There’s nothing like undecorating from Christmas to eat up half a day when you’d rather be doing something else.

But it has to be done.

I suppose taking down the nativities and wreaths and ornaments offer a natural time for reflection at the beginning of a new year, thinking of habits or attitudes that should be cleared out — but I was listening to a new Mumford and Sons album and most of my focus was on how to get a really full, 7 1/2 foot artificial Christmas tree back in the box.

Even artificial trees shed, so I then had to vacuum, and once I finished the corner it didn’t make sense not to go over the whole house. When I moved a couple of Christmassy statuettes, I realized how badly things needed dusting, so there went more minutes that I’d rather have spent writing.

But now it’s all gone except for a poinsettia that’s still pretty, so I’ll keep it around until it wilts.

While griping over chores, however, it did occur to me that I had little to complain about compared to Ramses III, who ruled from 1186-1155 BCE and recently returned to the news. Ramses III is regarded as the last great pharaoh of Egypt’s New Kingdom period, and probably best known as the pharaoh who faced down a major invasion by the Sea Peoples. After losing a major battle near the mouth of the Nile, the Sea Peoples gave up on Egypt and settled instead along the less defended coast of southern Canaan, where they became known as the Philistines, Israel’s greatest enemy during the 9th and 10th centuries BCE.

Ramses III withstood the Philistine onslaught, as well as incursions form the Libyans, but he could not survive a palace coup orchestrated by one of his secondary wives (Tiya), her son Pentawere, and an assortment of palace officials. Detailed court records of the conspirators’ later trial (often called “the Judicial papyrus of Turin”) indicate that the “Harem Conspiracy,” as it was called, failed to install Pentawere on the throne. A number of conspirators were sentenced to death and some were ordered to commit suicide, including Pentawere. The transcripts are ambiguous, however, on the point of whether the regicide of Ramses III was successful.

“The Screaming Mummy” has been shown to be Ramses III’s conniving son, Pentawere.Ambiguate no more: forensic science has come to the rescue. Cairo’s Al-Ahram Weekly reports (based on a recent article in the British Medical Journal) that a careful examination of Ramses III’s mummy using CT scans, X-ray images, and anthropological, radiological, forensic and genetic methods revealed that the king was indeed assassinated: he died from a wicked stab wound that went through the back of his neck and cut through his trachea, esophagus, and major blood vessels.

A similar examination of a previously unidentfied corpse, called “the screaming mummy” because of its open mouth and distorted facial features, proved it to be the body of Ramses’ conniving son Pentawere, who appears to have had help with his “suicide,” which apparently did not turn out to be a pleasant experience.

I think I’ll go dust some more now, and whistle while I work …


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