3,000-year-old Mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses II Issued a Passport to Travel to France for necessary repair

Mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses II Issued a Passport to Travel to France

3,000-year-old Mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses II Issued a Passport to Travel to France for necessary repair:

Ramesses II was one of the most powerful ruler of Ancient Egypt. He reigned in the 12th century B.C. for approximately 66 years, which was an unusually long time for a pharaoh, as the 3rd pharaoh of the 19th  Dynasty of Egypt.

Mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses II Issued a Passport to Travel to France
Mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses II Issued a Passport to Travel to France

Egyptologist of the 19th century nicknamed him “Ramesses the Great” after they found that numerous archaeological sites across modern-day Egypt, Sudan, and Palestine contained monuments, temples, palaces, and shrine built in his honor.

One of the most impressive structures built under Ramesses is the Ramesseum, a monumental memorial temple which still stands within the vast Theban necropolis.

The nickname “Great” was apparently well deserved, as historical sources prove that the mighty pharaoh governed Egypt at a time of abundance, prosperity, and military conquest.

His father, Pharaoh Seti I, known as Ramesses I, came from a non royal family and took the throne some time after the demise of Akhenaten, a pharaoh who attempted to convert Egyptians to a newly introduced monotheistic religion.

Seti I made his son a military general when little Ramesses was merely ten years old and appointed him Prince Regent when he was 14. The young prince then received extensive military training and was also given control over his own harem.

Ramesses II as a child at Cairo Museum
Ramesses II as a child at Cairo Museum

Contemporary historian are unsure at what age Ramesses inherited the throne from his father, but he likely became king in his early twenties.

During his reign, he led several successful military campaign to Syiria and Nubia (modern-day Sudan): his soldierly conduct and populist reforms made him a favorite among his subjects and no mutiny ever threatened to dethrone him.

His obsession with building and progress left a mark on Egypt in the form of intricately developed city center and architectural marvels.

Also, some of the structure built during his reign show that he was, like most pharaohs, somewhat narcissistic: at the Great Temples of Ptah near Memphis, his minions erected a giant 91 ton statue of him.

In Egypt, a statue of Ramses II
In Egypt, a statue of Ramses II

Ramesses mummy was found in 1881 in the tomb of a high priest named Pinedjem II who lived almost 400 years after the great pharaohs reign.

The mummy was likely moved from the pharaoh’s original tomb in the Valley of the Kings, designated KV7, after looter desecrated the burial chamber and the priests of the time feared that someone might even try to ruin or steal the body. Upon discovery, the body of Ramesses the Great was was in pristine condition.

His skin was entirely preserved, as well as most of the hair on his head. Since his facial features remained virtually intact, researcher compared them to the statues which represented him. They concluded that many statues accurately depicted Ramesses and his strong jaw and aquiline nose.

Due to several factors, including the humidity of the room in which Ramesses mummy was kept at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the condition of the mummy began to deteriorate.

By early 1970s it was infested with bacteria and started showing sign of decomposition. This prompted Egyptian authorities to search the world for expert Egyptologists and restorers who would be capable of preserving the ancient body. Such experts were found in France.

However, in order for Ramesses mummy to be transported to France, the long deceased pharaoh needed to have a valid passport. At that time, French laws dictated that all persons, dead or alive, needed to have valid identification documents in order to legally enter France.

Since the mummified king desperately required the help that only French experts could provide, Egyptian authoritiy issued a valid passport for Ramesses the Great. At the time when the document was officially issued, the legendary pharaoh had been dead for more than 3,000 years. The “occupation” section of the document stated “king (deceased).”

When the plane with Ramesses remains arrived in Paris, the mummy was greeted by a military procession and received full military honors. Whether dead or alive, kings who enter France on official business are entitled to such a reception. Therefore, Ramesses became the 1st pharaoh in history to hold an official Egyptian passport and to receive full military honors in France.

When the pharaoh remains were repaired, they were returned to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo where they can be visited today. Upon the mummy’s return, the remain were inspected by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and his wife, who wanted to make sure that the body of one of the icons of Egyptian history was properly refreshed. They were seemingly satisfied.

P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.