Seven of Egypt's most famous mummies and their incredible histories

Egypt is planning a royal procession of 22 mummies of pharaonic kings and queens to travel on Saturday from Cairo’s Egyptian Museum to a new home

Some of the most famous mummies in the world were found in Egypt, having been excavated from Luxor's Valley of the Kings.

Now the mummified remains of 22 ancient Egyptian kings and queens will be paraded through Cairo's streets on Saturday, in a royal procession dubbed the Pharaohs' Golden Parade.

The event is the culmination of the Ministry of Antiquities' colossal revamp of the display of its archaeological discoveries.

Its impressive mummy collection is being relocated from the 119-year-old Egyptian Museum in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to the National Egyptian Civilisation Museum in Egypt's medieval capital Fustat.

The mummies of 18 kings and four queens will travel on themed floats in order from the oldest – with Seqenenre Tao II, who reigned over southern Egypt around 1,600BC, leading the procession.

The 12th-century BC ruler Ramses IX will come in last.

Ramses II and Hatshepsut will also make the journey.

Most of the mummies have been on display in a small room in the Egyptian Museum since the 1950s.

They will now be displayed in a purpose-built environment, each with a sarcophagus.

Egypt will also inaugurate another museum near the Giza pyramids in coming months, which will house the mummy of perhaps the most famous pharaoh, Tutankhamun.

Here we look at seven famous mummies discovered in Egypt over the past 100 years.

1. Tutankhamun

Pharaoh Tutankhamun. AFP
Pharaoh Tutankhamun. AFP

In 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered the mummy of pharaoh Tutankhamun in Egypt's Valley of the Kings.

Despite several apparent grave robberies, the tomb was crammed with ancient treasures, including jewellery, gilded shrines and a solid gold funerary mask.

The discovery prompted a worldwide fascination with Egyptology.

After decades of speculating whether the child king was murdered, a computer analysis using wave penetration proved that he had died from injuries sustained while hunting.

King Tutankhamun became pharaoh at the age of nine and ruled for approximately 10 years.

The discovery of his tomb sparked the myth of the mummy’s curse when Carter’s partner and financier, Lord Carnarvon, died of an infected mosquito bite several months later.

2. Hatshepsut

People take pictures of the mummified remains of Queen Hatshepsut, ancient Egypt's most famous female pharaoh, displayed in a glass case after being unveiled at the Cairo Museum, on June 27, 2007. AFP 
Queen Hatshepsut at the Cairo Museum. AFP

Hatshepsut was one of the most prominent female figures in Egyptian history, establishing new trade routes and undertaking ambitious building projects before dying in her 50s in 1458BC after a reign of nearly two decades.

The widowed queen of the pharaoh Thutmose II, she was made regent after his death, according to custom, in 1479BC to rule for her young stepson, Thutmose III, until he came of age.

Within a few years, however, she proclaimed herself pharaoh. She was also discovered by Carter, in 1902, but her sarcophagus, unlike Tutankhamun's, was empty.

Carter unearthed a separate tomb that contained two coffins – one of the queen's wet nurse and another of an unidentified woman. In 2006, Egyptian archaeologist and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs Zahi Hawass and his team sought to determine whether the other woman could be the missing queen.

A molar tooth found in a wooden box bearing Hatshepsut’s name was a perfect fit to a gap in the mummy’s upper jaw, leading Dr Hawass to conclude that the search for Hatshepsut was over.

3. Thutmose III

Egyptian Art, Polychrome relief of Pharaoh Thutmose III (h.1490-1436 BC), Sixth pharaoh of the 18th DynastyI, New Kingdom, Part from Thutmose Temple in Deir el-Bahari, Luxor Museum, Egypt. (Photo by Prisma/UIG/Getty Images)
A relief of Thutmose III. UIG / Getty Images

Thutmose III was the son of Thutmose II; his mother was one of the king’s secondary wives or a lesser harem queen, named Isis.

Thutmose III wasted no time making a name for himself, once he was out from under the shadow of the regent-turned-pharaoh Hatshepsut.

A few months after coming to power, Thutmose III marched with an army of 20,000 soldiers to Megiddo, in modern-day northern Israel – a site better known by its Greek name, Armageddon. Scribes travelled with Thutmose III’s forces and recorded the campaign’s details, an invaluable chronicle now known as the Annals of Thutmose III.

He established a reputation as a brilliant military strategist, by transforming Egypt from an inward-looking kingdom into a triumphant, conquering nation. Historians called him the “Napoleon of Egypt”.

4. Seti I

CAIRO, EGYPT - APRIL 2006: Sethi I (1294-1279 BC), in April 2006, at Cairo Museum, Egypt. The mummy of Seti I bears witness to the mastery of mummification techniques of embalmers of ancient Egypt during the New Empire. This mummy is in fact one of the best that has been discovered. (Photo by Patrick Landmann/Getty Images)
The mummy of Seti I. Getty Images

Menmaatre Seti I (or Sethos I in Greek) was a pharaoh of the New Kingdom 19th Dynasty of Egypt, the son of Ramesses I and Sitre, and the father of Ramesses II.

In the early years of his reign, Seti led his army north to restore Egyptian prestige, which had been partly lost during the troubled years of the late 18th Dynasty.

He battled in northern Palestine and Syria and fought at least one battle with the Hittite king Muwatallis. He then concluded a peace treaty that may have established the frontier at Kadesh on the Orontes River between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains.

Seti fortified Egypt's frontier, opened mines and quarries, dug wells and rebuilt temples and shrines that had fallen into decay or been damaged. He also took over the construction of the great Karnak temple, begun by his father.

Seti’s tomb is described as the finest discovered in the Valley of the Kings.

5. Ramesses II

The mummy of Ramesses II, son of Seti I, on display at the Cairo Museum in April 2006. The mummy was discovered with the other royal mummies in the Deir el Bahari hiding place. Getty Images
The mummy of Ramesses II. Getty Images

Also known as Ramesses the Great, he was one of the most well-known Egyptian pharaohs because of his campaigns and numerous monuments.

Because of the many battles he fought, Ramesses’ body showed evidence of healed injuries and arthritis; his arteries were hardened; and he had a large dental infection that might have killed him.

Ramesses II reigned for almost 60 years and died when he was about 90. It is also said that he fathered more than 100 children.

His mummy was discovered in 1881 in the Valley of the Kings. Ramesses II's body was flown to Paris in 1974 to be treated for a fungal infection, and was issued an Egyptian passport, which listed his occupation as "King (deceased)".

6. Meritamen

Mummy of Meritamen, daughter of daughter of Nefertari and Ramesses the Great, and later Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Ramesses the Great. (Photo by Frederic Neema/Sygma via Getty Images)
The mummy of Meritamen, daughter of Nefertari and Ramesses the Great. Sygma via Getty Images

Because incestuous marriages were common in ancient empires, Meritamen was both daughter and later great royal wife of Pharaoh Ramesses the Great, along with her half-sister Bintanath.

Meritamen was a singer of Amun, priestess of Hathor, sistrum-player of Mut and a dancer of Horus, and held several titles including Magnificent in the Palace; the Beloved of the Lord of the Two Lands; The One Who Fills the Forecourt with the Scent of Her Fragrance; and Superior of the Harem of Amun-Ra. Meritamen was buried in the Valley of the Queens.

She is mostly known for her beautiful limestone statue, the White Queen, found at the Ramesseum, the temple complex her father built. She also appears on the walls of the temple of Abu Simbel, with other family members.

7. Ahmose-Nefertari

The mummy of Ahmose-Nefertari, queen of pharaoh Ahmose of the 18th dynasty. Courtesy G Elliot Smith
The mummy of Ahmose-Nefertari. Courtesy G Elliot Smith

Ahmose-Nefertari was born in the ancient city of Thebes during the latter part of the 17th Dynasty, when her grandfather Senakhtenre Ahmosea reigned.

She became the great royal wife of Ahmose I, with whom she had at least three sons. Her son Amenhotep I would eventually succeed his father to the throne.

She was also the mother of two daughters who became royal wives, Ahmose-Meritamun and Ahmose-Sitamun.

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Updated: April 5, 2021 09:59 AM

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