, where the conspirators’ indictment was probably stated. A lady of the harem, Tiy (allegedly a queen, though she is nowhere given the title), had supposedly planned to promote to the crown her son Pentawera (who is nowhere given a title) instead of the legitimate heir, Ramesses IV. The coup was obviously to be triggered by Ramesses III’s death, whether from assassination or natural causes. Despite its romantic attractive ness, the assassination theory is wholly unsubstantiated. [Source: Pierre Grandet, 2014, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2013 escholarship.org ]

“A large number of the harem’s denizens and administration enrolled in the conspiracy, which gained further support from important civil and military leaders. However, despite its secrecy, it was finally unveiled, and all of its participants were arrested, then tried and judged by a special commission of twelve. Almost all the indicted persons would be found guilty and executed, the five deemed the guiltiest, including Pentawera, being condemned to take their own lives. (Tiy’s fate is unknown.) This outcome was widely publicized as a warning against any such future endeavor. In fact, unusual features in the Turin Judicial Papyrus’s layout can be explained only if we assume that the document was intended to be posted in a public place.”

Ramses III’s Death: Was His Throat Slit?

Ramses III's mummy

A CT scan examination of Ramses III’s mummy in 2012 found that Ramses III’s throat was slit.Amina Khan wrote in the Los Angeles Times: The "harem conspiracy" against Ramses III remains one of ancient Egypt's scandalous tales of deadly intrigue. But scholars have been unable to determine whether the god-king was actually killed in the attack. To solve the mystery, an international team of researchers decided to reexamine the mummy. They found that, if a 7-centimeter-wide, bone-deep slash in the throat is any indication, it’s possible the pharaoh was killed instantly. His neck is wrapped in thick linens, and a Horus amulet appears to have been inserted into the wound during the mummification process – such amulets were thought to possess healing properties. [Source: Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2012 |*|]

"The large and deep cut wound in his neck must have been caused by a sharp knife or other blade," the researchers wrote in the paper on their findings, published in the British Medical Journal on December 17, 2012, adding that the cut severed his trachea, esophagus and large blood vessels, would have killed him instantly. On the eye of Horus amulet found in the mummy's throat, the researchers said: "Most probably, the ancient Egyptian embalmers tried to restore the wound during mummification by inserting the amulet (generally used for healing purposes) and by covering the neck with a collar of thick linen layers." [Source: Megan Gannon, Live Science, December 18, 2012]

Pierre Grandet wrote: “Contrary to what was widely announced in a variety of media, the recent discovery that Ramses III’s mummy had had its throat cut does not provide any proof as to the manner of the king’s death. That the king perished due to his throat being cut could only be proven if it could be confirmed that the cut had been administered ante mortem. As it is not possible to do so, it seems more sensible to suppose that the cut had been administered post mortem, either as part of the mummification process (the position of the cut would be wholly consistent with the removal of the digestive-respiratory tract), or as the result of the many injuries the mummy had to endure at the hands of robbers during antiquity. [Source: Pierre Grandet, 2014, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2013 escholarship.org ]

“Shortly before the death of Ramesses III, the exceptional Papyrus Harris I (42 meters long) was composed, providing an official autobiographical history of the king’s reign, complete with tabulated economic data. Structurally, the document associates an address of the king to the gods of Egypt and an address to his subjects. The first comprises four parts, in which Ramesses III narrates his deeds for the gods of Thebes, Heliopolis, and Memphis, and a selection of important but minor cities. The first three parts are headed by in-text scenes (the so-called vignettes), which show the king addressing the gods of the relevant cities. As stated by the document itself, its whole purpose was to convert Ramesses III’s deeds into a moral obligation for the gods and the people of Egypt to favor Ramesses IV’s reign. There is not, therefore, the least doubt that it was composed at the latter’s order. The document’s date (6 th day of the third month of shemu of year 32), which precedes by nine days Ramesses III’s actual death (15 th day of the same month), is probably the day of Ramesses IV’s effective seizure of power, prompted by his father’s impending death and the discovery of the Harem Conspiracy.

“By the virtue of its content, the Harris Papyrus —like the Judicial Papyrus of Turin— would have been completely pointless had it not been intended for some form of publication. This was keenly perceived by Struve as early as 1916, in a valuable but little-known essay, where he hypothesized that the medium of this publication would have been a public reading at Ramesses III’s funeral. This hypoth esis, however, elicits some technical and logistical issues (among others, the impracticability of reading a 42-meter-long roll, and the papyrus vignettes’ pointlessness). Now, if we consider that the document’s script is of uncommon height and that it is written in hieratic (easier to read than hieroglyphics), or the fact that the vignettes that head its three first sections conform to the iconography of the king’s addresses to the gods in the royal stelae and inscriptions, it seems clear that it was made for display. Indeed, if we deliberately forget, for a while, its being written on papyrus, there is fundamentally no difference—its exhaustivity and hieratic script notwithstanding—between the document and a royal commemorative inscription. This leads to the logical conclusion that, huge as it was, it was actually intended as a kind of gigantic poster, pasted on a wall or displayed on a frame for all to see, and for which setting a funerary service held for Ramesses III at Medinet Habu would have been the ideal venue.”

Ramses III and Mummy E

Ramses III mummy head

Amina Khan wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “The report also strengthens the case that that another mummy may have been one of the perpetrators – Ramses III’s own son, Pentawere....Ramses III was found with another mysterious mummy, known as E – which might have been the body of the Pharaoh’s traitorous son, Pentawere. A bone analysis showed the man was about 18 to 20 years old. His body was wrapped in ritually impure goat skin, which could be interpreted as a sign of punishment. Moreover, the mummy was not properly embalmed: the brain and organs were left inside the body, rather than being removed. The man’s face is contorted as if its owner met an unpleasant end.” Documents indicate that Pentawere was given the "option" to commit suicide. The E mummy is sometimes called “The Screaming Mummy” because of anguished facial expression.[Source: Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times, December 18, 2012 |*|]

A genetic analysis of mummy E showed he shared the same paternal lineage as Ramesses III, "strongly suggesting that they were father and son," noted the researchers. Megan Gannon wrote in Live Science: “Because of his contorted expression, some scientists have speculated that unknown man E was poisoned or buried alive. The new analysis did not provide a more conclusive cause of death, but they did find that his lungs were overinflated, which could be a sign of death by suffocation or strangulation, perhaps consistent with a suicide.” [Source: Megan Gannon, Live Science, December 18, 2012]

Ramses III’s Legacy and the End of the New Kingdom

Ramses III was the last great pharaoh, After his death Egypt began having economic problems and missed the boat with Iron Age — which began around 1200 B.C. and among other things made stronger and more powerful weapons possible — because it lacked sources of iron. Under a succession of weak leaders, Egypt fragmented and weakened. There were disputes between officials and governors and friction between the north and south. The priestly caste became so powerful it was able to take control of the government. But this occurred at a time when strong military was needed to fend off threats from Assyrians and Persians. Later Greeks and Romans would lay claim to the region. [Source: Mark Millmore, discoveringegypt.com discoveringegypt.com ^^^]

Pierre Grandet wrote: “As contrasted with the reigns of his successors, that of Ramesses III appears to be the last great reign of the New Kingdom. The record of his achievements —exceptionally well do cumented—is certainly impressive, with the building of Medinet Habu and the implementation of a large architectural and institutional program throughout the country. His accomplishments, however, were largely the result of his application of the simple political recipe of emulating Ramesses II, the ideal pharaoh. This policy, as would rapidly become apparent, was no longer adapted to the circumstances and the resources of Egypt: less than a century later, the 20th Dynasty would collapse amidst political and social unrest. By this time, the country would be but a shadow of its New Kingdom self, having lost all control over Canaan and a large part of Nubia. [Source: Pierre Grandet, 2014, UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, 2013 escholarship.org ]

“Athough the king prevented the invasion of Egypt by the Sea Peoples, their migration forever changed the geopolitical landscape of the ancient Near East and seems to have been a key factor in this mutation by gradually depriving Egypt of any control of its former Asiatic territories. Egyptian leadership, weakened by the outcome of the Harem Conspiracy, a series of short reigns, and repeated changes of line, wasn’t able to devise a coherent policy to cope with the situation. The loss of the Asiatic territories’ resources brought about the stalling of the redistributive economy on whose implementation Egypt’s “social pact” (obedience vs. plenty) was based, and finally deprived its traditional power structure of the largest part of its legitimacy. By then, the country was ready for the emergence of a new political regime.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, escholarship.org ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Egypt sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Tour Egypt, Minnesota State University, Mankato, ethanholman.com; Mark Millmore, discoveringegypt.com discoveringegypt.com; Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare “by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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