A CT scan recently performed on the mummy of Pharaoh Seqenenre-Taa II mummy has offered glimpses to his heroic death for the sake of reunifying Egypt in the 16th century BC., as well as his embalmers’ attempt to conceal some of his head wounds.
In a research paper published on February 17th in the scientific journal “Frontiers in Medicine”, archaeologist Dr. Zahi Hawass, former Minister of Antiquities, and Dr. Sahar Saleem, Professor of Radiology at the Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University examined the mummy of Seqenenre-Taa II by Computed tomography (CT scan).
King Seqenenre-Taa II, The Brave, ruled southern Egypt during the occupation of the country by the Hyksos, a foreign ruling dynasty that seized the delta in northern Egypt for about a century (1650-1550 BC). The
mummy of Seqenenre was discovered in Deir al-Bahri Royal Cache in 1881
and was examined for the first time. In the 1960s, the mummy was studied
by X-ray. These examinations indicated that the deceased King had suffered several severe head injuries; however, there were no injuries to the rest of the body.
Theories have differed as to the cause of the death of the King, as some believed that the king was killed in a battle, perhaps by the hands of the Hyksos king himself. Others indicated that Seqenenre may have been killed by a conspiracy while sleeping in his palace. Due to the poor condition of the mummy, some suggested that the mummification may have taken place in a hurry away from the royal mummification workshop.
CT scan technology is one of the medical imaging techniques used to study archaeological remains, including mummies, safely and non-invasively, which helps to preserve them. CT scans helped study many Egyptian royal mummies and determine the age at death, sex, as well as how they died.
In their research, Hawass and Saleem presented a new interpretation of the events before and after the death of King Seqenenre, based on two- and three-dimensional CT image reconstruction using advanced computer technologies. The deformed hands indicate that Seqenenre may have been captured on the battlefield, and his hands were tied behind his back, preventing him from deflecting the fierce attack from his face. CT scan of Seqenenre mummy revealed details of the head injuries, including wounds that had not been discovered in previous examinations and had been skillfully hidden by embalmers.
The research included a study of various Hyksos weapons stored at the
Egyptian Museum in Cairo, including an axe, a spear, and several daggers. Saleem and Hawass confirmed the compatibility of these weapons with the wounds of Seqenenre. The results indicate that Seqenenre was killed by multiple hits from different angles by several Hyksos attackers who used
different weapons. Seqenenre was rather killed in a ceremonial execution in a way first proposed by Egyptologist Dr. Garry Shaw back in 2009.
This, according to Hawass and Saleem indicates that Seqenenre was really on the front line, risking his life with his soldiers to liberate Egypt.
Hawass and Saleem, have used CT-scans to examine several royal mummies, including reputable warriors such as Thutmose III and Ramses II. However, Seqenenre appears to be the only one among them who was on the front line of the battlefield.
The CT study also determined that Seqenenre was about forty years old at the time of his death, based on the shape of the bones (such as the pubic
symphysis joint) providing the most accurate estimate to date.
In addition, this study revealed important details about the embalming of the body of Seqenenre. For example, embalmers used a sophisticated method of hiding wounds on the king’s head under a layer of embalming material that works similarly to the fillings used in modern plastic surgery. This means that the mummification was actually done in a royal mummification workshop rather than a poorly prepared place, as was previously suggested.
Overall, the study has provided important new details about a pivotal point in Egypt’s long history. The death of Seqenenre stimulated his successors to continue the struggle to unify Egypt and to found the New Kingdom. A wooden writing board inscribed in hieratic known as the Carnarvon Tablet which had been reportedly found in the Temple of Karnak at Thebes (modern Luxor), records the battles fought by Kamose, son of Seqenenre, against the Hyksos. With Kamose also dying during the war against the Hyksos, it was Ahmose, the second son of Seqenenre, who completed the expulsion of the Hyksos. He fought them, defeated them, and reunited Egypt.