Ramesses II was originally buried in the tomb KV7 in the Valley of the Kings but, because of looting, priests later transferred the body to a holding area, re-wrapped it, and placed it inside the tomb of queen Inhapy. Seventy-two hours later it was again moved, to the tomb of the high priest Pinudjem II. All of this is recorded in hieroglyphics on the linen covering the body. His mummy is today in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
The pharaoh’s mummy reveals an aquiline nose and strong jaw, and stands at some 1.7 metres (5 ft 7 in). His ultimate successor was his thirteenth son, Merneptah.
In 1974 Egyptologists visiting his tomb noticed that the mummy’s condition was rapidly deteriorating and flew it to Paris for examination. Ramesses II was issued an Egyptian passport that listed his occupation as “King (deceased)”. The mummy was received at Le Bourget airport, just outside Paris, with the full military honours befitting a king.
In Paris, it was found that Ramesses’s mummy was being attacked by fungus, for which it was treated. During the examination, scientific analysis revealed battle wounds and old fractures, as well as the pharaoh’s arthritis and poor circulation.
It is believed that Ramesses II was essentially crippled with arthritis and walked with a hunched back for the last decades of his life. A recent study excluded ankylosing spondylitis as a possible cause of the pharaoh’s arthritis. A significant hole in the pharaoh’s mandible was detected. Researchers observed “an abscess by his teeth (which) was serious enough to have caused death by infection, although this cannot be determined with certainty”. Gaston Maspero, who unwrapped the mummy of Rameses II writes, “on the temples there are a few sparse hairs, but at the poll the hair is quite thick, forming smooth, straight locks about five centimeters in length. White at the time of death, and possibly auburn during life, they have been dyed a light red by the spices (henna) used in the embalm-ment…the moustache and beard are thin…The hairs are white, like those of the head and eyebrows…the skin is of earthy brown, splotched with black…the face of the mummy gives a fair idea of the face of the living king.”
Microscopic inspection of the roots of Ramesses II’s hair proved that the king’s hair was originally red, which suggests that he came from a family of redheads. This has more than just cosmetic significance: in ancient Egypt people with red hair were associated with the god Seth, the slayer of Osiris, and the name of Ramesses II’s father, Seti I, means “follower of Seth.” However, a website run by the L’Oréal Group states that microscopic inspection by L’Oréal researchers revealed that “the pharaoh was naturally blond and that he used a coloring agent (probably henna) to give his hair red highlights”.
After Ramesses’ mummy returned to Egypt it was visited by President Anwar Sadat and his wife.