Niagara Falls Daredevil Museum and Ramses I
In Response To: The mummy of Ramses I ()

"Museum says mummy is King Rameses"

by John Harlow, Los Angeles and Steve Negus, Cairo
(no longer posted on the web)

SCIENTISTS at a museum in America are convinced that a hitherto anonymous mummy may turn out to be the long-lost remains of King Rameses I, the founder of one of Egypt's most famous dynasties. In a foretaste of possible battles to come, however, Egyptian officials have said that if the discovery is confirmed, they will want Rameses back.

The king's body is believed to have been stolen from his tomb shortly after his death more than 3,000 years ago. But Egyptologists at the Michael C Carlos Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, are increasingly convinced he is among nine mummies it bought two years ago for 1.5m from the Niagara Falls Daredevil Museum. The nine had been brought to Canada in 1861 by an American who had apparently acquired them from grave robbers.

X-rays of the mummies showed that one bore a striking resemblance to the family of rulers known as the 19th dynasty. The mummy thought to be Rameses will not take pride of place in the Atlanta museum, however, unless DNA tests on his teeth match him with the mummies of his children in Cairo.

The Egyptian authorities may still block such tests. Earlier this year they prevented Japanese experts from extracting DNA from Tutankhamen on the grounds of "national security"; one Egyptian magazine suggested it was because they feared Israel would use the tests to suggest the boy pharaoh was related to Hebrew patriarchs.
Rameses was born in the flourishing Nile delta in about 1350 BC. The son of a local troop commander, he did not have royal blood. But when the childless pharaoh Horemheb fell mortally ill, Rameses was the logical strongman to succeed him. He ruled for only a year, but during that time he decorated the massive temple complex at Karnak, reopened the lost turquoise mines in the Sinai desert and took on Egypt's arch enemies, the Hittites, in a serious of brief but bloody campaigns.

His supposed discovery has caused great excitement among Egyptologists. Catharine Roehrig, Egyptian curator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, said Rameses I was an important figure in the history of the ancient world.

"He brought stability to the region, and his family, especially his grandson, are probably the great kings mentioned in the Bible in the stories of Moses," she said. "That's why so many modern people are fascinated by the 19th dynasty."

Peter Lacovara, the curator of ancient art at the Atlanta museum, said he and his colleagues had been convinced of the identity of mummy No 1999.1.4 when he looked at the x-rays. "There are striking family resemblances," he said.

The mummy thought to be Rameses was about 5ft 5in tall, balding and, most distinctively, had the large fleshy nose known as the "Ra hook-nose" that runs through the 150 years that his family ruled Egypt. Inside his wrappings, his arms are crossed and his toes separated by gold plates, a ceremony reserved for royalty.

Representatives of the Egyptian government have been invited to Alanta this weekend, but it could prove a delicate occasion. Egypt lays claim to any antiquity that was taken from it illegally. "If this is Rameses I, then he is the greatest pharaoh not on his native soil and we would want both him and the other mummies back in Cairo," said one Egptyian diplomat. "We want all stolen artefacts returned, and these were not exported legally."

The Atlanta millionaires who raised the money to buy the mummies may not agree. "If the Egyptians ask for Rameses back, do not mind the rest of them, there will be hell to pay," said one local observer. "You do not rob a Southern businessman like that."