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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Eh Up - Trouble at Pyramid for Tuts


A friend (Tom Roberson) has recently reminded me of the speculation that has resulted from collaboration between Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and the University of Tübingen on exploring the family links between mummified members of the Thutmosid dynasty using YDNA testing – and the apparent finding that the males in the family fell into the R1B class (and possibly even the narrower R1b1b2 sub-class).

As the latter is now common in Western Europe, this has spurred all kinds of theories and fantasies about the racial and cultural antecedents of Egypt’s pharaohs, by commnetators who include racial supremacists, conspiracy theorists and a lady who calls herself Miriam ha Kedosha, Queen of Zion.

By freezing the frames on a video about the scientific research, Robert Tarin and others have deduced the following values for Tutankhamun’s YDNA:

456 (13-18) = 15
389i (9-16) = 13
390 (17-28) = 24
389ii (24-34) = 30
458 (14-20) = 16
19 (10-19) = 8/14 (dual peak)
385a (7-25) = 11
385b (7-25) = 14 (? not clear in video)
393 (8-17) = 13
391 (6-14) = 11
439 (8-15) = 10
635 (19-26) = 23
392 (6-18) = 13
YGATAH4 (8-13) = 11 (10 FtDNA nomenclature)
437 (13-18) = 9/14 (dual peak)
438 (8-13) = 12
448 (16-24) = 19.

Attempted matching of the 3,300-year DNA from the mummies with modern YDNA from males in Tunisia, and the Druze communities of the Levant has not been entirely convincing (if the deduced sequence is to be believed). And there are good historic reasons that could otherwise explain the occurrence of Western European YDNA in North Africa (the Vandal invasion) and the Eastern Mediterranean (Crusader incursions).

As ‘Maciamo’ Satyavrata commented on the Eupedia YDNA Forum, on 19 February, 2010:

‘The results appear to be R1b and indeed the European R1b1b2 rather than the Levantine/Egyptian R1b1a. R1b1b2 is quite rare in modern Egypt (2% of the population) and was assumed to have come mostly through the Greek and Roman occupation. R1b1a makes up 4% of the Egyptian male lineages and dates from the Paleolithic.

The 18th dynasty (starting in 1570 BCE) follows the period of Indo-European expansion to Europe (4300-2000 BCE), India, Persia and the Middle-East (1700-1500 BCE). The Hittites took over central Anatolia from 1750 BCE, and the Mitanni (of Indo-Iranian origin) ruled Syria from circa 1500 BCE.

Egypt's 18th dynasty inaugurated the New Kingdom after the Second Intermediate Period, when the Hyksos ("foreign rulers") took over power between 1650 and 1570 BCE. It is very possible that the 18th Dynasty was of Hyksos origin, which could be Hittite or of other Indo-European origin. The Hyksos were described as bowmen and cavalrymen wearing the cloaks of many colors associated with the mercenary Mitanni.

This strongly suggests an Indo-European origin indeed, as the steppe people were mounted archers, and the Mitanni are of proven Indo-European origin’.

Others have gone so far as to suggest a Scottish YDNA link – one that is closely related to my own ancestors, the descendants of the Brythonic-speaking ‘Owd Lads’ of Yr Hen Ogledd (The ‘Old North’ of England).

As can be seen from the chart below, the Pharaohs had more than a passing genetic resemblance to the McLeods - and similar if slightly lower levels of correspondence to the Shorrocks of Lancashire and the Davenports of Cheshire.


Well, in the light of my previous post which gave some prominence to one of my great heroes, the Lancashire-born comedian Les Dawson, the ‘Blood of the Pharaohs’ mystery has endless potential as a platform for reframing savage and exotic history within the severely ordinary back streets of Lancashire’s mill towns.

And as Les variously claimed at different times that Hitler was his mother-in-law and that he was the orphaned and abandoned heir to the Datsun fortune, it would be surprising if, had he been apprised of the recent scientific findings, he had refrained from claiming a familial link to the rulers of ancient Egypt.

And he would have played on the mutual distrust of mothers-in-law among the Lancastrians and their ancestors, the Egyptians.

Looking back three thousand years or more, Les would have surely sympathized in particular with the Pharaoh Thutmose III who ‘succeeded his mother in law Hatshepsut with her death, and revenged himself by defacing her monuments’.

As he recalled in a famous conversation with the singer Shirley Bassey:

‘I slept badly last night. I suffered from my hideous recurrent nightmare that my mother-in-law is chasing me down the Nile with a crocodile on a lead. I was wearing nothing but a pith helmet and a pair of gannet spats.

I could smell the hot rancid breath on the back of my neck, hear those great jaws snapping in anger, and see those great yellow eyes full of primeval hatred devouring me’.

‘Oh how terrible’, says Shirley.

‘That’s nothing’ says Les. ‘Let me tell you about the crocodile’.


[by Ker Than, Fox News, February 17, 2010]

The face of the linen-wrapped mummy of King Tutankhamun is shown above. It seems that Egypt's famed King Tutankhamun suffered from a cleft palate and club foot, likely forcing him to walk with a cane, and died from complications from a broken leg exacerbated by malaria, according to the most extensive study ever of his mummy.

King Tut may be seen as the golden boy of ancient Egypt today, but during his reign, Tutankhamun wasn't exactly a strapping sun god. Instead, a new DNA study says, King Tut was a frail pharaoh, beset by malaria and a bone disorder—and possibly compromised by his newly discovered incestuous origins.

The report is the first DNA study ever conducted with ancient Egyptian royal mummies. It apparently solves several mysteries surrounding King Tut, including how he died and who his parents were. In conjunction with a press conference in Egypt, many new photographs of the family of mummies have been made available.

"He was not a very strong pharaoh. He was not riding the chariots," said study team member Carsten Pusch, a geneticist at Germany's University of Tübingen. "Picture instead a frail, weak boy who had a bit of a club foot and who needed a cane to walk."

Regarding the revelation that King Tut's mother and father were brother and sister, Pusch said. "Inbreeding is not an advantage for biological or genetic fitness.

Normally the health and immune system are reduced and malformations increase," he said.

DNA testing of the world famous mummy of King Tutankhamun have unlocked the boy-king's secrets.

From tombs more than 4,000 years old to the Great Pyramids of Giza to mummies, the latest archaeology finds from ancient Egypt's vibrant history.

Tutankhamun was a pharaoh during ancient Egypt's New Kingdom era, about 3,300 years ago. He ascended to the throne at the age of 9 but ruled for only ten years before dying at 19. Despite his brief reign, King Tut is perhaps Egypt's best known pharaoh because of the wealth of treasures—including a solid gold death mask—found during the surprise discovery of his intact tomb in 1922.

The new study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, marks the first time the Egyptian government has allowed genetic studies to be performed using royal mummies.

"This will open to us a new era," said project leader Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

"I'm very happy this is an Egyptian project and I'm very proud of the work that we did."


In the new study, the mummies of King Tut and ten other royals that researchers have long suspected were his close relatives were examined. Of these ten, the identities of only three had been known for certain.

Using DNA samples taken from the mummies' bones, the scientists were able to create a five-generation family tree for the boy pharaoh.

The team looked for shared genetic sequences in the Y chromosome—a bundle of DNA passed only from father to son—to identify King Tut's male ancestors. The researchers then determined parentage for the mummies by looking for signs that a mummy's genes are a blend of a specific couple's DNA.

In this way, the team was able to determine that a mummy known until now as KV55 is the "heretic king" Akenhaten—and that he was King Tut's father. Akenhaten was best known for abolishing ancient Egypt's pantheon in favor of worshipping only one god.

Furthermore, the mummy known as KV35 was King Tut's grandfather, the pharaoh Amenhotep III, whose reign was marked by unprecedented prosperity.

Preliminary DNA evidence also indicates that two stillborn fetuses entombed with King Tut when he died were daughters whom he likely fathered with his chief queen Ankhensenamun, whose mummy may also have finally been identified.

Also, a mummy previously known as the Elder Lady is Queen Tiye, King Tut's grandmother and wife of Amenhotep III.

King Tut's mother is a mummy researchers had been calling the Younger Lady.

While the body of King Tut's mother has finally been revealed, her identity remains a mystery. DNA studies show that she was the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye and thus was the full sister of her husband, Akhenaten.

Some Egyptologists have speculated that King Tut's mother was Akenhaten's chief wife, Queen Nefertiti—made famous by an iconic bust. But the new findings seem to challenge this idea, because historical records do not indicate that Nefertiti and Akenhaten were related.

Instead, the sister with whom Akenhaten fathered King Tut may have been a minor wife or concubine, which would not have been unusual. Doing so would not have been unusual, said Willeke Wendrich, a UCLA Egyptologist who was not involved in the study.

"Egyptian pharaohs had multiple wives, and often multiple sons who would potentially compete for the throne after the death of their father," Wendrich said. Inbreeding would also not have been considered unusual among Egyptian royalty of the time.


The team's examination of King Tut's body also revealed previously unknown deformations in the king's left foot caused by the necrosis, or death, of bone tissue.

"Necrosis is always bad because it means you have dying organic matter inside your body," study team member Pusch told National Geographic News.

The affliction would have been painful and forced King Tut to walk with a cane—many of which were found in his tomb—but it would not have been life threatening.
Malaria, however, would have been a serious danger.

The scientists found DNA from the mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria in the young pharaoh's body—the oldest known genetic proof of the disease.

The team found more than one strain of malaria parasite, indicating that King Tut caught multiple malarial infections during his life. The strains belong to the parasite responsible for malaria tropica, the most virulent and deadly form of the disease.

The malaria would have weakened King Tut's immune system and interfered with the healing of his foot. These factors, combined with the fracture in his left thighbone, which scientists had discovered in 2005, may have ultimately been what killed the young king, the authors write.

Until now the best guesses as to how King Tut died have included a hunting accident, a blood infection, a blow to the head, and poisoning.

UCLA's Wendrich said the new finding "lays to rest the completely baseless theories about the murder of Tutankhamun."


Another speculation apparently laid to rest by the new study is that Akhenaten had a genetic disorder that caused him to develop the feminine features seen in his statutes, including wide hips, a potbelly, and the female-like breasts associated with the condition gynecomastia.

When the team analyzed Akenhaten's body using medical scanners, no evidence of such abnormalities were found. Hawass and his team concluded that the feminized features found in the statues of Akenhaten created during his reign were done for religious and political reasons.

In ancient Egypt, Akhenaten was a god, Hawass explained. "The poems said of him, 'you are the man, and you are the woman,' so artists put the picture of a man and a woman in his body."

Egyptologist John Darnell of Yale University called the revelation that Akhenaten's appearance was not due to genetic disorders "the most important result" of the new study.

In his book Tutankhamun's Armies, Darnell proposes that Akhenaten's androgynous appearance in art was an attempt to associate himself with Aten, the original creator god in Egyptian theology, who was neither male nor female.

"Akenhaten is odd in his appearance because he belongs to the time of creation, not because he was physically different," said Darnell, who also did not participate in the DNA research.

"People will now need to consider Akenhaten as a thinker, and not just as an Egyptian Quasimodo."


The generally good condition of the DNA from the royal mummies of King Tut's family surprised many members of the team. Indeed, its quality was better than DNA gathered from nonroyal Egyptian mummies several centuries younger, study co-author Pusch said.

The DNA of the Elder Lady, for example, "was the most beautiful DNA that I've ever seen from an ancient specimen," Pusch said. The team suspects that the embalming method the ancient Egyptians used to preserve the royal mummies inadvertently protected DNA as well as flesh.

"The ingredients used to embalm the royals was completely different in both quantity and quality compared to the normal population in ancient times," Pusch explained. Preserving DNA "was not the aim of the Egyptian priest of course, but the embalming method they used was lucky for us."

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