Screaming mummy


A mystery some 3,000 years in the making may have just been solved.  Archaeologists think they have solved the mystery of the “screaming mummy. According to the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry, markings around the mummy’s neck show the person was likely hanged. This lines up with the ancient texts on the Harem Conspiracy, detailing the plot by Prince Pentawere and queen Tiye – the pharaoh’s son and second wife – to kill Ramses III. The body, also known as ‘Unknown Man E,’ is now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo for the first time. DNA extracted from the bones of both the unidentified mummy and Ramses III, indicate the Screaming Mummy is Ramses III’s son, according to sources. ‘The gruesome mummy of Unknown Man E, also known as the “Screaming Mummy,” has long puzzled scholars,’ Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, the former Minister of Antiquities who led the Egyptian Mummies Project, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

‘Such unusual mummification has perplexed Egyptologists and no one has succeeded in knowing the story behind such a mummy until the launch of the Egyptian Mummy Project several years ago under my direction to create a complete database of forensic information related to the mummy collection at the Egyptian Museum.’   The death of Ramses III was a gruesome one, and many mysteries still surround the details of his murder.


CT scans showed that his throat was slit and his big toe cut off, likely in an attack by multiple assailants.The prince can take solace in the fact that his assassination attempt appears to have been successful. In 2012, a team of scientists studying the mummy of Ramesses III (reign 1184-1155 B.C.) found that Ramesses III died after his throat was slashed, likely in the assassination attempt that Pentawere helped to orchestrate. The scientists also performed genetic analysis, which confirmed that the “screaming mummy” was a son of Ramesses III. And, based on the mummy’s unusual burial treatment, the researchers confirmed that it is likely Pentawere’s mummy.

While the papyrus suggests the conspirators were arrested, the events of the trial were not accounted for – and, it remained unsaid whether Ramses III was actually killed as a result of the plan or not, according to the Antiquities Ministry. However, DNA analysis of the remains suggests they belong to Prince Pentewere, a son of the pharaoh Ramses III who was involved in a conspiracy to murder his father. Historical records indicate the prince was sentenced to be hanged as a result of his treachery, and marks around the neck of the screaming mummy appear to confirm this account. The remains are considered strange because they are not, in fact, properly mummified, despite being buried near the mummies of royalty.  Mummification is a complex process that involves removing internal organs and embalming a body carefully.Instead, the corpse was simply left out to dry and wrapped in sheepskin instead of the fine linen used for most mummies. According to experts, sheepskin was considered impure by ancient Egyptians.

Taken together, the DNA evidence, the marks on the corpse and the manner of its burial suggest it does indeed belong to the disgraced prince. “The gruesome mummy of Unknown Man E, also known as the ‘screaming mummy’, has long puzzled scholars,” archaeologist Dr Zahi Hawass. Historians believed that it was likely that, as a noble, Pentawer was given the option to commit ritual suicide rather than being burned alive like his comrades. Killing himself would preserve his body, allowing him to reach the afterlife according to ancient Egyptian beliefs. This is consistent with the indications on the Screaming Mummy that its death was the result of either poison or hanging.


After speculating for years that this mummy was Pentawer, modern scientific techniques have allowed scientists to test the DNA of the Screaming Mummy to that of the preserved body of Ramses III. This testing indicated that the two mummies shared the same paternal DNA, making it incredibly likely that the Screaming Mummy was the son of Ramses.

Finally, the mystery was solved, and the story behind the Screaming Mummy was finally revealed to be one of intrigue, conspiracy, and patricide.

The Judicial Papyrus of Turin, as modern-day scholars call it, is a manuscript that documents the trials that occurred after Pentawere’s apparently successful attempt at killing his father in 1155 B.C.

A group of butlers who remained loyal to Ramesses III — and his successor, Ramesses IV — oversaw the trial of a vast number of people who had allegedly aided Pentawere, condemning them to death or mutilation. These conspirators included military and civil officials, women in the royal harem (where the murder of Ramesses III may have happened), and a number of men who were in charge of the royal harem.


Prince Pentawere was allegedly assisted by his mother, a woman named Tiye (no relation to King Tutankhamun), who was one of Ramesses III’s wives. The judicial papyrus says that Prince Pentawere “was brought in because he had been in collusion with Tiye, his mother, when she had plotted the matters with the women of the harem” (translation by A. de Buck). Pentawere “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,” the papyrus says.

How exactly Pentawere killed himself is a matter of debate among scholars, with poisoning and hanging (or a combination of the two) generally regarded as being the most likely methods. While the dead Pharaoh Ramesses III was initially buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings, his mummy was moved after the robbery of his tomb. Interestingly, his mummy was dumped in the same mummy cache at Deir el-Bahari as Pentawere’s. The mummies of the murdered father and his killer son rested together until the family of a man named Abd el-Rassul found the cache in the 19th century. The screaming mummy is only being displayed temporarily. The display of the mummy has received widespread media attention and it is not clear how long it will be displayed for.



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