Throughout Egyptian history, there were 11 pharaohs named Ramesses, all living during the New Kingdom. This week we are going to look at the mummy of Ramesses VI.
Ramesses IV Nebmaatre-Meryamun was born Amenherkhepsehf (C) to Ramesses III and most likely queen Iset Ta-Hemdjert. This is suggested by the presence of his cartouches on the door jamb of her tomb in the Valley of the Queens. As a prince, he held the titles of royal scribe and cavalry general. He was the 5th pharaoh of the 20th Dynasty, after his older brother Ramesses IV son, Ramesses V died without a male heir.
His Great Royal Wife was Nubkhesbed and they had at least four children: princes Amenherkhepshef, Panebenkemyt, and Ramesses Itamun (future pharaoh Ramesses VII) and one princess Iset. His first son died before his father and was buried in KV13 and his daughter was appointed as God’s Wife of Amun.
He only reigned for about 8 years (1145 to 1137 B.C.E) which may have been quite turbulent. Ramesses IV stopped frequent raids by Libyan or Egyptian marauders in Upper Egypt. But Egypt lost control of its last strongholds in Canaan, which weakened Egypt’s economy and increased prices throughout the kingdom. The pharaoh’s power also waned during this period as the priesthood of Amun began to rise in power. This is when Ramesses VI appointed his daughter as a priestess of Amun in an attempt to reduce their power.
There are multiple statues of him, many of which he usurped from past rulers by engraving his name over theirs. These usurpations were most likely done because of the economic depression rather than a sign of antagonism against his predecessors. One statue that was well documented on the reverse of the Turin Papyrus Map was installed in the Temple of Hathor at Deir el-Medina. It was called “Lord of the Two Lands, Nebamaatre Meryamun, Son of Re, Lord of Crowns, Ramesses Amunherkhepesef Divine Ruler of Iunu, Beloved like Amun.” The statue was apparently made out of both painted wood and clay, showing the pharaoh wearing a golden loincloth, a crown of lapis lazuli and precious stones, a uraeus of gold, and sandals of electrum.
Ramesses VI died in his 40s, in the 8th or 9th year of his rule. He was succeeded by his son Ramesses VII Itamun. Besides his tomb (described below), it is also thought that he usurped his nephew’s mortuary temple in El-Assasif, Thebes (which was probably stolen from Ramesses IV). It was planned to nearly half the size of Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple of Ramesses II. But only the foundations were built at the death of Ramesses IV so it is unclear if it was ever completed.
Now presumably because Ramesses VI was older when he rose to power, he chose to usurp his nephew’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, KV9. It is unclear if Ramesses V was first buried in this tomb and then moved, or if Ramesses VI buried his nephew somewhere else. Unlike his usurpation of his predecessors’ cult statues, this usurpation could have been because he did not hold his nephew in high regard. It was most likely completed in the 6th or 8th year of his reign.
The tomb is 104 meters or 341 feet long and has several chambers. The entrance of the tomb is decorated with a disk containing a scarab and an image of the ram-headed god Re between Isis and Nephthys. In the first corridor, there are images of Ramesses VI before Re-Horakhty and Osiris.
The Book of Gates is on the south wall while the Book of Caverns is on the north wall. These are both Ancient Egyptian funerary texts that would help the newly deceased soul into the afterlife. The Book of Gate describes several gates, each associated with different goddesses and required the deceased to recognize the particular character of the diety. The Book of Caverns is very similar, but it describes six caverns of the afterlife which are filled with rewards for the righteous and punishments for the bad.
The ceiling of the long hallway is decorated with an intricate astronomical ceiling. The Book of the Gates and the Book of Caverns continued on their respective walls. Above the entrance to the next corridor, the king is shown before Osiris. The second corridor is decorated with two more funerary texts: the Book of the Imi-Duat and the Books of Day and Night. Here Ramesses is shown before Hekau and Maat.
At the end, there is a hall and the burial chamber. Again, these are decorated with more funerary texts, mainly the Book of the Dead and the Book of the Earth (also known as the Book of Aker). Ramesses was buried in a large granite coffin box and mummiform stone sarcophagus in the center of the chamber.
Unfortunately, like many of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, it was looted in antiquity, most likely around 20 years after Ramesses VI was buried. They took everything and destroyed much of the sarcophagus and mummy. The mummy was removed from the tomb in the 21st Dynasty. Interestingly, the workers huts that were built for the construction of this tomb, obscured the entrance to the tomb of King Tutankhamun, which may have been a reason that it was not seriously looted during this period.
In the Graeco-Roman Period, the tomb was identified as that of Memnon, the mythological king of the Ethiopians who fought in the Trojan War. This meant that it was frequently visited during this time. Visitors from the 1st century B.C.E. to the 4th century C.E. left approximately 995 pieces of graffiti. These were mostly in Greek, Latin, Demotic, and Coptic, and in black or red ink. Many of these were found higher up on the walls, indicating that the floor level was higher during this period. Since 1996, the graffiti has been studied by the Epigraphic Mission from the Polish Center of the Mediterranean Archaeology University of Warsaw. Check out the article below to learn more!
The tomb was cleared by Georges Emile Jules Daressy in 1898. He uncovered the fragments of the coffin and sarcophagus. During this time, the face, and several other pieces, of the sarcophagus were taken by visitors. The face (EA140), which was taken by Giovani Belzoni, Italian strongman turned explorer, for Henry Salt, the British consulate in Cairo, is currently in the British Museum, and attempts to return it to Egypt have been futile.
In 1997, Egyptologist Edwin Brock received funding from the American Research Center in Egypt to restore the sarcophagus. They completed the work in three seasons reassembling the 370 broken pieces and a fiberglass replica of the mask. Much of the decoration of the coffin had been obscured by a black resinous layer which was most likely a ritualistic oil that was poured over the sarcophagus at the time of burial. The reassembled sarcophagus is currently on display inside the burial chamber.
Burial in Royal Cache
Now, like many of the royal mummies of the New Kingdom, the mummy of Ramesses VI was not found in KV9, but in KV35, also known as the Royal Cache. Here is an excerpt about this tomb that I wrote in an earlier post about Amenhotep III.
The priests of Amon in the 21st dynasty moved multiple mummies from the looted Valley of the King’s tombs to one specific tomb in the valley. This was the tomb of Amenhotep II, KV35. The mummy cache lay undiscovered until 1898. Here is a list of the other pharaohs found in this cache:
- Thutmose IV
- Seti II
- Amenhotep II
- Amenhotep III
- Ramesses IV
- Ramesses V
- Ramesses VI
- Queen Tiye (originally labeled and the Elder Lady)
- A prince (either Webensenu, child of Amenhotep II, or Thutmose, son of Amenhotep III)
- The Younger Lady (mother of Tutankhamun, and daughter of Amenhotep and Tiye)
- Unknown Lady D
- Two skulls and an arm
The mummy of Ramesses VI (CG 61086/JE 34564) was found in side chamber Jb inside an 18th dynasty coffin (CG 61043) of a man named Re, who was a high priest of the mortuary cult of Menkheperre-Thutmose III. Ramesses VI’s name had been written over the original owner’s name. The face of the coffin had been hacked off in antiquity, possibly indicating that it had been gilded and thus taken by tomb robbers.
When the mummy was unwrapped by G.E. Smith on July 8th, 1905, the body was found in disarray. It apparently had been hacked to pieces by the tomb robbers who were looking for precious jewelry. The head had been shattered and the bones of the face were missing. His hip bone and pelvis were found among the bones at his neck and his elbow and humerus were discovered on his right thigh. Bones from two other mummies were also found including the right hand of an unidentified woman and the right hand and forearm of an unidentified man.
Ramesses VI was embalmed in a fashion similar to his two predecessors. The cranial cavity had been packed with linen and a resin paste, which was also plastered over the face, eyes, and forehead. The king’s ears had also been pierced and his teeth were only moderately worn. And due to the presence of a skull piercing similar to those found on the skulls of Ramesses IV, Ramesses V, Merenptah, and Seti II, it has been speculated that Ramesses VI had originally been moved to the KV14 cache along with those mummies before being finally placed in KV35.
Face of Stone Sarcophagus – British Museum; Wikimedia Commons (Carlos Teicxidor Cadenas)
Relief of Ramesses VI as a prince from Medinet Habu – Wikimedia Commons (Neithsabes)
Statue of Ramesses VI holding a bound Libyan captive, currently in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo – Wikimedia Commons (Georges Legrain)
Portrait of Ramesses VI from his tomb – Wikimedia Commons (Champollion and Rosellini)
Broken bust of Ramesses IV at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon – Wikimedia Commons (Colindla)
Mummy face– Wikimedia Common (G. Elliot Smith)
Mummy body – Mummipedia (Tawfika)
Ushabtis of Ramesses VI at the British Museum – Wikimedia Commons (Jack1956)
Reassembled lid, cleaning the fragments, the glued fragments groups, Brock checking the joins – Francis Dzikowski
Test cleaning of the sarcophagus – Edwin Brock
Images of Tomb – Madain Project
Mummy in coffin – http://anubis4_2000.tripod.com/mummypages2/20A.htm
Picture of 18th dynasty coffin – http://ib205.tripod.com/ramesses_6_cache.html