CAIRO, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- A study of the mummy of Egypt's King Ramses III shows he may have been killed by conspirators who slit his throat during an attempted coup, researchers say.
The first-ever CT scans of the mummy reveal a cut to the neck deep enough to be fatal, they said.
Scientists with the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy -- working at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo where the mummy is stored -- said CT scans revealed a deep, 2.7-inch wide wound to the throat just under the larynx that could have caused immediate death, the BBC reported Monday.
The time and method of the death of Ramses III has long been a matter of dispute among historians, some citing ancient documents that said members of his harem attempted to kill him as part of a palace coup in 1155 B.C.
Other accounts at the time suggest the pharaoh survived the attack, at least for a short while, and contain reports of trials and punishments of those involved in the plot -- including one of his two known wives and a son, the potential heir to the throne.
"Before now we knew more or less nothing about the destiny of Ramses III," paleopathologist Albert Zink of the mummy institute said. "People had examined his body before and had done radiographs but they didn't notice any trauma. They did not have access to the CT scans that we do.
"We were very surprised by what we found. We still cannot be sure that the cut killed him, but we think it did."