Pentawer was to be the beneficiary of the so-called "harem conspiracy" probably initiated by his mother Tiye to assassinate the pharaoh. Tiye wanted her son to succeed the pharaoh, even though the chosen heir was a son of the chief queen Iset Ta-Hemdjert. According to the Judicial Papyrus of Turin Pentawer was among those who were made to stand trial for their participation in the conspiracy. It is likely that he was forced to commit suicide. The papyrus refers to this laconically:
They (i.e. the judges) left him in his place, he took his own life.
Historian Susan Redford speculates that Pentawer, being a noble, was given the option to commit suicide by taking poison and so be spared the humiliating fate of some of the other conspirators who would have been burned alive with their ashes strewn in the streets. Such punishment served to make a strong example since it emphasized the gravity of their treason for ancient Egyptians who believed that one could only attain an afterlife if one's body was mummified and preserved — rather than being destroyed by fire. In other words, not only were the criminals killed in the physical world; they did not attain an afterlife. They would have no chance of living on into the next world, and thus suffered a complete personal annihilation. By committing suicide, Pentawer could avoid the harsher punishment of a second death. This could have permitted him to be mummified and move on to the afterlife.
A recent study of unknown remains buried together with Ramesses III and now believed to be Pentawer based on DNA tests, suggest however that he was strangled or hanged. If the remains indeed are his, then he was about 18 years old at the time of his death.
A painted ceiling of Nekhbet at Ramesses III's mortuary temple at Medinet Habu.
- Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson (2004) ISBN 0-500-05128-3, p.193
- Vernus, op.cit., pp.108f.
- Breasted, op.cit., §§446ff.
- King Ramesses III's throat was slit, analysis reveals. Retrieved 2012-12-18.
- Hawass at al. 2012, Revisiting the harem conspiracy and death of Ramesses III: anthropological, forensic, radiological, and genetic study. BMJ2012;345doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8268 Published 17 December 2012
- The Mystery of Unknown Man E, by Bob Brier, 2006, Archaeological Institute of America.
- Pascal Vernus, Affairs and Scandals in Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press 2003
- James Henry Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Four, Chicago 1906