“The Screaming Mummy”: the story of the Egyptian prince who received eternal damnation

When in 1881 the specialist in the history of Egypt Emile Brugsch He was studying the mummies of the Deir el-Bahari funerary temple complex, one of which caught his attention. Unlike the meticulous preservation of different royal pharaohs that accompanied it, this one had not been mummified in the usual way and, furthermore, its expression at the last moment of its life was one of pain. Therefore, they baptized it as “The screaming mummy”.

Apart from his open mouth, his hands and feet were tied and he showed signs of strangulation. As if that were not enough, in her funeral ritual she had been wrapped in sheepskins, an impure animal at that time.

For more than three thousand years the mystery of who this Egyptian was and why he had that outcome was unknown. However, DNA tests carried out in 2012, and published in a study, undermined suspicions about the circumstances of his death, his family line and his identity. The latter, at least partially.

The mummy was about the young prince Pentaur between 18 and 20 years old, son of Pharaoh Ramses III with Tiye one of his different wives. Ramses III was the last of the great pharaohs of Egypt, who restored the empire to its former glory, but in his old age ruled a precarious and starving people with an iron fist.

The events date back to 1153 BC Then Tiye, in collusion with concubines and military and civilian officials, plotted against Ramses III so that the throne would succeed his scion. Historians call the plot the “harem conspiracy.”

Although the objective was partially successful – the mummy of Ramses III has a deep gash in the neck – the murderers were arrested, tried and burned. This is how the Turin Papyrus describes it, a judicial document after the regicide.

Among the conspirators was Prince Pentaur.

The exact reasons for his death are unknown, however, historians point to a forced suicide, either by hanging, with a poison, or both.

On the other hand, the hypotheses about the differential treatment that his corpse received indicate that a relative or trusted person could try to save his purity by preserving his body. However, the corpse was left to dry in natron and resin was poured into its open mouth to keep it that way forever.

Another method of removing all traces of him was to assign him the false name of Pentaur on the judicial papyrus and to hide the real name.

The blurring of his identity and his eternal condemnation expressed in his agony has allowed him, against all odds, to preserve the mystery and to continue to be remembered.