The mummy of Seqenenre was one of the many royal and non-royal mummies found in the first cache at Deir el-Bahari in 1881. It was moved to Cairo to be unwrapped and examined by French Egyptologist and head of the Antiquities Service, Gaston Maspero, on June 9th 1886.
In 1906, it was re-examined by the Australian anatomist G.Elliot Smith, at which time the bandages left during the first examination were removed. It was examined again, this time using X-rays, in the 1970s by James Harris and his team.
Elliot Smith found the mummy to be nothing more than a badly damaged, disarticulated skeleton. An engraving made somewhere before 1888, however, does show a more recognisable body. If this engraving is reliable, then Seqenenre's mummy suffered a lot of damage between its unwrapping in 1886 and the second examination in 1906.
The skeleton is still mostly covered in an imperfect sheet of soft, moist, flexible dark brown skin. Elliot Smith also noted that the mummy had a strongly aromatic, spicy odour which he explained as the result of the fact that the body had been sprinkled with powdered aromatic wood or sawdust.
By building up the skeleton, Elliot Smith estimated the size of the body at 1m70. The teeth are well-worn, but contrary to most royal mummies, Seqenenre possessed a good and healthy set of teeth at the time of his death. Based on the teeth and the state of the bones, Elliot Smith tentatively suggested an age of death between 30 and 40 years. The X-ray examination of the mummy in the 1970s confirmed this estimate, narrowing it down to between 35 and 40 years.
From the agonised attitude into which the arms and hands were twisted during the death spasms, and even more from the wounds to the face and skull of this mummy, it is clear that Seqenenre met a violent death. Elliot Smith identified 5 different wounds to the head (the numbers correspond to the numbers on the pictures. They do not show the order in which the wounds were inflicted):
At least two different weapons were used in the attack on Seqenenre: an axe and a pointed object, such as a spear. Although wound number 3 may have been caused by the handle of the axe that was used, it seems more likely that a different weapon, a heavy stick or a mace, was used. Unless one assumes that one assailant would have taken the time to switch weapons during the attack, it seems likely that there were at least two attackers.
The wounds numbered 4 and 5 can only have inflicted from the left of the victim. Elliot Smith found it likely that the 3 remaining wounds may have been inflicted from the same side. He also noted that there were no wounds on Seqenenre's arms and hands, an indication that he offered no resistance to his assailants.
This, in combination with the fact that it is almost impossible to inflict 2 near-horizontal wounds to the head of a man of 1m70 in height while he is standing, has led Elliot Smith to conclude that Seqenenre was lying on his right side, probably asleep, during the attack.
Even though we may never truly know how Seqenenre met his end, there are still some pieces to the puzzle that need to be considered. First of all, it must be noted that the attack concentrated on the kings head. No wounds have been found on the rest of the body. This may indicate that the only vulnerable part of the body at the time of the attack was the head. Perhaps the unfortunate king was wearing some body armor when he died.
Secondly, there is the fact that no attempt was made to put the body into the customary position: the head was not straightened on the trunk, the legs were not fully extended and the arms and hands were left in their twisted, agonised position. This has been interpreted as evidence that Seqenenre was hurriedly mummified, perhaps because he was killed too far away from the laboratories of the embalmers to be transported there.
A body that is amply protected and a mummification that does not appear to have been done in optimal circumstances, may suggest that the king was killed in battle. A first blow, perhaps an arrow or a spear coming from the left causing wound number 5, or a blow to the face causing wound number 3, may have thrown the king to the ground. Lying helplessly on his right side, perhaps already unconscious or in a semi-conscious state, one or more attackers then delivered the final blows to the kings face, the only part of his body that was not protected.
- Mummy -
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Last update: 25 July, 2009