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Head of the "Unknown Man E" mummy, likely identified as Pentawer(Smith 1912).

Dynasty 20th Dynasty
Titles King's Son
Father Ramesses III
Mother Tiye
Burial TT320 (reburial)

Pentawer or Pentaweret (ancient Egyptian: pn-tꜣ-wr) was an ancient Egyptian Prince of the Twentieth Dynasty during the New Kingdom. He was a son of Pharaoh Ramesses III by a secondary wife named Tiye. He was involved in the so-called "Harem Conspiracy", a plot to kill his father and place him on the throne.

Harem conspiracy[]

Main article: Harem Conspiracy.

The actual name of this prince is unknown, "Pentawer" being a pseudonym given to him on the Judicial Papyrus of Turin.[1] The Papyrus recorded the conspiracy against Ramesses III, in which several people in high positions in the pharaoh's government were involved. His mother Tiye, including other conspiritors, wanted to kill the king. Pentawer was to be the beneficiary of the harem conspiracy, possibly initiated by his mother Tiye, to assassinate the pharaoh.[2] Tiye wanted her son to succeed the pharaoh, even though the chosen heir was a son of principal wife, Queen Tyti.[3] According to the Judicial Papyrus, Pentawer was among those who were made to stand trial for their participation in the conspiracy. He was sentenced to death by suicide:

"Pentawere, to whom had been given that other name. He was brought in because he had been in collusion with Teye, his mother, when she had plotted the matters with the women of the harem concerning the making rebellion against his lord. He was placed before the butlers in order to be examined; they found him guilty; they left him where he was; he took his own life."[4]

James Henry Breasted argued that Pentawer "was in all probability only an unfortunate tool" in the conspiracy.[5] Susan Redford speculates that Pentawer, being a noble, was given the option to kill himself by taking poison and so be spared the humiliating fate of some of the other conspirators who would have been burned alive with their ashes strewn in the streets. Such punishment served to make a strong example since it emphasized the gravity of their treason for ancient Egyptians who believed that one could only attain an afterlife if one's body was mummified and preserved — rather than being destroyed by fire. In other words, not only were the criminals killed in the physical world, but they also did not attain an afterlife. They would have no chance of living on into the next world, and thus suffered a complete personal annihilation. By killing himself, Pentawer could avoid the harsher punishment of a second death. This could have permitted him to be mummified and move on to the afterlife.[6] A recent study of the remains of 'Unknown Man E' which are a candidate for his suggest that he died by strangulation or hanging. If the remains indeed are his, then he would have been about 18-20 years old at the time of his death.[7]



Mummy of the "Unknown Man E", likely identified as Pentawer (Smith 1912).

In recent times, the Egyptologist Bob Brier has revived the old hypothesis that the famed mummy of the "Unknown Man E" found in the royal cache at Deir el-Bahari might, indeed, be Pentawer.[8] The mummy is very unusual because it appears to have been embalmed quickly, without removing the brain and viscera, and to have been placed in a cedar box, the interior of which had to be crudely hacked to widen it. Brier hypothesizes that Pentawer was mummified very rapidly and placed in an available coffin, likely by a relative, in order to give him a proper burial.[9]

Subsequent DNA analysis supports the theory that the mummy was a son of Ramesses III as they both share the paternal Y-DNA haplogroup E1b1a and half their DNA.[7]


  1. Breasted 1906, § 421.
  2. Vernus 2003, p. 108.
  3. Collier et al. 2010, p. 242-247.
  4. De Buck 1937, p. 156.
  5. Breasted 1906.
  6. Redford 2002.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hawass et al. 2012, p. 39–40.
  8. Brier 2006.
  9. Brier 2008, p. 23-27.


  • Breasted, J.H., 1906: Ancient Records of Egypt: Part 4. Chicago.
  • Brier, B., 2006: The Mystery of Unknown Man E. Archaeological Institute of America.
  • Brier, B., 2008: Unknown Man E, A Preliminary Examination. Bulletin of the Egyptian Museum, Vol. 3. Supreme Council of Antiquities, American University in Cairo Press.
  • Buck, A. de, 1937: The Judicial Papyrus of Turin. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 23, No. 2.
  • Collier, M./Dodson, A./Hamernik, G., 2010: P. BM 10052, Anthony Harris and Queen Tyti. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 96.
  • Dodson, A./Hilton, D., 2004: The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson, London.
  • Hawass, Z./Ismail, S./Selim, A./Saleem, S.N/Fathalla, D./Wasef, S./Gad, A.Z/Saad, R./Fares, S./Amer, H./Gostner, P./Gad, Y.Z./Pusch, C.M./Zink, A.R, 2012: Who killed Ramesses III?. BMJ: British Medical Journal, Vol. 345, No. 7888.
  • Redford, S., 2002: The Harem Conspiracy. Northern Illinois Press.
  • Smith, G.E., 1912: The Royal Mummies. (2000 reprint ed.). Bath, UK: Duckworth.
  • Vernus, P., 2003: Affairs and Scandals in Ancient Egypt. Cornell University Press.