this royal mummy came to be purchased, restored, and identified
as a pharaoh by Emorys Michael C. Carlos Museum before
being returned to Egypt is an unlikely tale that involves tomb
robbers, ocean voyages, a somewhat undignified sojourn in Niagara
Falls, and some high-tech detective work.
in the Nile delta city of Avaris in approximately 1350 B.C.,
Pa-Ramessu was the son of a judge and troop commander who rose
through the ranks of the military to become the most trusted
adviser of the army commander Horemheb, who assumed control
of Egypt at a time when the royal family was in disarray and
the country had been torn apart by religious reforms. Horemheb,
who had no heir, appointed his confidante to be king upon his
death. Pa-Ramessu assumed the royal name Ramesses, meaning eternal
is the strength of Ra, Ra has fashioned him. Ra, the sun
god, was the most powerful deity in the Egyptian pantheon.
nearly sixty years old when he became king in 1293 B.C., Ramesses
I ruled the Kingdom of Upper and Lower Egypt from Luxor, formerly
the Greek city of Thebes, for just two years. Still, he begat
one of the most illustrious dynasties in Egypts New Kingdomthe
Nineteenth Dynasty. The best known of the Ramesside line is
Ramesses Is grandson, Ramesses II (Ramesses the
Great), whose reign lasted almost seventy years and whose
dominion stretched from modern-day Sudan to Syria.
his death in 1291 B.C., Ramesses I was interred in the Valley
of the Kings at Thebes, burial site for most rulers of the New
Kingdom. Around 900 B.C., the royal mummies were relocated to
a secret cache hidden in the cliffs for safekeeping. There they
remained until the mid-nineteenth century, when tomb robbers
discovered them and began selling off the mummies and their
1860, Quebec physician and world traveler James Douglas was
in Luxor as a representative of the Niagara Falls Museum, buying
mummies and artifacts for display. In writing about the trip,
Douglas makes reference to the purchase of an exceptionally
high-quality mummy in double cases, for Mr. Barnett, of
Niagara Museum, for seven pounds.
the next one hundred and forty years, this mummy and several
others held court at the Niagara Falls Museum in Ontario, where
in their prime they attracted thousands of visitors, including
such dignitaries as Abraham Lincoln, Queen Victoria, and Theodore
Roosevelt. The museum later became the Niagara Falls Museum
and Daredevil Hall of Fame and moved into an old corset factory,
where the mummies took their place beside such curiosities as
the skeleton of a humpback whale, Japanese armor, the trunk
of a giant redwood, a preserved two-headed calf, and barrels
used by thrillseekers who rode them down the falls. In 1999,
facing declining crowds, the museum decided to close up shop.
off by Canadian colleagues that the Niagara Falls Museum might
be interested in selling its Egyptian collection, Carlos Museum
curator Peter Lacovara paid a visit to Ontario. In addition
to ten mummies and nine coffins, Lacovara discovered canopic
jars, jewelry, bronze sculptures, amulets, relief fragments,
and other high quality funerary art.
heard rumors about this collection for years, says Lacovara,
an Egyptologist and the museums curator of Ancient Egyptian,
Nubian, and Near Eastern Art. It was amazing to see how
many artifacts there wereand how beautiful they were.
then-museum director Anthony G. Hirschel, The quality
is such that it would put the Carlos on par with the great collections
of the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Museum of Fine
Arts in Boston.
asking price was two million dollars. Faced with a deadline
of just seven days to amass the funds, museum officials turned
to the public for help in a campaign that played out in the
pages of the Atlanta Constitution. The communitys
response was immediate and generous. Kindergarten classrooms
broke open their piggy banks; people walked into the museum
with ten dollar bills to help buy the mummies. The
largest single donation, $1 million, was given by Fidelity Bank
President Jim Miller and his wife, Emory alumna Karina Lichirie
Miller 61C. At weeks end, $1,725,000 had been raisedenough
to secure a commitment from the collections owner to sell
the antiquities to Emory. By the summer of 1999, the 145 artifacts
from Niagara Falls were purchased for the full price and became
part of the Carlos Museums holdings as the Charlotte Lichirie
Collection of Ancient Egyptian Art, named in honor of Karina
team led by Carlos conservator Thérèse OGorman
spent two years painstakingly repairing and restoring the mummies,
coffins, and other artifacts. In 2001, the Lichirie collection
became the centerpiece of the museums newly expanded Ancient
Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern galleries.
all very exciting, said Karina Miller, who fully approved
of returning the mummy to Egypt if he turned out to be royalty.
It's certainly a departure from normal museum conduct,
to be giving something away.
years, scholars had suspected that the Niagara Falls collections
five-foot, five-inch male mummy was a king. In the 1980s, German
Egyptologist Arne Eggebrecht visited the mummy in Ontario and,
after viewing the style of mummification and hearing the story
of its purchase in Egypt, suggested that the unwrapped body
might actually be that of a New Kingdom pharaoh. With the mummy
in Atlanta, Lacovara and other experts had the chance to study
it up close, with all the high-tech resources a major research
university could offer.
remarkable state of preservation and the care with which it
was made indicated that this was no ordinary mummy, Lacovara
said. And the prominent hooked nose and high forehead
were characteristic of the Ramesside line.
dating placed the mummys origins in the era that included
Ramesses Is rule. X-rays showed a large mass of costly
resin in the mummys skull, an indication of high-status
embalming. Also, the mummys arms were crossed over its
chest in a posture reserved for royal mummies. Computed tomography
scans by Emorys Department of Radiology allowed a virtual
tour through the body, without damaging the mummified remains
(to view, go to www.carlos.emory.edu/
RAMESSES). DNA tests, which could have provided the ultimate
proof, were deemed too destructive and too unreliable to be
undertaken. The evidence was largely circumstantialyet
Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypts Supreme Council
on Antiquities, who was initially quite skeptical about the
odds of a pharaoh being discovered outside Egypt, is now convinced
that the mummy is definitely royal and most probably Ramesses
I. When I came to the museum in May, I was ten feet away,
and I felt he was a king, said Hawass, who in addition
to being Egypts head archeologist is also a National Geographic
Society Explorer-in-Residence. When I saw him, I was sure.
than 115,000 museum-goers had a similar opportunity to see the
mummy last summer at the Carlos Museum and form their own opinions.
When the exhibition Ramesses I: The Search for the Lost
Pharaoh closed on September 14, preparations for the royal
mummys return to his homeland began.
felt all along that if an investigation did prove his identity
as one of the great pharaohs of ancient Egypt, it was only fitting
and proper that he rejoin the others in Cairo, Lacovara
said. Were happy to see him go back.
Emory repatriates Ramesses I