This week’s instalment focuses on another of the Ramesside kings, Ramesses III.Ramesses III was the second pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty. He was the son of Setnakhte who was king before him. He had many children including three future kings: Ramesses IV, Ramesses VI, and Ramesses VIII.
Ramesses III ruled for around 31 years which is a relatively long rule in comparison to other ancient Egyptian kings. He is considered to be one of the last great Egyptian rulers as he maintained power over Egypt until the end of his reign when economic decline and invasions weakened the country’s power.Throughout his reign, Ramesses III managed to repel invasions from the Sea Peoples and Libyans, including two successful battles against the Sea Peoples in Year 5 of his reign. The cost of the battles contributed to the economic decline of Egypt seen at the end of Ramesses III’s reign.
Papyrus transcripts of trials held during this king’s reign indicate that there was a plot to assassinate him which was instigated by one of his wives, Tiye. Known as the ‘harem conspiracy’, the plot was developed in order to decide who would inherit the throne. Approximately thirty eight people were sentenced to death and the tombs of Tiye and her son were robbed and their names obliterated.One of Ramesses III’s greatest triumphs was his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu (above) which he completed around Year 12 of his reign. The walls are decorated with scenes depicting his victories over the invading Sea Peoples.
It is not clear whether Ramesses III was assassinated; however, he died the same year that the trial records were written. Ramesses IV succeeded him as planned. In 2011, a documentary revealed that the mummy of the king had excessive bandaging around the neck. A CT scan revealed a knife wound deep enough to reach the vertebrae, a wound that would have certainly caused death.The mummy of Ramesses III was discovered in 1886 and his tomb, KV11, is one of the largest in the Valley of the Kings. He was wrapped in an orange shroud. His body was discovered in DB320, a royal mummy cache, in a replacement cartonnage coffin which was placed inside the huge coffin of Queen Ahmose-Nefertari. His own granite sarcophagus (above) is currently housed within the Louvre and his mummy rests in the Cairo Egyptian Museum.
You can view an artists’ reconstruction of his face here: