Ramesses I. Thebes, Deir el-Bahri Cache (DB320)


Pharaoh Ramses I, a military powerhouse and grandfather of Ramses the Great, arrived in Niagara some decades after 1812, through a shady antiquities purchase made in Egypt.

Ramses had an illustrious military career, and claimed the throne in middle age not by blood, but through skill, and as a trusted advisor to King Horemheb. His long list of titles included: Master of Horse, Commander of the Fortress, Controller of the Nile Mouth, Charioteer of His Majesty, King’s Envoy to Every Foreign Land, Royal Scribe, Colonel, and General of the Lord of the Two Lands.

Ramses I was responsible for a number of important firsts: He moved the capital up north to the Delta (where he was born), establishing the great city of Pi Ramesses. He even advanced royal women’s rights, by having his wife Sitre become the first to be buried in the Valley of the Queens.

Ramses passed away in 1290 BC, he was buried in an ornate tomb in the Valley of the Kings, probably anticipating nothing more than a journey to the afterlife, hardly expecting it would take more than 3,000 years, via an overseas detour to Niagara Falls. This is where his mummy came and remained for more than a century.

The story of Ramses journey to Canada began in the 1860s with the transaction of an “excellent mummy in double cases” from an unscrupulous antiquities dealer in the Luxor back streets. James Douglas and Sidney Barnett purchased Ramses I for just seven pounds from Mustapha Aga Ayat, an associate of the notorious Abd el-Rassuls family, who had pillaged a valuable cache of royal mummies. Like most New Kingdom tombs, Ramses’ final resting place had originally been robbed in antiquity, and his mummy was long ago stripped of its jewels and moved by priests to a special hiding spot on the west bank of Luxor.

Sidney was the son of Thomas Barnett, owner of the Niagara Falls Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame. He had sent his son overseas to pick up some exotic gimmicks to give him a competitive edge. A good Egyptian mummy more than fit the bill as ancient Egypt was a hot a topic in the 1800s. What no one realized then was that this mummy was no ordinary Egyptian curiosity.

And so Ramses crossed the ocean, and resided in the museum until the 1990s. In fact, this writer remembers seeing him there on the third floor in a modest display case with a yellowing label reading “A Royal Mummy.”

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