Injuries to pharaoh's bones suggest he was brutally hacked with axes while riding his horse
By Sarah Griffiths for MailOnline
The 3,650-year old skeleton of King Senebkay has revealed the pharaoh died a violent death. Senebkay lived at a time when rulers battled for power before the rise of Egypt’s New Kingdom in 1,550 BC and his skeleton shows 18 injuries caused by axes. Injuries to his skull, lower back and ankles, suggest he was attacked while on his horse and hacked at with the deadly weapon - dying from blows to the head.
The tomb of Senebkay was unearthed at the Abydos archaeological site, near the city of Sohag, Egypt last year and was identified by an inscription on the wall of this burial chamber. It was the first time that any trace of the pharaoh was found, who was only previously known about by fragments of his name on an ancient list of Egyptian rulers.
Now, archaeologists from the University of Pennsylvania, who came across the tomb, have revealed how the pharaoh probably died. Injuries to the skull, as well as vertical cuts on the ankles, feet and lower back, suggest the king was killed in a battle and was aged between 35 and 49 when he died, Luxor Times Magazine reported. Josef Wegner of the university, who led the dig, said the injuries suggest that the king died a violent death.
He was a ruler of Abydos for just four and a half years, at a time when dominant families battled for control of land. The angle and direction of the lacerations show he must have been higher up than his attackers when they cut him with axes.
It is likely that the king was on horseback and blows to his back and legs caused him to fall to the ground, where his enemies brutally struck his head until he died, far from his home.
King Senebkay’s body is believed to have been mummified a long time after his death.
Historical sources suggest that Egyptians were skilful horsemen during the Second Intermediate Period, even though horses were not commonly used in battle.
Dr Youssef Khalifa, head of Ancient Egypt department, said the king’s pelvic and leg bones suggest he was used to riding horses regularly.
‘It is not clear yet if Senebkay died in a battle against the Hyksos, who were occupying Lower Egypt at that time, or not,’ he said.
‘If future studies proved it so this will make him the first warrior king who fought for liberation even before Senakhtenre’ the founder of 17th Dynasty and the grandfather of Ahmose who defeated the Hyksos.’
Archaeologists came across the tomb while excavating the final resting place of pharaoh Sobekhotep I, who was buried nearby. Senebkay’s final resting place appears to have been plundered because the skeleton is pulled apart, but it’s estimated he was five ft 10 inches (1.78metres) tall.
Dr Wegner believes the find could lead to the discovery of more pharaohs and could help piece together the gaps in knowledge about the rulers of Ancient Egypt.
‘We discovered an unknown king plus a lost dynasty. It looks likely that all of the 16 kings are all buried there,’ he said.
‘We now have the tomb for first or second king of this dynasty. There should be a whole series of the others.’
Describing the moment the archaeologists came across the tomb, he explained that they found the entrance first, which led them down to the burial chamber, made of limestone and painted with cartouches of the pharaoh.
‘In Abydos there is lots of sand and everything is deeply buried. You can dig day after day, and then this….We were standing there looking dumbfounded at the colourful wall decoration,’ he said.
While robbers had stripped the tomb, a re-used burial chest had the engraving of the ruler’s name on the wood.
The experts said the re-use of materials suggests a lack of stability and wealth at a time when the kingdom was fragmented.