Written by Ashton Snyder on
 May 31, 2024

Ancient Pharaoh's Sarcophagus Found After Millennia

The sarcophagus of Ramses II, ancient Egypt's most celebrated pharaoh, has been discovered in a monastery in east-central Egypt over 3,000 years after his death, revealing insights into its historical reuse.

According to Daily Mail, Ramses II, who reigned from 1279 to 1213 BC, is celebrated for his grandiose contributions to Egypt's architectural heritage, including erecting monumental statues and buildings. The recent discovery of his sarcophagus, though initially housing the remains of a high priest, underscores the practice of reusing royal burial objects.

Egyptologist Frédéric Payraudeau from Sorbonne University made this pivotal discovery in May 2024. The unearthing became possible after Payraudeau identified an inscription on a granite fragment excavated in Abydos in 2009, distinctly stating "of Ramses II himself."

Reuse Of Royal Burial Objects Revealed

The discovery also brought to light that Menkheperrê, a high priest, had repurposed the sarcophagus, embedding additional engravings. Ramses II was a formidable ruler, leading numerous military campaigns and expanding Egypt's dominion.

Payraudeau noted his initial reservations: "When I read these results, I was overcome with doubt. I asked my American colleague if I could re-study the file, which he accepted given the complexity of this case."

His further analysis revealed that a cartouche, previously thought to belong to Menkheperrê, actually dated back to the original burial and identified Ramses II. "The royal cartouche contains the coronation name of Ramses II, which is specific to him, but this was masked by the condition of the stone and by a second engraving, added during the reuse," Payraudeau explained.

Advancements In Facial Reconstruction

Researchers have recently made strides in reconstructing the pharaoh's visage in a related development. In 2022, scientists from Egypt and England used a 3D model of Ramses II's skull to recreate his facial features.

Sahar Saleem, an Egyptian scientist, expressed how the reconstruction altered her perception: "His mummy's face influenced my imagination of the face of Ramesses II. However, the facial reconstruction helped to put a living face on the mummy."

Saleem added, "I find the reconstructed face is a very handsome Egyptian person with facial features characteristic of Ramesses II – the pronounced nose, and strong jaw."

Combining Technology With Archaeology

Caroline Wilkinson, who is involved in the reconstruction process, detailed the technique used:

We take the computer tomography (CT) model of the skull, which gives us the 3D shape of the skull that we can take into our computer system. Then we have a database of pre-modeled facial anatomy that we import and then alter to fit the skull.

Wilkinson further explained, "Essentially, we're constructing the face layer by layer—from the skull surface, through the muscle structure, the fat layers, and finally the skin."

This integration of archaeological discoveries with cutting-edge technology has deepened our understanding and connection to the ancient ruler. "By reconstructing the face of the king's mummy, we humanize him, forming a bond and restoring his legacy," said Saleem.

The recent discovery of Ramses II's sarcophagus enhances our knowledge of ancient Egypt and highlights the complexity of the reuse of historical artifacts. Payraudeau's research supports this narrative, showing evidence of looting and the subsequent reappropriation of these valuable items.

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About Ashton Snyder

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