Pentawer (Unknown Man E):
Pentawer (or Pentaweret) was an ancient Egyptian prince of the 20th dynasty, a son of Pharaoh Ramesses III and a secondary wife, Tiye. He was involved in the so-called “harem conspiracy“, a plot to kill his father and place Pentawer on the throne. He either killed himself or was executed following the assassination attempt.
Pentawer was to be the beneficiary of the harem conspiracy, probably initiated by his mother Tiye to assassinate the pharaoh. Tiye wanted her son to succeed the pharaoh, even though the chosen heir was a son of the chief queen Iset Ta-Hemdjert. According to the Judicial Papyrus of Turin Pentawer was among those who were made to stand trial for their participation in the conspiracy. It is likely that he was forced to kill himself. The papyrus refers to this laconically:
They [i.e. the judges] left him in his place, he took his own life.
Historian Susan Redford speculates that Pentawer, being a noble, was given the option to kill himself by taking poison and so be spared the humiliating fate of some of the other conspirators who would have been burned alive with their ashes strewn in the streets. Such punishment served to make a strong example since it emphasized the gravity of their treason for ancient Egyptians who believed that one could only attain an afterlife if one’s body was mummified and preserved — rather than being destroyed by fire.
“In the mind of the ancient Egyptian. … To cover with sheepskin means he was not clean, he did something [bad] in his life,” Hawass added.
Pentewere could have been sentenced to death by poison, after the murderous plans were revealed, according to Hawass and Brier.
The Unknown Man E was found without a grave marking, which would have prevented him from reaching the afterlife—a possible additional punishment for being part of a murder plot.
However, the denial of an afterlife contradicts careful mummification—something usually reserved for celebrated members of society, said Brier.
Brier, a mummification expert, believes the Unknown Man E was mummified quickly because he did not have his brain or internal organs removed, nor was he completely dehydrated. Additionally, crude methods were used for his mummification.
“[Resin] is normally introduced into the cranium after removing the brain,” he explained. But in the case of the Screaming Mummy, new research has shown that resin was poured down the corpse’s throat.
“That’s kind of a half-hearted or desperate attempt,” Brier said.
So why wasn’t the body simply disposed of without mummification? An influential person could have cared about the body and made sure it was at least hastily mummified, rather than thrown away.
Left: Ramesses III, known as “the Great God,” was found in the royal cache at Deir el-Bahari, one of the most beautiful temples in Egypt. Right: The mummy of “unknown man E,” who was also found at Deir el-Bahari. His contorted expression, unusual mummification process, and goat skin were noted during the unwrapping of the mummy in 1886. He maybe Ramesses III’s son, Pentawere. All images courtesy of Albert Zink,and Julia Reichert, European Academy of Bolzano/Bozen (EURAC) in Bolzano, Italy. Credit for both images: Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du Caire: The Royal Mummies. Le Caire: Imprimerie de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 1912 Catalogue General Antiquites Egyptiennes du Musee du Caire DT57.C2 vol 59 (public domain).