Some time during the 15th century BC, an elaborate complex of tombs and mortuary temples were built along the Nile’s west bank near modern day Luxor, Egypt. Known as “The Northern Monastery” or Dayr el-Bahri, the eerie site and its structures rest in the great Theban Necropolis, dating back as early as the Eleventh dynasty.
One of the area’s earliest afterlife occupants had been none other than Mentuhotep II, famous first Pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom. But arguably, the most captivating of the features hidden away within this striking complex is Hatshepsut’s temple, the famous “Holy of Holies”, which now stands as an irregular (and heavily looted) monument emerging forth from a sharp cliff face. Here, he sloping inclines and platforms had once been lined with sphinxes and giant likenesses of the great Osiris. But despite the overpowering splendor offered by Hatshepsut’s temple, there are lesser mysteries offered here, and some which boast their own brand of odd peculiarities.
Nearby, a burial site designated Tomb DB320 exists, which upon excavation had been revealed to house the remains of some 50 members of ancient Egyptian dynastic royalty. The tomb was first uncovered by a local family, presumably some time in the late 1870s, who used the secret of its existence as a protection whilst removing various treasures and selling them for profit. In 1881, an official investigation by Émile Brugsch occurred, in response to curiosity regarding where the objects sold by the locals might have come from. With two days of arrival, what became Tomb DB320 was emptied, to prevent further theft or sale of the antiquities it contained. Subsequent probes of the emptied tomb would occur again in 1938, after which the place stood empty again until the late 1990s, when Egyptologist Erhart Graefe and his team began what would remain an ongoing project aimed at preserving the tomb.
The fineries of the ancient world were hardly the tomb’s only occupants, of course. Among dozens of mummies retrieved from the tomb, at least ten are classified as unidentified remains. One of the mystery mummies, identified as “Unknown Man C,” has been proposed as the lost remains of Senenmut of the 18th Dynasty.
However, there is another “mystery mummy” that was retrieved from the tomb that has perhaps aroused equal, if not greater interest. “Unkown Man E,” informally known as “the screaming man,” is a mummy bearing a particularly frightening appearance, with his face distorted and lurching backwards as though crying out in pain during his final moments. One of the great mysteries of this peculiar looking mummy, apart from the riddle of his identity, is what led to his ghastly appearance, and eventual demise.
According to American Egyptologist Dr. Robert Brier (also known as “Mr. Mummy), his studies of the paleopathology of mummies, with particular interest in the Unknown Man E specimen, has led him to a possible theory for the identity of “The Screaming Man.”
Brier believes the mummy may be the body of Egyptian prince Pentawer of the 20th dynasty, one of Ramesses III’s sons, who according to Judicial Papyrus on record, was forced into suicide by ingestion of poisons due to his involvement with a conspiracy plot is mother, Tiye, may have initiated. During the 20th Dynasty, a member of royalty might have been given an option of suicide in this manner, following a conviction of this sort, which may normally entail being burned alive as punishment.
Could it indeed be that the willful ingestion of poison by “The Screaming Man” is truly what led to his ghastly appearance in the afterlife? In the video segment below, the strange story of Unkown Man E is recounted, along with the sordid century-old quest to determine his identity and cause of death: