Mummy of the "Unknown Man E", likely identified as Pentawer
|Prince of Egypt|
|Burial||Probably at DB320|
|Religion||Ancient Egyptian religion|
Pentawer (or Pentaweret) was an ancient Egyptian prince of the 20th dynasty, a son of Pharaoh Ramesses III and a secondary wife, Tiye. He was involved in the so-called "harem conspiracy", a plot to kill his father and place Pentawer on the throne. He either committed suicide or was executed following the murder attempt.
Pentawer was to be the beneficiary of the 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 remains believed to be his, 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.
In recent times, the egyptologist Bob Brier has revived the old hypothesis that the famed mummy of the "Unknown Man E" found in the Deir el-Bahari cache (DB320) might be Pentawer indeed. The mummy is very unusual because it appears to have been embalmed quickly, without removing the brain and viscera, and to have been placed in a cedar box, the interior of which had to be crudely hacked to widen it. Brier hypothesizes that Pentawer was mummified very rapidly and placed in an available coffin by a relative in order to give him a proper burial.
Subsequent DNA analysis supported the view that the mummy was a son of Ramesses. According to Dr. Zink, one of the scientists who undertook the test, "From our genetic analysis we could really prove the two were closely related. They share the same Y chromosome and 50% of their genetic material, which is typical of a father-son relationship."
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.
- The Mystery of Unknown Man E, by Bob Brier, 2006, Archaeological Institute of America.
- Briar, Bob, "Unknown Man E, A Preliminary Examination", Bulletin of the Egyptian Museum, Volume 3, Supreme Council of Antiquities, American University in Cairo Press, 2008, pp.23-7.
- 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
- Pascal Vernus, Affairs and Scandals in Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press 2003
- James Henry Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Four, Chicago 1906