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Pharaoh Ramesses II was an Amazigh (Berber)

Pharaoh Ramesses II

Pharaoh Ramesses II

The analysis of the Pharaoh Ramesses II

The mummy was examined in 1886 by Gaston Maspero and Dr. Fouquet, first thorough investigation of the mummy. The investigations were carried out with the means of the time: detailed observation of the body, various measurements.

In 1974, to determine the causes of death of Ramesses II and other mummies, including that of Merneptah, investigations were undertaken under the direction of Maurice Bucaille with Egyptian colleagues and a dozen other French collaborators in various medical disciplines. The results were communicated among others, the Academy of Medicine and the French Society of Legal Medicine. His book The Mummies of the Pharaohs and medicine presents the final results of his research.

Many modern techniques were used, radiological and endoscopic explorations, investigations in the dental field, microscopic research, forensic, etc. A find of great importance due to the use of X-ray films of high sensitivity allowed to show the existence of a very serious injury to the jaw of Ramses II, extensive osteomyelitis of the lower jaw of dental origin. Maurice Bucaille concludes that these injuries were probably fatal condition that the king did not have other undetected serious diseases (due to the inability to examine the chest organs associated with mummification) and that could be the pharaoh who pursued Moses and the Hebrews, for he died in frightful suffering resulting total physical disability.

A study of the mummy of Ramesses II, the Museum of Man in Paris in 1976, concluded that the pharaoh was a “leucoderma, Mediterranean type similar to that of North African Amazigh”.

Pharaoh Ramesses II (of the 19th Dynasty), is generally considered to be the most powerful and influential King that ever reigned in Egypt. He is one of the few rulers who has earned the epithet “the Great”. Subsequently, his racial origins are of extreme interest.

In 1975, the Egyptian government allowed the French to take Ramesses’ mummy to Paris for conservation work. Numerous other tests were performed, to determine Ramesses’ precise racial affinities, largely because the Senegalese scholar Cheikh Anta Diop, was claiming at the time that Ramesses was black. Once the work had been completed, the mummy was returned in a hermetically sealed casket, and it has remained largely hidden from public view ever since, concealed in the bowels of the Cairo Museum. The results of the study were published in a lavishly illustrated work, which was edited by L. Balout, C. Roubet and C. Desroches-Noblecourt, and was titled La Momie de Ramsès II: Contribution Scientifique à l’Égyptologie (1985).

Professor P. F. Ceccaldi, with a research team behind him, studied some hairs which were removed from the mummy’s scalp. Ramesses II was 90 years-old when he died, and his hair had turned white. Ceccaldi determined that the reddish-yellow colour of the mummy’s hair had been brought about by its being dyed with a dilute henna solution; it proved to be an example of the cosmetic attentions of the embalmers. However, traces of the hair’s original colour (in youth), remain in the roots, even into advanced old age. Microscopic examinations proved that the hair roots contained traces of natural red pigments, and that therefore, during his youth, Ramesses II had been red-haired. It was concluded that these red pigments did not result from the hair somehow fading, or otherwise altering post-mortem,but did indeed represent Ramesses’ natural hair colour. Ceccaldi also studied a cross-section of the hairs, and he determined from their oval shape, that Ramesses had been “cymotrich” (wavy-haired). Finally, he stated that such a combination of features showed that Ramesses had been a “leucoderm” (white-skinned person). [Balout, et al. (1985) 254-257.]

Balout and Roubet were under no illusions as to the significance of this discovery, and they concluded as follows:

“After having achieved this immense work, an important scientific conclusion remains to be drawn: the anthropological study and the microscopic analysis of hair, carried out by four laboratories: Judiciary Medecine (Professor Ceccaldi), Société L’Oréal, Atomic Energy Commission, and Institut Textile de France showed that Ramses II was a ‘leucoderm’, that is a fair-skinned man, near to the Prehistoric and Antiquity Mediterraneans, or briefly, of the Berber of Africa.” [Balout, et al. (1985) 383.]

It is interesting to note the link to the North African Berbers: some Berber tribes, such as the Riffians of the Atlas Mountains, have incidences of blondism reaching almost 60%, and they have a percentage of red-haired people which is comparable to that of the Irish. [Coon & Hunt (1966) 116-117.]

These facts have not only anthropological interest however, but also great symbolic importance. In ancient Egypt, the god Seth was said to have been red-haired, and redheads were claimed to have worshipped the god devoutly. [Wainwright (1938) 31, 33, 53.] In the Ramesses study cited above, the Egyptologist Desroches-Noblecourt wrote an essay, in which she discussed the importance of Ramesses’ rufous condition. She noted that the Ramessides (the family of Ramesses II), were devoted to Seth, with several bearing the name Seti, which means “beloved of Seth”. She concluded that the Ramessides believed themselves to be divine descendants of Seth, with their red hair as proof of their lineage; they may even have used this peculiar physical feature to propel themselves out of obscurity, and onto the throne of the Pharaohs. Desroches-Noblecourt also speculated that Ramesses II may well have been descended from a long line of redheads. [Balout, et al. (1985) 388-391.]

Her speculations have been proved correct: Dr. Joann Fletcher, a consultant to the British Bioanthropology Foundation, has proved that Seti I (the father of Ramesses II), had red hair. [Parks (2000).] It has also been demonstrated that the mummy of Pharaoh Siptah (a great-grandson of Ramesses II), has red hair. [Partridge (1994) 169.]

We may also note the anthropological description of Ramesses’ mummy, which was written by the Biblical historian Archibald Sayce:

“The Nineteenth Dynasty to which Ramses II, the oppressor of the Israelites, belonged, is distinguished by its marked dolichocephalism of long-headedness. His mummy shows an index of 74, while the face is an oval with an index of 103. The nose is prominent, but leptorrhine and aquiline, and the jaws are orthognathous. The chin is broad, the neck long, like the fingers and nails. The great king seems to have had red hair.” [Sayce (1925) 136.]

All of these features are characteristics of the Nordic race. [Günther (1927) 10-23.] Finally, we should note that Professor Raymond Dart declared that the Nordic race was the “Egyptian Pharaonic type”. He then went on to state specifically, that the head of Ramesses II is “pelasgic ellipsoidal or Nordic” in type. [Dart (1939).]


  • By Helen Hagan

    Dr. Hawass traveled to the
    Oasis of Barhaya, located 200
    kilometers west of Alexandria,
    and visited Siwa, the Amazigh
    (Berber) oasis south of Barhaya.
    During the narration of his
    journey to the two oases, Dr.
    Zahi Hawass did not once mention
    the ethnic population of this
    desert area, be it now or at the
    time the burials occurred (200
    BC to 100 AD). When he
    mentioned the small local temple
    dedicated to Alexander the
    Great near the Oasis of Barhaya,
    he did state that Alexander
    briefly voyaged from Alexandria
    to the region. Surprisingly, Dr.
    Hawass omitted to provide the
    reasons and the extent of
    Alexander’s journey. However,
    the historical record is clear:
    Alexander the Great only traversed
    the region of Barhaya on
    his way to the oasis of Siwa,
    because he needed to reach the
    source of legitimacy in Egypt,
    where the first priesthood of the
    central God of Egypt, Amon, is
    said to have originated. He
    needed to be empowered by the
    Issiwann, spiritual guardians to
    early Egyptian religious traditions.
    The Greeks called the
    inhabitants of the Oasis of Siwa
    “Ammonioi”, and the locality
    “Ammon.” The God Ammon
    was the equivalent to Zeus in
    Greek mythology or Jupiter in
    the Roman pantheon of Gods.
    Dr. Hawass not only omitted
    these details, but he spoke
    of traveling himself to the Oasis
    of Siwa without indicating the
    reason for his interest in it. Siwa
    people are an Amazigh (Berber)
    speaking group. In fact, the
    whole region of this desert of
    Western Egypt is known to
    scholars for being Libyco-
    Berber territory.
    The field of mummies found
    by Dr. Hawass is located near
    the ruins of a fort dating back to
    Roman occupation, which occurred
    after the defeat of
    Cleopatra and followed the
    Greek colonization of the area.
    The Greek Ptolemaic Dynasty
    which was inaugurated by
    Alexander the Great reigned in
    Egypt from 600 BC to 200 BC
    at Alexandria, and the Roman
    colonization in the vicinity of
    Alexandria lasted from that time
    to about 100 AD. The dating
    of this giant cemetery, tentatively
    thought to cover four
    square miles of desert, and
    possibly holding the remains of
    bodies, seem to span several
    centuries over the Greco-
    Roman period.
    The slide pictures were impressive.
    Some showed the gold
    masks of the deceased that had
    been sculpted from their actual
    features. However, slide after
    slide, it became apparent that
    these deceased people were all
    light-skinned, full-lipped,
    straight-nosed, neither Nubians
    nor Sudanese, not copperskinned,
    not Asiatic, but indeed
    Libyans, that is to say, Amazigh.
    The Greeks and Romans who
    colonized them collectively
    called the Amazigh “Barbaroi”
    or “Berbers”. The only mummy
    removed and transported out of
    the area for the purpose of tests
    was an unnamed individual
    wrapped in brown resin-coated
    bandlets, who Dr. Hawass has
    nicknamed “Mr. X.” It was
    learned that Mr. X would be
    properly reburied after his return
    to the area.
    When the floor was opened
    to questions, I requested from
    Dr. Hawass additional information
    about the ethnicity of the
    people of Barhaya. Dr. Hawass
    said that they were “Egyptians.”
    When I suggested that in 200
    BC, in the desert west of
    Alexandria, the indigenous
    populations were Libyco-
    Berbers or Amazigh, like the
    population of the Oasis of Siwa
    today, Dr. Hawass was very
    quick to assert that he had said
    “Egyptians”. He added that
    these people looked like me. He
    continued in haste to add they
    looked like himself and that their
    origin was no other than
    Egyptian. To conclude his
    commentary, he indicated the
    following: “I know nothing
    about the people you mentioned.”
    Later, during a private conversation
    with him, I inquired
    about any documentation or
    historical record, Roman or
    other, on the existence of this
    Roman fort that had been
    erected near a substantial local
    population of Libyans (which he
    had estimated at being well into
    the hundreds of thousands over
    time). Dr. Hawass categorically
    denied the existence of any such
    records. “Nothing is known of
    this population in the annals of
    history,” he essentially repeated,
    asserting that these mummies
    are of an undefined origin. He
    added that these mummies were
    of no particular ethnic origin and
    that there were simply Egyptians
    and definitely no Roman or
    Greek. He also mentioned that
    some of them them appeared to
    be fairly wealthy, and might have
    been artisans or involved in a
    thriving wine-making community.
    Dr. Empereur, in a later
    private conversation, corroborated
    my tentative hypothesis
    about the ethnic origin of these
    mummies, by saying that it is
    most likely that the Bahraya
    people were Berber or Amazigh.
    He also indicated that he was
    familiar with French linguistic
    research, which places populations
    of Berber speakers
    throughout Libya, the Oasis of
    Siwa and the whole western
    desert of Egypt. “It is therefore
    justifiable,” he said, “to state
    that these burials are of Berber
    people. They most likely are.”
    When questioned on Dr.
    Hawass’s evasive position, Dr.
    Empereur readily admitted that
    we were talking about “Colonial
    Indeed, such was precisely
    the point, and Dr. Hawass, as a
    scientist, had quickly evaded the
    issue of indigenous burials in
    front of an audience of two
    hundred people. He also
    publicly stated his lack of
    knowledge of the origins of such
    burials, to avoid the cultural and
    political repercussions that such
    recognition would entail. This
    evasion raises the question of
    scholarly probity, and historical
    truth, not to mention the rights
    of disposal of these sites, a
    political question of no small
    When I shared some of my
    concerns with Amazigh
    (Berber) people through a quick
    internet note, Dr. Hassan
    Ouzzate, Associate Professor,
    Faculty of Letters and
    Humanities at Ibn Zohr
    University of Agadir, Morocco
    provided the following comments:
    “…Egypt is particularly
    bad in this domain… Egyptian
    historical vestiges are there to
    belie such an attempt. What
    happens is a very selective account
    of truth. Official historical
    accounts have always considered
    any cultural influence coming
    from “west” of the Nile (The
    Land of the Dead) as nefarious
    to a mythical central Egypt…
    The name of the group you
    mentioned (Bahraya) attracted
    my attention as a possible
    Amazigh form for the following
    three reasons:
    1. It is a collective name for the
    people, not a geographic
    name. Why? Because it is
    the usual Arabicized plural
    form given to a great many
    tribal names throughout
    North Africa. Examples:
    Gzennaya, Schawiyya, and
    2 One can easily return the
    form to its original
    Amazigh: Igzenayn,
    Iccawn, Igherdayn,
    3. It is clear that the derivation
    is from “BHR” (or Arabic
    ‘BHARI”) meaning “of the
    sea”… Therefore “abehri”
    (pl. ibehriyn) is a perfectly
    good Amazigh term, denoting
    the “people of the sea,”
    whether that means “by the
    sea” or “from the sea” or
    “living off the sea”. Notice
    that if the power of naming
    resided with the Siwa
    Oasis, an agricultural, sedentary
    and inland group, the
    appellation would be very
    In addition, I consulted the
    published research of
    Mohammed Chafik, member of
    the Moroccan Royal Academy,
    on the topic of the prehistoric
    origins of the Egyptian pyramids.
    The work includes specific
    information on the Oasis of
    Siwa, the travels of Alexander
    the Great in the area, and the
    common linguistic origins of
    Berber and Egyptian burial complexes.
    It is from Mohammed
    Chafik’s work that I learned of
    Alexander’s visit to Siwa, and
    became familiar with the Arabic
    poem that he quoted. Dr. Chafik
    notes that the journey of
    Alexander the Great to that
    oasis must have been of great
    importance to the antique world,
    for ten centuries after it occurred.
    The poet Umayya Ibn
    Abl es-Salt related Alexander’s
    journey: “He (Alexander)
    reached the West, seeking from
    the Guides of Wisdom some
    foundations for his power. So he
    went, in the direction of the
    setting sun, where, at evening,
    the sun sets near a source of
    bubbling waters.” There are
    well-known bubbling wells of
    salt water in the region, more
    than two hundred in the Oasis
    of Siwa.
    Dr. Chafik concluded his
    remarks on the ancient sanctity
    of this region of Amazigh culture
    with the following comments:
    “Though experts are still
    debating which one of the two
    temples of Ammon, that of
    Thebes or that of Siwa, was
    founded before the other, all
    indications point to the anteriority
    and the primacy of the oasis
    complex of the Libyan desert.”
    (Tifinagh: Revue de Culture et
    de Civilisation Nord-Africaines,
    August 1997).
    In conclusion, it is my
    opinion that once again in a long
    series of historical misdeeds and
    cultural distortion, the scientific
    world is about to be tarnished
    by committing another form of
    violence to history. This
    violence results from the shortsightedness
    of Egyptian scholars
    and an Egyptian leadership,
    which might be afraid to respect
    the truth for political reasons. In
    Egypt, it is more politically
    correct to declare all finds
    “Egyptians” and to refuse to
    discuss the ethnic origins of this
    find. However, it is ethically
    incorrect and deplorable to deny
    the international community the
    truth of history in the name of
    nationalism and the protection
    of Middle Eastern interests in
    A cultural treasure is about
    to be plundered once again.
    This time, it is the case of the
    refusal of Egyptian scholars and
    the Egyptian government to address
    the Amazigh origin of the
    archaeological treasure. The
    audience was misled into thinking
    that the newly discovered
    field of Golden Mummies covering
    a large portion of the western
    desert of Egypt are human
    remains of undetermined origin ….

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