For this week’s Mummy Monday let’s look at another mummy found in the Deir el-Bahri cache, who may be one of the “most perfect examples of embalming…from the time of the early 18th Dynasty.” Let me introduce you to Lady Rai!
Lady Rai was an ancient Egyptian woman from the early 18th Dynasty. Little is known about her life, but she served as a nursemaid to Queen Ahmose-Nefertari. We have no evidence of her parentage, but she was no doubt from some elite family as she was most likely buried in the elite burials in Deir el-Bahri and Thebes.
Tomb and Burial in DB320
Lady Rai’s original tomb is not known, but it was most likely looted in antiquity, which is why she was reburied in the cache in Deir el-Bahri. She was originally buried in two coffins, but it seems her outer coffin is all that was preserved. But Rai’s body was not found inside it.
It was common for the priests of the Third Intermediate Period to mix up coffins and the mummies in these caches. That is why many of the mummies have small linen dockets, which are just labels made from linen, which help identify the mummy. Lady Rai’s outer coffin (CG 61004) was used for the burial of Ahmose-Inhapi. The coffin’s gilding had been almost entirely removed, along with the eye inlays. But the robbers who stripped the coffin, who were probably the restorers, preserved the symbolic figure of Isis and Nephthys at the foot.
Lady Rai’s mummy was found in a 19th-20th Dynasty coffin (CG 61022) which was originally belonged to “a servant in the Palace of Truth,” named Paheripedjet. This title indicates that the original owner worked in Deir el-Medina, but it is unclear where this man’s body is currently.
The only personal belongings of Lady Rai that have been found was a single barrel-shaped carnelian bead on her right wrist. This is just a fraction of what Rai’s jewelry was before.
As I mentioned previously, G. Elliot Smith called Lady Rai’s mummy one of the most perfect examples of 18th Dynasty embalming and “the least unlovely” of the existing female mummies. Smith unwrapped the mummy on June 26th, 1909. Rai was a slim woman only about 4 foot 11 inches. She was estimated to be about 30 or 40 years old when she died around 1530 B.C.E.
The mummy’s face and body had been thinly coated with resin mixed with sand. There was an embalming incision in the traditional position on the left side of the body, which was covered with a fusiform embalming plate, which was common for mummies of the 18th Dynasty. The body was carefully wrapped in linen bandages. Some of these bandages were inscribed with her name, which helped identify her.
Her scalp retained abundant amounts of what appears to be her own hair, not a wig, which would have been more common. This was styled in tightly plaited groups of braids down to her chest. Rai’s teeth only had slight wear. In 2009, the mummy was CAT scanned, which revealed that she had a diseased aortic arch and thus the oldest known mummy with evidence of atherosclerosis.
This week for Mummy Monday, let’s meet another ancient Egyptian priestess and God’s Wife of Amun, Maatkare Mutemhat.
Maatkare Mutemhat lived during the early Third Intermediate Period in the 21st Dynasty. She was the daughter of the High Priest of Amun, Pinedjem I. He was also the defacto ruled of Southern Egypt from 1070 BCE and proclaimed himself pharaoh in 1054 BCE. Her mother was Duathathor-Henuttawy, a daughter of Ramesses XI, the last ruler of the 20th Dynasty.
Maatkare Mutemhat is the throne name of Queen Hatshepsut. She was depicted as a young girl in the Luxor Temple, along with her sisters Henuttawy (B) and Mutnedjmet. She is also depicted as a high priestess on the façade of the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak and on a statue, which is now in Marseille, France. During her father’s reign as pharaoh, Maatkare received the title of Divine Adoratrice, God’s Wife of Amun. She was first God’s wife to take on the praenomen of Divine Adoratrice, which used to only be for pharaohs. With this title, Maakare was considered the female head of the priesthood of Amun at Karnak, and therefore she had almost the same status as a queen. Her titles from the Khonsu Temple are listed below:
r-p’t(t),w ‘rt hsw’t, hmt-ntr n ‘Imn m ‘Ipt-sw’t, s’t-nsw n kt. f, nbt t’wy
Hereditary princess, great of favors, God’s Wife of Amun in Karnak, king’s bodily daughter, Lady of the Two Lands
hmt-ntrn ‘Imn m ‘Ipt-swt, s’t-nsw n (ht.f), nbt t’wy
God’s Wife of Amun in Karnak, king’s (bodily) daughter, Lady of the Two Lands
Her family was well endowed because of her father. Her brother later became pharaoh, Psusennes I, one sister became queen, and three other brothers held the title of High Priest of Amun in succession. After her death, Maatkare’s position was given to her niece, Henuttawy (D).
Her original burial place is unknown, but it could be presumed that it was somewhere in the Theban necropolis. Her coffin, mummy, and some shabtis were found in the Deir el-Bahri cache (DB320), which I have talked about several times on this blog. Along with several members of the royal family from the 18th, 19th, and 20th dynasties (see Nodjmet, Sqenenre Tao, and Unknown Man E), many of Maatkare’s family members were also buried here. Her father, Pinedjem I, her mother, Duathathor-Hunuttawy, and her brother, Masaharta. Her other family members were buried in tomb MMA60 in Deir el-Bahri.
Because this was a reburial, there weren’t too many funerary goods that were attributed to Maatkare. At least three shabtis were found inscribed for her. One is in the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology (US39863), one is at the Pelizaeus Museum in Germany (5485), and another is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (17.194.2405). A funerary papyrus has also been found but was not originally found in the tomb. It was probably stolen by the Abd el-Rassul family, who originally discovered DB320 and then sold many of the objects on the antiquities market. The papyrus is now located in Cairo.
One interesting object that was found in her coffin with the mummy was a small, wrapped package. At first, archaeologists believed that it was the mummy of a small baby, possibly stillborn. This would have been strange because, in her position as God’s Wife of Amun, Maatkare was supposed to be celibate. Finally, when the package was x-rayed, it was revealed to be the mummy of a female hamadryas baboon, either a pet of hers or it was placed there for a ritual purpose.
She was found within two coffins both of which are located in the Cairo Museum (CG 61028; JE 26200). The outer coffin shows signs of minor damage as a gilded right hand is missing and some of the decoration on the forehead has been removed. The three distinct holes indicate that it may have been a golden vulture head flanked by two uraeus serpents. These would have completed the gilded vulture headdress that the coffin was wearing. These symbols were reserved for exceptionally important individuals in her time.
The coffin also depicts a fantastically detailed wig with small braids carved into the wood. The clenched fists that are both on the outer and inner coffin were symbols of masculine power and were normally reserved for the coffins of high-status males. Female coffins typically had outstretched fingers, indicating that this choice was a bold statement of social status.
The inner coffin and coffin board were much less preserved. The hands and faces have been completely removed. These are both elaborately decorated similarly to the outer coffin lid. You can also see that the inside of the bottom of the inner coffin is decorated with a large winged goddess.
The pattern of damage seems to have been done on two separate occasions. The first set of thieves had probably only targeted the inner coffin and the coffin board for petty pilfering. These could have been members of the burial party because if they only damaged the inner coffin and coffin board, they could cover their tracks with the outer coffin lid. Sometime later, someone removed her headpiece and the one gilded hand from the outer coffin. Or these could have fallen off while moving the mummy to DB320.
The mummy of Maatkare Mutemhat (CG 61088) had been disturbed before it was buried in DB320. G. Elliot Smith examined the mummy in June of 1909 and found extensive damage. The shroud of the mummy had been torn from the forehead to the pelvis as well as the right arm wrapping. This was all done in an attempt to find valuables.
Her left forearm was broken, and her hand had been badly damaged, both of them been broken off. You can see below, that on her right hand there were three gold and silver rings on the thumb which were not stolen by thieves. Her body was internally packed with fat, possibly butter, mixed with soda, and molded into the shape of a woman. This included the face.
Maatkare’s face was stuffed to present a life-like appearance. Although we have many examples of these practices, she may have been the earliest example. The wrappings on the face were also painted yellow ochre in an attempt to get a realistic skin tone. She also has two glass eyes that were placed in the wrappings. Her dark hair is still visible around the wrappings. Apparently, her nails had been tied with string to prevent them from falling off.
A leather thong was found around her head that probably held an amulet, which is now missing. X-rays reveal that there is a gold plate covering the embalming incision on her side.
This Mummy Monday let’s talk about another mummy found in the Deir el Bahri cache, Unknown Man E. The identity of this mummy is not known, though there are a couple of theories. The most prominent theory is that this mummy is a Prince from the New Kingdom, who may have been involved and tried in a harem conspiracy.
Because we are not entirely sure who this mummy was, I am going to talk about the mummy first and then the theories as to who this mummy may be!
The mummy was buried in a white simple Osiriform coffin (CG 61023) that was completely undecorated or labeled. It lacked any features to help date the coffin or identify the owner. The crossed arms on the coffin were popular in the 19th dynasty and onward, but the simple headdress dates to the earlier 18th dynasty. It was made out of expensive cedar wood, indicating whoever owned it was well off. The coffin and the mummy had seemingly not been rifled through by thieves.
Besides the mummy, two canes were found in the coffin. They were made out of braided reeds. Egyptologist Geoffrey Martin noted that the treasurer of Tutankhamun, a man named Maya, had been depicted in his tomb with two canes. Unfortunately, the canes current location has not been found.
As I mentioned this mummy was found in the Dier el-Bahri cache (DB 320), which we have talked about several times. I’ve already posted about Nodjmet and Seqenrene Tao, who were also found in this cache.
The mummy we are focusing on has been labeled as Unknown Man E (CG 61098). He was about 18 to 24 years old at the time of his death. After the discovery of the cache in 1881, the mummy was transported back to Cairo where it was first unwrapped on June 6, 1886, by Gaston Maspero.
The first thing that everyone notices about the mummy is the internal scream that the face is locked in. This mummy has often been referred to as “The Screaming Mummy.” Unfortunately, this has led a few Egyptologists to assume he died a painful death, but more on that later.
The body was found wrapped in sheepskin, which for the Egyptians was a ritually unclean object. The sheepskin still has some of the original white wool attached. Beneath this were layers of thick linen, dating to the 18th dynasty, and a layer of natron salts which were applied to the final layers of the bandages. This natron had absorbed fat from the body and emitted a strong putrid odor when unwrapped. The bandages that covered that layer were impregnated with an adhesive and could only be removed with a saw, which would have destroyed any inscriptions that were on the bandages (if there were any).
It was originally believed that his hands and feet were found bound, but this could have been misinterpreted. Apparently, the bandages were held in place around the upper wrists and lower legs with knotted lengths of linen. They were tied extremely tightly because they left a definitive imprint on the skin on the upper arms. There is the possibility that the arms and legs were tied down because rigor mortis, or the stiffening of the joints and muscles of a body a few hours after death, had already set in by the time the body was mummified.
Underneath this layer was a coating of natron salt, crushed resin, and lime, which most likely consisted of calcium oxide. This was applied directly to the skin, covered the whole body, and was extremely caustic. After this was removed by Maspero and his team, they found the body of the young man. They noted that the muscles of his abdomen were extremely constricted and that his organs were still inside his body, going against all Egyptian mummification traditions. His penis was still intact but was missing when G.E. Smith examined the mummy a quarter-century later.
Gold earrings were found in his pierced ears. They were in the shape of hollow tubes “tapered at both ends and bent back to form an ellipse.” Like the canes found in the coffin, the earrings’ current location cannot be found.
Check out this image to the right and this video below to see a possible reconstruction of the face of Unknown Man E. The video also features one of his missing earrings!
Theories About the Mummy’s Death
When examining the mummy, Maspero had been convinced that there was foul play.
“All those who saw him first hand thought that [he] looked as though he had been poisoned. The contraction of the abdomen and stomach, the desperate movement with which the head is thrown back, the expression of excruciating pain spread over the face hardly allow for any other explanation.”
Daniel Fouquet, a physician who examined the mummy, was convinced that the mummy had died of poison, stating,
“…the last convulsions of horrid agony can, after thousands of years, still be seen.”
This seems to be based on the constriction of the abdomen. But this may be a reaction to the preservative chemicals that were placed on his skin. That substance would have sucked out all the moisture from his skin, which then would have made his internal organs shrink and thus constrict the skin of the abdomen. But one fact that may support poison is that there was no food found in his stomach which could indicate that he vomited everything up after ingesting the poison.
A chemist named Mathey said this,
“the wretched man must have been deliberately asphyxiated–most likely by being buried alive.”
The buried alive theory seems to have been mostly attributed to the bound hands and feet and the horrible scream on the face. This is a theory that many believed in the early 1800s and 1900s and from what I know, I don’t believe there is evidence of any Egyptian being buried alive.
Some have also posed that he was impaled because his perineum was found badly torn. But this was unlikely because his large intestine was found undamaged, so the anal injury must have been post-mortem.
G.E. Smith dismissed these previous theories, saying,
“a corpse that was dead of any complaint might fall into just such an attitude as this body has assumed.”
It has been assumed that many of the earlier theories of his death were simply based on the mummy’s facial expression. Several other mummies are locked into this silent scream, which can mostly be attributed to rigor mortis, lockjaw, or the mummification method.
Theories About the Mummy’s Identity
There is very little known about who this mummy was in life, but based on the mummification techniques, there are a few theories, though only one (besides the theory of Maya, Tutankhamun’s treasurer), has a named Egyptian attached to it. Although this is one of the first theories, I’m going to talk about it last.
One of the theories is that this mummy was the unnamed Hittite prince that was sent by his father to marry Ankhsenamun, the widow/sister of King Tutankhamun. According to preserved documents, this prince was murdered on the way to Egypt. But why wasn’t he sent back to the Hittites?
One of the more important pieces of evidence for the identity of this mummy lies in the sheepskin laid on top of the body. As I mentioned, sheepskins were seen as ritually unclean by the ancient Egyptians. By why would an Egyptian noble or a Hittite prince buried in Egypt be buried with a sheepskin? Some scholars have looked at a reference is the story of the Tale of Sinuhe. In this story, the pharaoh tries to convince Sinuhe, a former friend and confidant who has been living abroad, to return to Egypt. The king says,
“You shall not die in a foreign land…you shall not be placed in a sheepskin as they make your grave.”
This implies that placing a sheepskin over a body was a non-Egyptian tradition.
This led some scholars to believe that this mummy was an important Egyptian governor or dignitary who had died abroad, possibly in an Egyptian outpost in Palestine. They speculate that maybe he died in the desert while hunting and his body was not found immediately. This would attribute to the rigor mortis that had set in and made it difficult for his body to fit in the coffin. Then his body would have been prepared by non-Egyptian embalmers, which was why the mummification was not consistent with Egyptian traditions. The sheepskin, possibly an Asiatic burial tradition, and the use of the calcium oxide mixture on the skin, which points to a Greek influence, are the two foreign features. The official may have already had the coffin prepared (since he might have been in a location where cedar wood was more accessible), but it had not been painted or inscribed with the vital texts. So they sent the mummy and the body back to Egypt.
The Egyptian officials who received it may have noticed the sheepskin and found it offensive, so they just immediately buried the coffin. Based on the location in the DB cache, the mummy was probably originally buried in the Valley of the Kings or somewhere close by. This location is probably true no matter what the identity of the mummy is.
An Answer to His Identity?
Maspero was the first to propose that this was the mummy of Pentawer, a prince of the 20th dynasty involved in a harem conspiracy that led to the death of his father. Maspero determined that the contorted expression, the organs not being removed, the tightly bound wrappings, the taboo sheepskin, and the undecorated coffin were all done to stop this person from entering the afterlife.
This theory was revived by Egyptologist Bob Brier, who was able to examine the mummy after it hadn’t been seen for almost 100 years. He also concluded that it was most likely the body of Pentawer.
Most importantly, the DNA of Ramesses III (who funnily enough was also buried in the DB 320 cache) and Unknown Man E were compared. They both shared paternal Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1a and half of their DNA, which means that they were most likely father and son. Ramesses III had at least seven sons, most of which mummies have been found, so there is a small chance that this mummy could have been another one of his minor sons.
You can check out this article by Zahi Hawass and others which studied the bodies of Ramesses III and Unknown Man E, thus helping connect them.
Pentawer, also known as Pentawere or Pentaweret, was the son of Pharaoh Ramesses III and his secondary wife Tiye (not related to the wife of Amenhotep III and mother of Akhenaten, also called Tiye). All we know of this prince comes from the documents related to the harem conspiracy.
Interestingly the actual name of the prince is not known; this was just the name that was given to him in the Judicial Papyrus of Turin. This papyrus contains the records of the harem plot that he might have been involved in.
The Judicial Papyrus of Turin is a combination of papyri in the Egyptian Museum in Turin that all describe the trial of those accused on the harem plot to kill Ramesses III. These papyri were separated by a thief to sell them. Luckily when they separated it, they did not damage the text. Papyrus Rollin, Papyrus Varzy, Papyrus Lee, Papyrus Rifaud, and Papyrus Rifaud II are all included in this collection.
According to the Judicial Papyrus of Turin, Pentawer’s mother Tiye may have initiated a harem conspiracy to assassinate the pharaoh and put her son on the throne, even though the next in line to the throne was the son of Tyti. This plot was unfortunately not foiled as Ramesses III was most likely assassinated by having his throat slit on the 15th day of the third month of Shemu in 1155 B.C.E. This was the day of the Beautiful Feast of the Valley, which caused quite a commotion in the palace and harem in Medinet Habu, which was to provide cover for the assassination. Pebekkamen, a court official and one of the main conspirators, received help from a butler named Mastesuria, the cattle overseer Panhayboni, overseer of the harem Panouk, and clerk of the harem Pendua.
It was once thought by Egyptologists that Ramesses III may have survived the attack, but recent CT scans on his mummy reveal a different story. His throat was cut so severely that it severed the trachea, esophagus, and hit his neck bones. This means it was probably immediately fatal. Check out this video about recent CT examinations that helped determine these new clues.
But they were unable to put Pentawer on the throne because there were too many officials still loyal to Ramesses III and his heir Ramesses IV. The new king selected 12 magistrates to investigate and judge the cases across five trials. Accusations were brought up against Tiye, Pentawer, men in charge of the harem, women from the harem, and military and civil officials.
This is a translation from a portion of the Judicial Papyrus,
“Pentawere, to whom had been given that other name. He was brought in because he had been in collusion with Teye, his mother, when she had plotted the matters with the women of the harem concerning the making rebellion against his lord. He was placed before the butlers in order to be examined; they found him guilty; they left him where he was; he took his own life.”
Check out this link to an entire book about the Harem Conspiracy by Susan Redford and check out the article below to read the Judicial Papyrus of Turin.
Pentawer may have been an unfortunate pawn in this conspiracy. And since he was a noble, he may have been given the option of killing himself by poison to be spared the alternative. 28 people were executed, meaning that they burned alive and their ashes were strewn in the streets, which would ruin their chances for the afterlife. Others like Pentawer were given the choice to kill themselves, while others had their ears and noses cut off. The punishment for Queen Tiye is not included.
The likelihood that Unknown Man E was the Prince Pentawer has gained enough traction to be more than likely. But I do appreciate the thorough study of the mummification method which concluded that this was a foreign dignitary mummified abroad. I think a lot of the unique features of the mummification method could be attributed to that, which is why I question why they (mostly the calcium oxide mixture) would be used if this was the body of Pentawer.