Pharaoh killed in ‘execution ceremony’, hi-tech study concludes

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Experts believe Seqenenre Tao II was killed after being captured on battlefield 3,600 years ago

The mummy of ancient Egyptian King Seqenenre Tao II. Photograph: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian-Agence France-Presse in Cairo

A hi-tech study has offered new clues about the killing of a pharaoh who ruled Egypt 3,600 years ago, according to the country’s antiquities ministry.

Seqenenre Tao II, “The Brave”, who reigned over southern Egypt, famously led troops against the Hyksos, a dynasty of west Asian origin that had taken over the Nile Delta.

Seqenenre’s body had been examined by X-ray in the 1960s, revealing head wounds adeptly concealed by embalmers and giving rise to theories that he was killed in battle or a palace assassination.

But after conducting CT scans and producing 3D images, archaeologist Zahi Hawass and Cairo University radiology professor Sahar Salim concluded that he had been killed in an “execution ceremony” after being taken prisoner on the battlefield.

The CT scan “revealed details of the head injuries, including wounds that had not been discovered in previous examinations and had been skilfully hidden by embalmers”, the ministry of antiquities said in a statement.

The researchers then studied these injuries against various Hyksos weapons stored at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, including an axe, a spear and several daggers.

The mummy’s “deformed hands indicate that Seqenenre may have been captured on the battlefield, and his hands were tied behind his back, preventing him from deflecting the fierce attack” on his head, the statement said.

Their study, published in Frontiers of Medicine, also revealed bone scans showing that the pharaoh was about 40 when he died.

Researches have spent decades trying to decipher the death of Seqenenre, whose body was found in the late 19th century and had visible wounds on its face.

 

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