Archaeologists Discover the Answer Behind the Mystery of the ‘Screaming Mummy’

Archaeologists discovered the Mystery of the ‘Screaming Mummy’
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
  • 47
  •  
  •  
  • 2
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    49
    Shares

 Over 100 years after, a group of Egyptologists, accompanied by National Geographic, reopened the case of Unknown Man E, who came to be known as the ‘Screaming Mummymystery from ancient Egypt has baffled specialists for years but the secret behind the horrifying remains has finally been resolved.

When archaeologists first uncovered the mummified body they were surprised to found the face of the long-dead Egyptian distorted in anguish, appearing to be silently screaming.

Throughout the year’s various theories had been aired in an attempt to reveal who the man was and why he seemed to have died in agony.

In 1881, an extraordinary find was revealed in an inconspicuous cavern, known as DB320, 300 miles (483km) south of Cairo in Deir El Bahri. At the end of a 45 feet (14m) vertical shaft and seemingly endless corridors, 40 mummies were found, including Unknown Man E.

At the time, the Screaming Mummy was hardly noticed for he was among probably the most legendary rulers of Egypt: Pharaoh Ramses II, Pharaoh Seti I, and Thutmose III, the Conquering Pharaoh. “These were the really big names in old Egyptian history,” said Dylan Bickerstaffe, an Egyptologist consulted by National Geographic.

The location of DB320 at Deir el Bahari, where over 40 mummies were found
The location of DB320 at Deir el Bahari, where over 40 mummies were found

They were all discovered together, removed from the splendor of their Pyramids in the Valley of the Kings. Specialists believe that at the end of the Ramesside Period, tomb robbing had become a serious concern.

Eventually, the threat became so great that the royal mummies themselves were in danger. The high priests, therefore, gathered together what royals they could and secreted them away to this distant, inauspicious burial sites.

The mummies were stripped of significant value, however, they retained the possession most precious to ancient Egyptians: their names. A body without a name had no identity and, thus, would never reach the afterlife. For this reason, few experts believe that Unknown Man E, whose sarcophagus has no identifying markers, was intentionally cursed to spend eternity in hell.

The mummy of Unknown Man E (“The Screaming Mummy”)
The mummy of Unknown Man E (“The Screaming Mummy”)

Before the revived investigation of Unknown Man E, There were 3 prominent theories as to his identity. One held that the man was an Egyptian who died while serving as a governor abroad somewhere within Egypt’s tremendous empire.

If the man had been buried by novices only partially aware of appropriate custom, it would explain the peculiar traits such as the utilization of quicklime to dry the body out.

It would also explain the goat/sheepskin spread across the body. To Egyptians, goats/sheep were impure animals and to drape their skin over a corpse was a defilement that would render the deceased unable to enter the afterlife.

However, in different parts of the world at the time, the goat/sheepskin covering was a typical part of burial customs because such pelts were often used for clothing and blankets among the living.

By the end of the documentary, this theory is discredited because of Unknown Man E’s presence with the Royals and as a result of the lack of identifying markers seems deliberate.

A second, similar, theory holds that Unknown Man E was a foreign prince who died while in Egypt. Due to the warring of disparate countries, he could not be transported safely home in time so he was buried in Egypt.

However, this does not clarify the mummy’s placement and the insulting lack of a name. The documentary shows that a CT scan of the skeletal remains indicate that the man was certainly Egyptian and his skull even had some characteristic features of Egyptian royals, such as shape, proportions, long distance of cranium from forehead to the back of the head, and an indentation on the top of the skull.

The documentary leans towards the conclusion that Unknown Man E was an individual of the royal family who fell out of favor around the time of the death of Ramses III.

This would suggest that the Screaming Man is none other than Prince Pentewere, disgraced child of the Pharaoh who was accused of plotting his father’s murder.

“Two powers were acting upon this mummy: one to get rid of him and the other to try to preserve him,” said Bob Brier, an archaeologist at the University of Long Island in New York who examined the Corpse this year.

Mummy of the Unknown Man E (“The Screaming Mummy”) found in DB320, maybe the prince Pentawer, a son of pharaoh Ramesses III of the 20th dynasty
Mummy of the Unknown Man E (“The Screaming Mummy”) found in DB320, maybe the prince Pentawer, a son of pharaoh Ramesses III of the 20th dynasty

Papyrus records tell of a trial that was held sometime around the 12 th century B.C. A wife of Ramses III, Tiye, was accused of conspiring to murder the Pharaoh and place her child, Pentewere, on the throne.

Tiye and her co-conspirators were executed. As a royal son, Pentewere was allowed to kill himself by drinking poison instead. Some believe that Tiye was the first spouse of Ramses III who had been pushed aside in favor of a younger, more beautiful wife.

The son of the second spouse, Ramses IV, would go on to rule as pharaoh after Ramses III died. There is only vague historical proof of another son ever existing. The unmarked grave would have filled as an additional, eternal punishment for the traitor.

It is only a theory however many believe that Unknown Man E had influential friends who would have ensured that he received his due after death, if only hastily. “For some reason, there was an attempt to make sure that he does not have an afterlife, and in another attempt, somebody cares about him and tried to override that,” said Brier.

This mummy’s identity was so rigorously researched due to his startling appearance. However, most Egyptologists agree that the gruesome visage is merely the result of the deceased head falling backward after death. Archaeologists intend to conduct a DNA test to affirm the familial connection between Unknown Man E and Ramses III.


SHARE THIS ARTICLE
  • 47
  •  
  •  
  • 2
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
    49
    Shares
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.