Study Reveals Pharaoh's Vicious Death

Senebkay hacked down with battle axes: researchers
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2015 10:44 AM CST
Updated Mar 1, 2015 6:31 AM CST
An image shows a battle wound in the pharaoh's skull.   (Josef Wegner)
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(Newser) – He may not be as famous as Tutankhamun, but ancient Egypt's Pharaoh Senebkay may have experienced a death more fitting of a king. Woseribre Senebkay, whose reign likely dates to roughly 1650BC, was savagely killed in battle, according to an analysis of his remains. That would make him the first Egyptian pharaoh confirmed to have died in such a way, per Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities, which reports the earliest pharaoh previously given this cause of death was Seqenenre Tao, who likely ruled a century later. In Senebkay's case, 18 wounds that penetrated all the way to the bone tell the following tale: Based on the direction and angle of the bone markings, archaeologist Josef Wegner tells Discovery News Senebkay was likely riding a horse or chariot when "assailants first cut his lower back, ankles, and feet to bring him to the ground."

Blows to the skull followed, and those injuries "show the distinctive size and curvature of battle axes," he adds. Interestingly, we have only been aware of Senebkay's existence since last year, when a Wegner-led expedition found his remains in a looted tomb; texts that remained declared that he was "king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Woseribre, the son of Re, Senebkay." After piecing together his skeleton, the researchers initially thought Senebkay lived into his mid- to late-40s; they've since amended that to between 35 and 40. Wegner says the pharaoh's body was mummified well after his death, indicating he died far from home. It's possible he was fighting northern Egypt's Hyksos kings. If that's determined to be the case, he would be "the first warrior king who fought for liberation," a researcher tells the Luxor Times. (Just discovered in Egypt: a mystery queen's tomb.)

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