Ramesses I was born Pa-ra-mes-su to a noble military family from the Nile Delta. His father was a troop commander named Seti and his uncle was Khaemwaset, an army officer married to Tamwajesy, matron of the Harem of Amun. He was born during the rise and fall of the Amarna Period, which was a very turbulent period of Egyptian history.
After the death of Pharaohs Tutankhamun and Ay, General Horemheb took the throne, making Ramesses I his vizier. He had several other titles such as,
“Chief of the Archers, Master of the Horse, Commander of the Fortress, Controller of the Nile Mouth, Charioteer of His Majesty, King’s Envoy to Every Foreign Land, Royal Scribe, Colonel, General of the Lord of the Two Lands, Chief of the Seal, Transporter of His Majesty, Royal Messenger for all Foreign Countries, Chief of the Priests of all Gods.”
Ramesses I’s cartouches
Horemheb had no children so he was in search of an heir, which is found in Ramesses. This may be because Ramesses already had a son, Seti I, and grandson Ramesses II so that the rule will stay in the family. Ramesses then became the “prince of the whole country, mayor of the city, and vizier,” as it is stated on a statue of him found in Karnak.
As mentioned, Ramesses I married a woman named Sitra who also came from a military family. They had one son, who would later become Pharaoh Seti I. He probably rose to the throne when he was in his 50s, which was quite old for an ancient Egyptian king. His prenomen was Menpehtyre, meaning “Established by the strength of Ra,” though he preferred to use his personal name Ramesses, which meant “Ra bore him.”
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.
In the late 90s, a mummy was discovered that had many indications of being a royal mummy, possibly that of Ramesses I.
This mummy was purchased by Dr. James Douglas in 1861 and brought to the United States. It was then sold to Colonel Sidney Barnett, son of the founder of the Niagara Falls Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame. The mummy stayed in the museum for the next 130 years, labeled as one of the possible wives of Akhenaten, maybe even Nefertiti?
Dr. James Douglas (center)
In 1985, a German technician named Meinhard Hoffman persuaded a German television station to conduct a scientific examination of the mummy. Dr. Anne Eggebrecht examined the mummy and first discovered that it was a male. Dr. Wolfgang Pahl and his assistant Lisa Bark noted many features that could have been one of the missing New Kingdom mummies, such as the crossed arms and the hands clenched. There was also a coffin in the museum dated to the late 18th and early 19th dynasty.
The museum went under in the late 90s, and the Egyptian antiquities were purchased by the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University for 2 million dollars. Here the mummy went through CT-scanning and carbon dating. Based on the CT scans, x-rays, skull measurements, radiocarbon dating, and the overall look of the mummy, it was proposed to be the mummy of Ramesses I.
This most likely means that the Abu-Rassul family who found DB320 in 1871 (and thus put many items out on the antiquities market for years without detection) may have found the tomb almost 11 years earlier. It is thought that Ramesses I’s mummy was taken by the family and sold in 1860.
The mummy in question is 1.60 meters tall and died when he was 35 to 45 years old. It is very well preserved for his perilous journey. An incision was made in the left abdomen through which the internal organs had been removed and replaced with linen packing. The brain was extracted through the nose and the skull was filled with liquid resin. These are all typical of the late 18th and early 19th dynasties.
One of the mummy’s ears was deformed, which could have been a result of a poorly done ear piercing procedure. Although there is no other indication of how the pharaoh may have died, this ear infection could have contributed to his death.