Wm. Max Miller,
Click on Anubis to learn about our logo and banners.
About Our Project
See what's new at the T. R. M. P.
Quickly Access Specific Mummies With Our
View mummies in the
Including the mummy identified as Queen Hatshepsut.
Including the mummy identified as Queen Tiye.
Featuring the controversial KV 55
mummy. Now with a revised reconstruction of ancient events in this perplexing
Featuring the mummies of Tutankhamen and his children.
Still in preparation.
Now including the
mummy identified as
21'st Dynasty Coffins from DB320
Examine the coffins
of 21'st Dynasty Theban Rulers.
Including the mummy identified as Tutankhamen's mother.
About the Dockets
Using this website for research papers
Links to Egyptology websites
Biographical Data about William Max Miller
The Treasures of Yuya and Tuyu
the funerary equipment of Queen Tiye's parents.
Raiders of KV 46
How thorough were the robbers who plundered the tomb of
Yuya and Tuyu? How many times was the tomb robbed, and what were the thieves
after? This study of post interment activity in KV 46 provides some answers.
Special KV 55 Section
Follow the trail of the missing treasures from mysterious KV 55.
55's Lost Objects: Where Are They Today?
The KV 55 Coffin Basin
and Gold Foil Sheets
Gold Foil at the Metropolitan
Mystery of the Missing Mummy Bands
See rare photographic plates of a great
discovery from Daressy's Fouilles de la Vallee des Rois.
Unknown Man E
Was he really
Tomb of Maihirpre
Learn about Victor Loret's
important discovery of this nearly intact tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
Who were the real tomb raiders?
What beliefs motivated their actions? A new perspective on the ancient practice
of tomb robbing.
Spend a Night
with the Royal Mummies
Read Pierre Loti's eerie account of
his nocturnal visit to the Egyptian Museum's Hall of Mummies.
Audience With Amenophis II Journey
once more with Pierre Loti as he explores the shadowy chambers of KV 35 in the
Most of the images on this website have been
scanned from books, all of which are given explicit credit and, wherever
possible, a link to a dealer where they may be purchased. Some images derive
from other websites. These websites are also acknowledged in writing and by
being given a link, either to the page or file where the images appear, or to
the main page of the source website. Images forwarded to me by individuals who
do not supply the original image source are credited to the sender. All written
material deriving from other sources is explicitly credited to its author.
Feel free to use material from the Theban Royal Mummy Project website.
No prior written permission is required. Just please follow the same guidelines
which I employ when using the works of other researchers, and give the Theban
Royal Mummy Project proper credit on your own papers, articles, or
This website is constantly developing and contributions
of data from other researchers are welcomed.
Contact The Theban Royal Mummy Project at:
Background Image: Wall scene from the tomb of Ramesses II (KV 7.) From Karl
Richard Lepsius, Denkmäler (Berlin: 1849-1859.)
The Strange Case of Unknown Man E
Opened December 9'th, 2000
New images added February 9, 2009
Unknown Man E (c. 1518?-1504?
Provenance: DB 320
Discovery Date: 1860? (official discovery 1881)
Current Location: Cairo Museum CG61098
Biographical data: Unknown.
Details: Few Egyptian mummies have
effected the imaginations of otherwise level-headed researchers as much as the
mummy of Unknown Man E. The first accounts of the unwrapping of this mummy bristle
with adjectives like repulsive, noxious, and hideous, all
of which indicate the strong subjective responses Unknown Man E initially produced.
Dr. Fouquet and the chemist, M. Mathey, who jointly
unwrapped the mummy on June 6, 1886, along with Gaston Maspero who supervised
the proceedings, all published reports of their findings. Mathey's report
appeared first in the Bulletin de l'Institut Egyptien in 1886, soon
after the mummy was unwrapped. This was reprinted, along with the accounts of
Maspero and Dr. Fouquet, in Les Momies Royales de Deir el Bahri
(1889.) The most recent analysis by Dylan Bickerstaffe, which
appeared in K M T (Spring, 1999), presents a concise review of these
early accounts and adopts the most rational tone.
The mummy of Unknown Man E exhibited some very unusual
features. It had been enshrouded in some fashion by a sheepskin which still
retained its white wool. The fact that wool remained on the sheepskin is an
important detail which will be discussed below. The presence of this sheepskin
has generated much speculation, primarily because Herodotus had written that
woolen garments were considered ritually unclean by the Egyptians. Bickerstaffe
points out that no dynastic burial other than Unknown Man E's has been found in
which a sheepskin was used as a shroud, and also notes that one ancient Egyptian
source, The Tale of Sinhue, does imply that burial in a sheepskin was
undesirable. Beneath this unusual sheepskin was a layer of linen wrappings
described by Maspero as a "thick network of bandages" which he dated
to the 18'th Dynasty, perhaps basing his opinion on the way they had been bound around the mummy.
Under these, the examiners found a layer of natron (NaCl and Na2CO3)
which had been applied to a second, final layer of bandages. The natron had
absorbed fat from the body and emitted a strong putrid odor.
Fouquet records that the bandages covered by natron had been
"impregnated with an adhesive substance" and could only be removed
with a saw, a method that unfortunately would have destroyed any inscriptions
which might have appeared on the bandages. He also noted the superior quality of
the linen used for the wrappings, which indicated that Unknown Man E had
probably held a high social status. Fouquet discovered that the bandages had
been held in place around the upper arms, wrists and lower legs with knotted
lengths of linen tied so tightly that they had left a definite imprint on the
skin of the upper arms. The frequently repeated misconception that Unknown Man E
had been bound with leather thongs probably derives from a misinterpretation of
Fouquet's statements about the tight linen wrappings.
Under the tightly bound second layer of bandages, the
examiners discovered another coating of a substance which Fouquet said consisted
of natron, crushed resin, and lime (CaO.) This material
had been applied directly to the skin and covered the whole body, and Maspero
commented that it had been done "with a skill that betrayed long experience
of this kind of work." Mathey described this chemical substance as
"encasing" the body, and measured its thickness as being between 0.10
and 0.15 centimeters. He also said that the substance was "extremely
caustic," which is to be expected if calcium oxide were present in the
mixture. Mathey makes the interesting observation that this substance was
hygroscopic, and that it rapidly absorbed moisture from the air. This is another
characteristic of calcium oxide, which deliquesces and becomes chemically basic
when hydrated.The fact that calcium oxide (sometimes called
"quicklime") was present in the embalming material, and that it was
found in an unslaked (unhydrated) condition when first exposed to
the air, have implications which will be discussed below.
The contorted features of Unknown Man E have inspired
imaginative speculations for over a century.
Photo Source: National Geographic Society
After removing the layer of chemicals, the examiners
discovered the body of a young man estimated to be around 23-24 years of age.
His face was contorted into a grimace and the muscles of his abdomen were
severely constricted. By making a small opening in the lower back region of the
mummy, Fouquet discovered that the internal organs were still in place contrary
to the usual Egyptian practice of removing them. The penis was also still
intact, although it was missing when G. E. Smith examined the mummy years later. Maspero
stated that Unknown Man E had been circumcised but Fouquet was not certain about
this, and believed that the glans could have been exposed (perhaps by the
pressure of the bandages?) at the time the mummy was wrapped and was not
necessarily evidence of circumcision.
Unknown Man E's ears had been pierced, and his gold
were still in place. Fouquet described them as hollow tubes "tapered at
both ends and bent back to form an ellipse" and notes that they are
identical to earrings found on the mummy of Pinudjem I. However, since
of this style were manufactured during a wide range of historical
offered little information that could be of use in dating Unknown Man
burial. Bickerstaffe mentions
the interesting fact that the embalmers had not stolen these earrings.
Two canes with
heads made out of braided reeds were also found in Unknown Man E's
significance of the canes is unknown, but Bickerstaffe relates that at
given by Geoffrey Martin, his attention was called to the fact that
Tutankhamen's treasurer, had been depicted in his tomb holding two
current location of the earrings and canes found with Unknown Man E is
not known. They may have been misplaced somewhere in the Cairo Museum,
stolen and sold on the antiquities market.
By using modern CT technology and the methods of forensic science,
Dr Caroline Wilkinson was able to reconstruct the facial features of
the enigmatic Unknown Man E.
Photo Sources: (L) METRO.co.uk. (R) Mirror.co.uk
Unknown Man E awaiting a recent re-examination by Dr. Bob Brier.
Photo Source: National Geographic Society
The Osiriform coffin in which Unknown Man E had been buried (CG61023--click
here for photo of coffin & also see recent color photo below)
was painted white and was completely undecorated. It lacked features or
inscriptions that would aid in the process of determining its date or the
identity of the mummy which it contained. According to Aidan Dodson, who
discussed the coffin with Bickerstaffe, its crossed arms became a common feature
from the 19'th Dynasty onward, but its simple headdress indicated a mid-18'th
Dynasty date. It had been made out of expensive cedar wood, and Bickerstaffe
comments on the unusual fact that it had not been appropriated for use in
another burial as had so many of the other, poorer coffins found in DB 320. He
also points out that neither the coffin or the mummy had been rifled by thieves,
perhaps because the undecorated appearance of the coffin convinced them that it
did not contain objects of any great worth.
The uninscribed coffin of Unknown Man E with inset photo of interior.
Photo Source: Pat Remler/www.archeology.org.
Several theories have been advanced to explain the
unusual features of this burial. The examiners first hypothesized that Unknown
Man E had been impaled because his perineum was badly torn. This idea was
abandoned, however, when Fouquet determined that the large intestine was
undamaged and that the anal injury must have been post mortem. The second theory
proposed that Unknown Man E had died after ingesting some kind of convulsant
poison. Based primarily on the observable constriction of the abdomen, which was
initially interpreted as evidence of violent convulsions, this theory seemed
weakened by a more thorough consideration of the manner in which the
preservative chemicals had reacted with the body tissues over time. Since the
internal organs had not been removed, they slowly shrank under the dehydrating
effect of the chemicals and consequently constricted the abdominal area.
However, as George B. Johnson pointed out to me in a recent communication, the
fact that the digestive organs contained no traces of food is also indicative of
poisoning since any stomach contents would most likely have been voided by
vomiting after the ingestion of a toxic substance.
A third theory, which remains popular to this day, was
finally proposed, namely that Unknown Man E had been buried alive, probably for
committing some terrible crime. Maspero even went so far as to suggest (in
contradiction to his earlier 18'th Dynasty dating of the mummy) that Unknown Man
E may actually be Pentewere, the 20'th Dynasty prince implicated in the famous
harem conspiracy to assassinate Ramesses
III. All the peculiar features of the burial seemed explicable given the
assumption that Unknown Man E had been buried alive. His contorted expression,
the fact that the organs had not been removed, the tightly bound wrappings, the
taboo sheepskin, and the coffin lacking in the magical spells needed to
safeguard the spirit of the deceased in the Underworld seemed to fit neatly with
the theory of premature burial. (One could even interpret the two canes
found with Unknown Man E as "bastinados" used to whip the soles of his
feet during an interrogation prior to his premature burial.)
All these theories make the following assumptions: (i.) that
Unknown Man E had been "embalmed" by Egyptians; (ii.) that his facial
expression indicated that he died in great pain; and (iii.) that the divergences
from common Egyptian funerary practices found in his burial were forms of ritual
degradation and punishment. These assumptions arose in the minds of observers
whose evaluations of the burial were demonstrably discolored by subjective
reactions to the admittedly unpleasant odor and physical appearance of the
Had Maspero, Fouquet and Mathey not been so influenced
by Unknown Man E's frightful grimace, they would have probably concluded that
the unusual features of his burial had a more plausible
explanation than the premature burial theory provided. These features seem to indicate
that Unknown Man E's mummy had been prepared by non-Egyptian embalmers who were
only partly familiar with Egyptian methods of preserving the dead, and exhibit
the kind of "mixed" characteristics that one would expect in a burial
that had occurred outside of Egypt in a territory of the Empire influenced to
some extent by
Egyptian customs. The use of natron as a preservative, the wrapping of the body
in expensive linens, and the anthropoid coffin are all classic Egyptian
elements. But the sheepskin shroud and the use of calcium oxide as a
preservative are foreign features which can be traced to funerary practices in
non-Egyptian parts of the Mediterranean.
The use of calcium oxide seems to point toward an ancient
Greek influence. In Greek, the word "sarcophagus" means "flesh
eater" and was used to designate the large stone receptacles filled with
quicklime (CaO) in which corpses were placed. Much more harsh in its desiccating
properties than natural Egyptian natron, this chemical would have been avoided
by Egyptian embalmers who wanted to preserve rather than destroy the tissues of
the body. The Greeks who used this method of treating corpses mistakenly
believed that Egyptian sarcophagi were employed for the same purpose. Whether
this use of quicklime was peculiar to the Greeks or spread throughout the
Mediterranean and Middle East is at present unknown to me.
The fact that the natron and quicklime mixture had been
carefully distributed over Unknown Man E's body is inconsistent with the idea of
premature burial. Even had he been tied and held down, the man would have
struggled as the highly caustic chemical burned and destroyed his skin, thereby
making its application far from neat. Maspero observed that those responsible
for "embalming" Unknown Man E must have had a lot of experience in
using this technique, and this further points to a non-Egyptian source for the
method of preparing the mummy. Where in Egypt could one gain such experience? No
other Egyptian mummy yet discovered was embalmed in this fashion.
The observation that the natron and lime mixture was still
able to absorb moisture from the air indicates that it had not been completely
hydrated, or saturated, by body fluids. Yet there is more than enough liquid in
the body of an adult man to saturate the quantity of the chemicals used to coat
Unknown Man E's body to the thickness measured by Mathey. Had these chemicals
become saturated, it is unlikely that the fluids absorbed by them would
have evaporated over the years since they were covered with two layers of
tightly bound bandages (with the innermost layer soaked in resins that had
hardened to form a shell-like covering.) Over these was placed the sheepskin,
and finally a coffin lid, all of which could have prevented the evaporation of
any moisture absorbed by the hygroscopic chemicals. (That substances can endure
for centuries in an aqueous condition is proven by the liquid found in the
canopic chest of IV'th Dynasty Queen
Hetepheres.) The fact that some calcium oxide was still present on Unknown
Man E in an unhydrated state suggests that it was applied after his body had
already been partly desiccated by some other means, perhaps by laying on hot
sand in sunlight. This, of course, entails that he was dead when the embalmers
The fact that wool remained on the sheepskin which enshrouded
Unknown Man E is also significant in that it proves that the hide had been
cured. (Wool, fur and hair all slough off uncured hides.) It was not simply
skinned and wrapped about the body in an untreated condition so that it would
slowly shrink and suffocate the person unfortunate enough to be encased within.
(Such a method of torture/execution was used by certain American Indian tribes,
and it is sometimes stated incorrectly that this was how Unknown Man E met his
end.) Since such sheepskins were deemed ritually unclean by the Egyptians one
must wonder where in Egypt such a commodity, which would take time, skill, and
experience to prepare, could be found. A more likely explanation for the
sheepskin is that it had been prepared outside of Egypt in a country where such
hides were valued and used in burials. In his article, Bickerstaffe points out
that the Hyksos
were buried with sheep, and that the Tale of Sinhue describes "Asiatics"
as being buried wrapped in sheepskins. This again indicates that Unknown Man E
was probably "embalmed" in a foreign country where sheepskins were
cured and employed in a funereal context.
If Unknown Man E had lain in the open for some period of
time, rigor mortis would have set in and he would have preserved the
posture in which he died. The embalmers would have experienced difficulty in
placing him in the traditional pose used in burials, and this might explain the
tightness with which the bandages had been wrapped about the body. They needed
to tightly wrap Unknown Man E in order to keep him straightened out.
Based on all these observations, it is possible to recreate a
scenerio capable of explaining Unknown Man E's burial without recourse to the
premature burial hypothesis. We know from the expensive linen wrappings, the
golden earrings, the cedar wood coffin, and perhaps the two canes (which may be
a sign of office) that Unknown Man E possessed high social rank. He may have
been an Egyptian governor or dignitary of some sort living in one of the
Palestinian outposts of the Egyptian Empire during the New Kingdom. (G. E. Smith
confirmed Maspero's first opinion by dating the mummy to the XVIII'th Dynasty,
no later than the reign of Tuthmosis II.) He may have died while hunting in the
desert, and was not found immediately. By that time, the body had stiffened into
a pose and facial expression inappropriate for burial, and had also become
semi-desiccated. The provincial embalmers did their best to preserve him in a
proper Egyptian manner, but fell back upon local embalming procedures and
funerary customs. Unknown Man E was treated by these foreign embalmers with
natron and quicklime, wrapped tightly to straighten his limbs into an acceptable
position, and given a sheepskin shroud (which may have been a mark of honor
among their race.)
Unknown Man E, like most adult Egyptians, had begun
for his funeral and already had an undecorated coffin made of locally
cedar wood. The local embalmers placed him in this coffin, and, since
probably did not know how to inscribe or decorate it in the traditional
manner, simply left it blank and shipped it, along with its occupant,
Egypt. After arriving in Egypt, the horrified Egyptian necropolis
would have discovered the offensive sheepskin. Not wishing to touch it,
decided to leave the coffin undecorated and buried Unknown Man E as
possible in his own tomb. Since he was found in the DB 320 cache, we
reasonably sure that his tomb was in the Valley of the Kings or close
the Valley to have been inspected by the necropolis officials in charge
caching the royal mummies. He had probably been held in high esteem by
monarch (Tuthmosis II?) who had granted him the privilege of a tomb in
Necropolis (much in the manner of Maihirpri.) He was discovered by the
20'th-'21'st Dynasty restorers who, considering only his rank and
sheepskin, reburied him in DB 320 with the other royal mummies.
That Maspero and his assistants did not come up with a
scenario like the one just presented is probably due to their over-dramatization
of Unknown Man E's facial expression. G. E. Smith remained entirely unmoved by
it, however, and wrote in 1912 that any number of factors could have resulted in
this type of expression at the time of death. He pointed out that other mummies
who were certainly not buried alive had similarly gaping-mouthed expressions,
and cited the mummy of Inhapi as an example. To this can be added the mummy of
Merytamen, which, according to Bickerstaffe, looks like it's howling. (Click here
to see Inhapi and
(Source Bibliography: BIE, series 2, no. 2, 1881; CCR, p. 39; DRN, pp.
200, 206, 212EMbm, pp. 67-68; KMT [Spring, 1999, vol. 10, no. 1], pp. 68-76; KMT
[Winter 1992-1993, vol. 3, no. 4], p. 28; MiAE, p. 154; MMM, pp. 66-67; MR, p.
548-551, 778-782, 782-787; RM, p. 114ff.)
Photo Credit: RM (Cairo, 1912,) pl. XCIV. For high
resolution photos of this mummy see the University of Chicago's Electronic Open
Stacks copy of Smith's Royal Mummies (Cairo, 1912,) Call #:
DT57.C2 vol59, plates XCIV
Dr. Bob Brier examines Unknown Man E. In recent years, the notion that
Unknown Man E may have been Pentaware, the Egyptian prince condemned
for conspiring to assassinate Ramesses III, has become popular once again.
Photo Source: Pat Remler/www.archeology.org.