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Ramesses I: What Happened to his Mummy?

Archeology

Ramesses I only ruled for about 16 or 17 months, either from 1292-1290 or 1295-1294 B.C.E. During his reign, he probably took care of domestic matters, while his son was in charge of undertaking military operations. Ramesses was able to complete the second pylon of Karnak Temple, which was started by Horemheb. He also ordered the provision of endowments for a Nubian temple at Buhen.

Since his rule was so short, his tomb in the Valley of the Kings was hastily finished. KV16 is located directly across from Horemheb’s tomb. It is 29 meters long with a long single corridor and one unfinished room. First, there is one long flight of stairs with an entryway. Then there is a downward corridor with smooth walls but no plaster, followed by a second stairway. This is built into the rock with two deep ledges on either side. While the next chamber would typically be a well chamber, this is where the burial chamber is.

This chamber is a very small room with an immense sarcophagus made of red granite. This was painted rather than carved, probably due to a lack of time. The chambers are decorated with depictions of the Book of the Gates, which is a funerary text from the New Kingdom. It describes the nocturnal journey of the sun through the 12 gates which create the hours of the night. The images are very distinct as they all have a blue-grey background, which is the same style as Horemheb’s tomb.

What Happened to his Mummy?

The tomb was discovered by Giovanni Belzoni in 1817. All that remained in the tomb was the damaged sarcophagus, a pair of six-foot wooden guardian statues once covered in gold foil, and some statues of underworld deities. But there was no mummy. So where was it?

The first clue was found in 1881 when the Deir el-Bahri cache was found. Here a fragmented coffin contained inscriptions telling us that the mummy of Ramesses I was removed from KV17 and placed in DB320 in Year 10, 4 prt, Day 17 of Siamun. The whole inscription on this coffin docket is below. This indicated that the priests of the Third Intermediate Period moved Ramesses I’s mummy from KV16 to KV17 before moving it to DB320. So, the mummy should be in DB320, right?. Unfortunately, not.

 

“(Yr 10 4 prt 17 of) king (nsw) Siamun. (Day of bringing king Men)pehtyre out of the (tomb of king Menmaatre-) Setymer(en)ptah (that he might be) taken into this high place (k3y) of Inhapi which is a (great pla)ce (st c3t) (and in which Amen)ophis rests, by the prophet of Amon (-Re king) of the gods Ankhefenamun son of Baky, and the god’s father of Amon (-Re king) of the gods, third prophet of Khonsemwast-Neferhotep, the scribe of off(erings of the house of Amon-Re) king of the gods, sm-priest of the temple of (Usermaatre-Setepenre) in the house of Amun, general of Tasetmerydjhuty, scribe and chief agent Nespakashuty son of Bak(en)khons. Afterwards Mut, the one having the authority over the great place (st wrt) said: (That which was in good condition in my care…)”

In the late 90s, a mummy was discovered that had many indications of being a royal mummy, possibly that of Ramesses I.

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