HIS DEATH in 1291 B.C., Pharaoh Ramesses I was buried in the
Valley of the Kings at Thebes in a tomb painted with images
of the ruler in the company of the gods of the underworld and
inscribed with ancient texts to protect him on his journey.
needed all the protection he could get.
founder of Egypts most distinguished family line would
face a rigorous afterlife, including tomb robbers, an ocean
voyage, nearly a century and a half at the Niagara Falls Museum
and Daredevil Hall of Fame, and restoration at Emorys
Michael C. Carlos Museum.
now, after being rescued from obscurity, Ramesses I is returning
saga of the missing Pharaoh began in 900 B.C. when, due to frequent
tomb raids in the Valley of the Kings, most royal mummies from
the New Kingdomincluding Ramesses Iwere relocated
to a secret cache for safekeeping. There they remained until
the mid-nineteenth century, when tomb robbers discovered them
and began selling off the mummies and their treasures.
word that royal objects were appearing on the art market reached
officials in Cairo. They sent agents to Thebes to investigate,
and the cache was sequestered and brought to the Egyptian Museum
in Cairobut not before some of the mummies, including
Ramesses I, were sold.
the 1860s, representatives from the Niagara Falls Museum were
in Luxor buying mummies and artifacts for display. Ramesses
Is remains, along with a number of other mummies and their
coffins and burial objects, were shipped down the Nile and across
the Mediterranean and the Atlantic to Canada, where they became
part of the eclectic collections of the Niagara Falls Museum.
museums collections were moved to five different buildings
from 1861 to 1999, ending up in a former corset factory. The
displaced Pharaoh was shown alongside waterstained Currier and
Ives prints, Japanese armor, a bedraggled collection of stuffed
animals, a whale skeleton, and the trunk of a giant redwood.
rulers including Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Queen
Victoria were among the thousands of visitors who came to peer
at the relics, never suspecting that the mummy they passed by
had once ruled over a glorious Egyptian empire that, in many
respects, rivaled their own.
1999, the Niagara Falls Museum closed its doors and sold off
its antiquities. Carlos Museum officials heard about the Egyptian
artifacts and publicly raised nearly two million dollars to
purchase the one-hundred-and-forty-five piece collection, including
collection was moved to Emory, where the mummies and several
coffins were restored by a band of conservators, Egyptologists,
and volunteers. X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans of
the mummies were taken at Emory Hospitals radiology department
to help determine their sex, age, diseases or injuries, and
cause of death.
before the mummy ultimately identified as Ramesses I arrived
at Emory, scholars had speculated that the five-foot, five-inch
male, who came unwrapped and without a coffin, was the missing
Pharaoh. In the 1980s, German Egyptologist Arne Eggebrecht examined
the mummy in Niagara Falls and suggested it could be one of
the missing royal mummies. Carlos Museum Egyptologists Peter
Lacovara and Betsy Teasley Trope began contacting specialists
worldwide to determine if this was the case.
tests to match the mummys DNA with others from the same
dynasty proved too difficult and destructive to undertake, radiocarbon
dating placed the mummys origins in the era that included
Ramesses Is rule (1293 to 1291 B.C.), and several other
clues hinted at royal status. The mummys arms were crossed
over his chest, a posture reserved only for royal mummies until
very late in Egypts history (and the advent of Hollywood
mummy movies). Also, virtual imaging showed that there was a
hardened mass of molten resin in the mummys skulla
costly material reserved for high-status embalmings.
the mummys X-rays were compared with those of Ramesses
Is son, Seti I, and his grandson, Ramesses II (the Great),
two of Egypts most legendary pharaohs, whose remains are
on view with other royal mummies at the Cairo Museum.
profile clearly showed the prominent, hooked nose and high forehead
characteristic of the Ramesside line, says Lacovara, curator
of ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern art for the Carlos
Museum. The slender build and high, arched feet are other
family traits shared by this mummy.
weight of the evidence convinced the Egyptian government of
the mummys authenticity. Zahi Hawass, head of Egypts
Supreme Council of Antiquities, accepted a longstanding offer
by Carlos Museum officials for the Pharaohs return.
officials were elated at Emorys cooperation and generosity
in offering to give the mummy to the Cairo museum, so he can
be reunited with the rest of his family, Lacovara says.
This is a gift from the people of Atlanta to the people
of Egypt. I compare it to finding George Washingtons body
abroad. Certainly, we would hope it would be sent back to the
Pharaoh will temporarily remain at the Carlos Museum from May
2003 to April 2004 as the focus of the exhibition: Ramesses
I: Science and the Search for the Lost Pharaoh.
thereafter, Ramesses I will be repatriated, with all the pomp
and circumstance due someone of his exalted rank.