Did Ramesses II really have a passport?
Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson dismisses as urban myth the press’ story that the mummy of Ramesses II required a passport when sent to France for conservation and scientific tests in the mid-1970s
Please note this is a transcript of an extract from an episode of the HistoryExtra podcast that has been lightly edited for clarity. Listen to the full episode here: Ramesses II: Egypt’s greatest pharaoh?
Almost certainly not, although it would be very nice.
So, what happened is that Ramesses’ mummy was transported to a specialist laboratory in Paris to undergo, principally preservation, but at the same time, scientific examination. And, he was, it is true, flown to Paris in some style and received as a visiting head of state – albeit a dead one.
- Read more | Why was mummification used in ancient Egypt?
And then when he was returned to Egypt, his coffin was covered in deep blue velvet drape embroidered in gold by the seamstresses of the Louvre. So, he was given all of the trappings of a monarch.
The press almost certainly concocted the story that he’d been given a passport, which said: “occupation: king, brackets ‘deceased’”. It’s a lovely story, and you can see how it would have made a great newspaper headline, but there is no evidence that that actually happened.
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Toby Wilkinson is an Egyptologist and author of Ramesses the Great: Egypt’s King of Kings (Yale University Press, 2023)
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