Was the great Pharaoh Ramesses II a true redhead?

The University of Manchester is hosting a day school to discuss the scientific study of ancient Egyptian mummies, which will include the question, was the great Pharaoh Ramesses II a true redhead?

Ramesses II - the third Egyptian pharaoh of the nineteenth dynasty - lived to the grand old age of 91 and is regarded as one of Egypt's greatest pharaohs. He became King in 1279 BC, when he was in his early 20s, and ruled for over six decades during which time his fame was extraordinary, it remained legendary throughout classical antiquity and today this remarkable pharaoh still holds an enduring fascination. As a builder he covered the land from the Delta to Nubia with buildings in a way no ruler had ever done before. He had many wives, fathered scores of children, and declared himself a god early on in his reign. On his death, he was buried in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings; his body was later moved to a royal cache where it was discovered in 1881, and is now on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Professor Rosalie David, who will lecture at the day school, said: “Even in death Ramesses II remains a fascinating figure. In 1974, Egyptologists noticed the condition of the mummy was deteriorating. They decided to fly Ramesses II's mummy to Paris for examination - and he 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, Ramesses' mummy was diagnosed and treated for a fungal infection. During the examination, scientific analysis revealed the pharaoh's arthritis, poor circulation and appalling dental condition.”

The day school will also reveal how modern scientific investigations and archaeological research is helping to reveal more about the lives of other characters from ancient Egypt - Horemkenesi, high priest of Amun at Karnak; Meresamun, a temple singer; and Asetirikhetes, the Ptolemaic mummy from 305 BC.

Professor David said: “The day school was so well received last year that we decided to hold it annually. This year's agenda is just as fascinating. We are really enjoying putting the day schools together and thinking of new insights that fellow enthusiasts would want to know.”

·         The day school “Mummies, Science and Egyptology II” will be held at the Stopford Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, on Saturday 6th February 2010 (9.30am to 5pm). It costs £30, which can be paid on the day. To book in advance email Roger.Forshaw@manchester.ac.uk.

Notes for editors

For more information or to interview Professor Rosalie David contact Media Relations Officer Mikaela Sitford on 0161 275 2111 or Mikaela.Sitford@manchester.ac.uk.