17 Apr 2021

RANDOM Times •

To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

Ramesses II: the first (and probably the last) mummy to receive a passport!

3 min read

Ramesses II is often considered the greatest pharaohs of ancient Egypt: he reigned for over 60 years and his achievements were not matched by the pharaohs who preceded or succeeded him. And, even after death, Ramesses II continued to be unique. How do you move a mummy over 3,000 years old from one country to another? In Ramesses’ case, in 1974, his remains were equipped with a valid passport of Egyptian nationality!

It all began in 1974, when Egyptologists working for the Egyptian Museum in Cairo noticed that the pharaoh’s mummy was deteriorating at an alarming rate, and decided to sent it to France for an examination. But there was a problem: apparently, under Egyptian law, even dead individuals are required to have the proper documents before they are allowed to leave the country. It has also been claimed that these documents would provide the pharaoh with the legal protection required to ensure his safe return to the country and It may have been feared that once in France, the mummy of the pharaoh would not be allowed to leave.
Thus, Ramesses II was issued a passport by the Egyptian government, and was the first (and probably the last) mummy to receive one. Apart from having a photo of Ramesses II’s face, the passport is also notable for listing the occupation of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh as “King (deceased)”, but also the date of birth, 1303 before Christ, with a validity of 7 years, until 1981. So, the mummy of Ramesses II left Egypt in 1976, and when it arrived in France, it was received at the Paris–Le Bourget Airport with the full military honors befitting a king.
The mummy was then transported to the Paris Ethnological Museum, where it was examined: the deterioration of the mummy was caused by a fungal infection, and it was given the appropriate treatment to avoid total decay.

Historically, Ramses II was the 3rd pharaoh of the 19th dynasty, and reigned from 1279 to 1213 BC for 66 years, remaining alive until the age, at the time absolutely a record, of 90/91 years. To understand the scope of Pharaoh’s reign, his subjects were innumerable who were born, died and had children, who in turn were born and died and had children during his reign, consuming their own life (which had an expectation of 30 years or little more) during the span of time than that, very long, of the “divine” Ramses. Subjects who believed that the world would end with the death of Pharaoh.
Apart from his long reign, Ramesses II is notable also for various achievements during his lifetime. He campaigned successfully against the enemies of Egypt, including the Hittites in Anatolia and the Nubians to the south of Egypt. Additionally, Ramesses II constructed many remarkable monuments that have survived till this day like Abu Simbel and the Ramesseum.

Like many of the New Kingdom pharaohs, Ramesses II was buried in the Valley of the Kings, on the west bank of the Nile. Sometime later, however, the mummy of the pharaoh was transferred by Egyptian priests to the mummy cache of Deir el-Bahri, where it remained until its discovery in 1881. The pharaoh’s remains was placed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo in 1885, where returned after the restoration and conservation work in France.

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