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Nov. 13, 2019 | Wednesday
Local News
Lost royal mummy discovered in Niagara to be celebrated
Gayle Gibson with Ramses I in Luxor. (Chris Erie/Supplied)

Twenty years ago, the search for an ancient Egyptian pharaoh ended surprisingly in Niagara Falls, when the body of Ramses I was discovered in an old museum.

The royal mummy had been there, unbeknownst to Egyptologists, since the 1860s.

On Nov. 3, a celebration of the anniversary of the discovery will be held at Konzelmann Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The afternoon will see famous mummy hunter Gayle Gibson, who identified Ramses, talk a bit about the mummy's journey back home, with updates on his legacy, his time in Niagara, and a bit about the renaissance of Egypt today.

Egyptologist Laura Ranieri, and Egypt and Africa destination specialist Anna MacKay will also speak.

The story of how Ramses got to Niagara is an interesting sequence of events, says Ranieri.

The mummified body was discovered at the old Niagara Falls Museum, after a group of researchers, including Gibson, noticed the facial structure and mummification style was indicative of the Ramses line.

Ranieri remembers visiting the museum when she was young. She recalls the description on the mummy exhibit simply said  “A prince of Egypt.”

“I thought, ‘That’s kind of weird. No one knows about this?’”

Later, Egyptologists started to wonder if it could be a royal mummy.

“It was a complicated process,” she says. “This crazy like rockstar collector guy Bill Jamieson bought the museum, but he couldn’t afford to keep everything, so he started selling pieces.”

She describes Jamieson as an "eccentric collector of shrunken heads."

It was then that the Michael C. Emery Museum in Atlanta, bought the entire Egyptian collection.

Ranieri says it ended up being a “long journey home to Egypt” for Ramses.

“The mummy had to be tested to be sure that it was a royal mummy, and that was done in Atlanta.”

In 2002, the Egypt experts in Atlanta finally delivered the verdict: One mummy from the Niagara collection had been positively identified as the fabled Egyptian pharaoh Rameses I.

Gibson, a research associate at the Royal Ontario Museum and familiar face in CBC, BBC and NOVA Egypt documentaries, played an important role in getting Ramses home, and closely advised Jamieson on his Egypt collection and sale to the Emery museum, says Ranieri.

The pharaoh now rests in the Luxor Museum, located in Luxor, which was the capital of Egypt during the time of his dynasty.

“The most important thing is, Ramses, which we call Niagara’s Pharaoh, was here for 140 years.”

 

How did the body get to Niagara?

 

The old Niagara Falls Museum was started in the early 1800s by a man named Thomas Barnett. The museum acquired the mummy from Egypt when Barnett’s son Sidney joined an expedition down the Nile River to purchase artifacts.

“(Sidney) purchased the famous mummy for Niagara Falls from Luxor antiquity dealers, without an inkling that he may have actually been purchasing the body of a king – the founder of the 19th dynasty and grandfather of Ramses the Great, no less,” says Ranieri.

“(He) brought him home to Niagara Falls – and here in Niagara he resided, sharing a floor with a humpback whale skeleton and a morbid assortment of stuffed animals.”

Ranieri says Ramses was bartered for with some other tattered mummies and ragged artifacts, “much as you might bargain for a souvenir of Tut or some postcards at the Luxor souk today.”

Ramses spent time on both sides of Niagara, U.S. and Canadian, as the museum changed locations back and forth over the border.

Gibson had been visiting the mummy since the early 1980s, and was among the first to finger the strange mummy as royalty. The facial structure and the mummification style made her suspect it was someone in the Ramses line. She was thrilled to learn her suspicions were correct after all, and to see Ramses head back home to Egypt.

Jamieson, who has since died, had said at the time of Ramses discovery, that "It's kind of nice knowing I somehow took part in helping him get home … I’m the guy who sold Rameses I.”

 

What: “Ancient Wonders, Wine And Wildlife” (historical talk and wine tasting)

Who: ROM Egyptologist Gayle Gibson, Egyptologist Laura Ranieri and adventure travel expert Anna MacKay

When: Sunday, Nov. 3, from 2 to 4 p.m.

Where: Konzelmann Estate Winery, 1096 Lakeshore Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake

Contact: 905-935-2866, or anna@yourjourney.com

Cost: $20 advance (https://wondersandwine.eventbrite.ca) or $30 at the door. Ticket price includes wine tasting. 

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