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Ancient Egypt

Ramses I Returns Home

Edited from BBC News, 26 October 2003

An ancient Egyptian mummy thought to be that of Pharaoh Ramses I returned home in 2003, after more than one hundred and forty years in North American museums.

The body was carried off the plane in Cairo in a box draped in Egypt's flag after the Michael Carlos Museum returned it. Tests had shown that it was probably that of the man who ruled between 1292-1290 BC. The US institution acquired it three years beforehand from a Canadian museum, which in turn was thought to have bought it from Egyptian grave robbers in 1860.

Ramses I ruled for just two years but is renowned for founding the 19th Dynasty, which spawned many Ramses - including Ramses II who was on the throne for several decades.

His mummy was welcomed back home with songs and military band music during a ceremony at the national museum in Cairo: 'We are the sons of the Nile. Welcome Ramses, the builder of esteemed Egypt,' sang a group of schoolchildren around the coffin.

Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, travelled from the US with the body and said it would be moved in 2004 to the Luxor Museum in southern Egypt. It was not fully certain that the mummy was that of Ramses I, but it was fully certain that it was the body of a king.

'Great gesture'

Atlanta's Michael Carlos Museum acquired the mummy in 1999, but offered to return it after hi-tech scanning equipment indicated that it was likely to be that of Ramses I. At the time, the museum's website said that it had been acquired from the Niagara Falls museum.

It is thought that a Canadian collector bought the mummy for the Niagara Falls institution around 1860 from an Egyptian family which had stumbled on a tomb filled with royal mummies at a site near Luxor. According to the Atlanta museum's website, the family sold treasures from the site until they were discovered and the tomb - with an empty coffin bearing the name Ramses I - was officially revealed in 1881.

Mr Hawass praised the handover as 'a great, civilised gesture'. He also took the opportunity to restate the case for other world museums to return Egypt's antiquities, particularly the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum and the bust of Nefertiti in the Berlin Museum.



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