Ramesses III
Ramesses III had his throat slit after the harem conspiracy was uncovered (Wiki Commons)

It has taken more than 3,000 years to solve the mystery but archaeological scientists have confirmed that King Ramesses III of ancient Egypt had his throat slit by assassins.

Analysis of tomography scans, molecular genetic analysis and radiological investigations have revealed that the pharaoh was murdered in 1156BC at the age of 65 by having his throat cut.

In the middle of the 12th century BC, one of his wives, Tiy, was tried for planning to murder him but it is not clear whether her attempt was the successful one or whether she was caught beforehand and another assassin proved more successful later on.

Her plan and her co-conspirators in the so-called Harem Conspiracy were uncovered and punished. The trial documents show that about 40 people were involved, including Tiy, Ramesses' son Pentawere, and harem officials.

The main conspirators were likely to have been executed while others involved are thought to have been forced to commit suicide - in the contemporary belief that they could not then enter the afterlife.

Researchers at the Eurac-Institute for Mummies and the Iceman say Ramesses III was murdered with a slash to the throat.

Zahi Hawass, who has studied the mummy on numerous occasions, said: "The neck wound only became visible through the use of computed tomography.

"It was clear that Ramesses had died in 1156BC, roughly at the age of 65, but the cause of his death had not been known."

Ramesses III
Ramesses III was killed at the age of 65 in 1156BC (Wiki Commons)

Further evidence pointing to this method of death is the presence of an amulet, representing the Eye of Horus - a common symbol for guarding against accidents and restoring physical health.

Researcher Albert Zink said: "The slashed throat and the amulet prove clearly that the pharaoh had been murdered.

"The amulet was placed in the wound after his death to enable him to recover fully for the afterlife."

The scientists also believe they have identified the mummy of Pentawere and that he had killed himself, suggesting this was his sentence when the conspiracy was uncovered.

The mummy, which had been named 'Unknown Man E', was between 18 and 20 years old. DNA evidence has shown he was directly related to Ramesses III, but without Tiy's body and DNA samples, this cannot be confirmed.

Zink said: "What caught our attention was the fact that the body was rather inflated. In addition, there was a strange skin fold on his neck.

"This could have been the result of committing suicide by hanging. Furthermore, his only cover was a goat's skin - which was considered impure - and he had also been mummified without having his organs and brain removed."

Such a meagre means of interment would not be fitting for a prince, indicating that Pentawere was one of the plotters and so "demoted" from a royal burial, the researchers said.