Dr. Zahi Hawass, the famous Egyptologist and the former Minister of the Egyptian Antiquities, together with Dr. Sahar Saleem, the Professor of Radiology at Cairo University and specialized in scanning the mummies, were able to solve the mystery of the “The Mummy of the Screaming Woman” from the Royal Cache in Deir el-Bahari, in their recently published scientific study. The CT study of the mummy conducted by the two Egyptian scientists revealed that severe atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries led to sudden death of the Egyptian princess with a heart attack. The ancient Egyptian embalming process preserved the posture of the princess at the moment of death for nearly three thousand years.
The Royal Cache of Deir el-Bahari was discovered in 1881, in Luxor, where the priests of the 21st and 22nd Dynasties hid royal members from previous Dynasties to protect them from grave robbers. The Royal Cache of Deir el Bahari contained the "Mummy of the Screaming Man”. Recent studies using CT scans and DNA, performed by Dr Zahi Hawass and the scientific team of the Egyptian Mummy Project, proved that "Mummy of the Screaming Man" is for the prince Pentawere, son of King Ramses III, who was forced to commit suicide by hanging as a punishment for his involvement in the killing of his father, in what is known as the harem Conspiracy. The murderous son was punished by not embalming his body and wrapping it with a sheep skin, which indicates that he was considered "unclean" and to be his fate in hell in the hereafter. At a time when other mummies were wrapped in white linen and carefully mummified.
The same Royal Cache in Deir el-Bahari also contained a mummy of a woman showing signs of terror, pain and opened mouth as if screaming, hence known as the "Mummy of the Screaming Woman".
What is the truth about the "Mummy of the Screaming Woman”? How did she die? And why the mummy looked different than the rest of the royal mummies? And did this screaming woman meet the same fate as Pentaware, so she was punished with death and was not embalmed in a royal way like the rest of the princesses? To solve this mystery, Dr. Zahi Hawas and Dr. Sahar Saleem, carried out this study and examined “Mummy Women Screaming” with CT machine (Siemens) located in Tahrir Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
Who was this Screaming Woman?
Writings in the ancient hieratic Egyptian language on the linen wraps of “The Mummy of the Screaming Woman” read: “The royal daughter, the royal sister of Meret Amon.” However, the mummy was considered unknown and was thus designated the “Mummy of the Unknown Woman A” as there were many princesses with the same name, for example: Meret Amun, daughter of King Seqenenre of the end of the seventeenth Dynasty 1558- 1553 BC), and also Meret Amun, daughter of King Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC) from the Nineteenth Dynasty.
The results of CT scan performed by Dr. Zahi Hawass and Dr. Sahar Saleem indicate that the “Mummy of the Screaming Woman” is for a woman who died in her sixth decade. Unlike Pentawere, the body of the “Mummy of the Screaming Woman” has received a good mummification treatment. The embalmers removed the viscera, placed expensive materials such as resin and scented spices within the body cavity, and wrapped the mummy in pure white linen. Consequently, it’s obvious that the circumstances of the death of the "Mummy of the Screaming Woman” were different from the "The Mummy of the Screaming Man” Pentawere. ". Then why the ancient embalmers could not put the princess’s body in the state of lying down straight, and why were unable to secure her mouth closed as was usual with the other royal mummies? What happened, preventing the embalmers from completing their mission ??
Computerized tomography (CT) results indicate that “The Mummy of the Screaming Woman’” suffered from severe degree of atherosclerosis which affected many arteries of the body. Atherosclerosis is a degenerative disease that progressively affects the arterial wall, leading to a narrowing of the cavity and blockage of the vessel. Arteriosclerosis can be determined in a CT scan as areas of high calcification within the arterial walls, which can be identified according to the location of the artery.
Previous studies by Dr. Zahi Hawas and Dr. Sahar Saleem on the ancient Egyptian royal mummies documented atherosclerosis in some of them. Ancient Egyptian medicine knew “heart attack” and linked it to death. The 3500 year old ancient Egyptian medical papyrus, Ebers, describes what seems to be ‘heart attack’ and links it to death: ‘when you examine a man, who has pains in his stomach, who has pains in his arm and chest on the side of his stomach, wherefore one says: That is the wAD-sickness (heart attack?). Then you should say to that: Death is nearing him’.
CT scan of ‘The Mummy of the Screaming Woman” or "Mummy of Unknown Woman A" showed that she suffered from atherosclerosis of the right and left coronary arteries, neck arteries, abdominal aorta and iliac arteries, as well as the arteries of the lower extremities.
Cardiac diseases, especially coronary artery disease, are the leading cause of sudden death in adults nowadays in several clinical studies.
In their study, Dr Hawass & Dr Saleem assume that ‘The Screaming Woman’ had a massive heart infarction resulted in sudden death. In such condition in modern medicine, clot-busting drugs and coronary angioplasty would have been indicated to prevent or limit damage to the heart muscle.
It seems that the “ Screaming Woman” died suddently while on her current body posture with flexed crossed legs. Consequent to death, her head was tilted to the right side and her jaw dropped. We assume that the dead body of “The Screaming Woman” might not have been discovered until hours later, enough to develop death spasm. Stiffening of muscles and joints following death is termed death spasm (rigor mortis); it starts few minutes to several hours postmortem. The contracted muscles become rigid without being able to relax until the body starts to decompose.
We assume that the embalmers likely mummified the contracted body of the “Screaming Woman” before it decomposed or relaxed. The embalmers were thus unable to secure the mouth closed or put the contracted body in the state of lying down, as was usual with the other mummies, thus preserving her facial expression and posture at the time of death. The CT scan showed that the embalmers did not extract the mummy’s brain; the desiccated brain is seen in the skull cavity shifted towards the right because of the tilted head postmortem.
Previous scientific studies by Dr. Zahi Hawas and Dr. Sahar Saleem on The Egyptian Royal Mummies using CT scans helped to define the features of embalming in different Dynasties. This study suggests by observing the characteristics of the embalming method of the "Mummy of the Screaming Woman", such as the lack of extraction of the brain, that it might have been Meret Amun, the daughter of King Seqenenre of the end of the seventeenth Dynasty (1558 - 1553 BC) rather than being Meret Amun the daughter of King Rameses II (1279-1213 BC) ) from the nineteenth Dynasty. Dr. Zahi Hawas will recommence soon the Egyptian Mummy Project with Dr Sahar Saleem and the rest of the scientific team to carry CT studies and DNA tests on the “Mummy of the Screaming Woman” and other royal mummies; the results are anticipated to help confirm the identity of the “Mummy of the Screaming Woman”.
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