Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I may have been unduly pessimsitic about the chances of recovering mitochondrial DNA.  I understand that mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was successfully extracted from the elder of the two foetuses in the Vallley of the King's KV62 and reported a TV documentary Secrets of the Pharaohs: Tut's Family Curse which aired in February 2001.  There was a companion book to the series of three documentaries ("Secrets of the Pharoahs") that I have just ordered from Amazon for £0.01.  If anybody wants a copy, there was still one "Very Good" condition used copy on the UK site at that price (although many more rated "Good") and I'd guess it could be picked up in the USA for $0.01. I'll try to post up a book review once I've got it.

While hunting for that, I have found this article at Egyptology Online which I'd recommend.  There are several interesting sections but I want to quote one:

Back in 1993-94 Professor Scott Woodward, a microbiologist from Brigham Young University (USA) was asked to demonstrate the usefulness of DNA, testing on six mummies from the Old Kingdom period, with the aim of providing clues to their sexing and possible genealogies.  Woodward was able to determine that two of the mummies had been [accidentally?] placed inside the wrong coffins.

Following his success, Woodward was invited to the Cairo Museum sometime during the mid 90’s to examine and harvest tissue samples from 27 royal mummies from the New Kingdom Period, during their removal to a new display room.From the 27 mummies, only 7 yielded successful DNA sequences.  However, from his results he was able to determine that Ahmose I had married his full sister Seknet-re and that Amenhotep I's mtDNA was different from Ahmose I, making it highly likely that Ahmose – Nefertari was in actual fact Amenhotep I's mother.
As two what the foetuses may reveal, it's interesting that in the August 2008 Zahi Hawass was reported in National Geographic as saying ""I personally feel they are not the sons of Tutankhamun".  (There'll be a link to that article in the next post.)   mtDNA was extracted from the older ofthe two foetuses which is female and therefore wouldn't have a Y chromosome to allow straightforward comparison to tutankhamun's own DNA.  Even by the 90's, the condition of the foetuses had deteriorated badly - they were even hard to locate and were eventually tracked down to Cairo Medical School.  Although techniques have improved in the near 2 decades since, whether they have deteriorated further since, rendered DNA extract impossible, has to be a concern.  (Apparently a partial mtDNA sample was extracted from the second foetus.  I have seen no report indicating whether this was consistent with a sibling match.)

There are reports that Scott Woodward also succesfully extracted DNA from Yuya, whom some identify as the Biblical Josepth.  There are suspicions that it was these links which caused the project to be abandoned fairly abruptly.   It will be interesting to see what is published in the next few months by Dr Hawass but having investigated some of this may be corroboration of earlier findings rather then groundbreaking news. It will be interesting to see whether the work of Professor Woodward is credited.


Keith Payne / Shemsu Sesen said...

Again, just for clarification.

What Dr. Hawass reported in his lecture in Indianapolis on August 7th, 2009, was that the testing on the older and more intact of the two fetuses which had been conducted early this summer had confirmed the results of the previous test that Tutankhamun was the father, and that the results of both tests were being submitted to an un-named periodical for peer review.

Why he would state that the tests were positive when there is no direct way to match them to Tut's own DNA is anyone's guess. The same for why he would state the previous year that he didn't believe she was Tutankhamun's "son" (techinically correct by any standard!). He seemed characteristically enthusiastic about it August 7th.

As for a sibling match, he did say that the younger of the two fetuses, which he stated had miscarreid at about six months, was far too deteriorated for any sort of sample.

Michael Holding said...

Yeah it is very interesting to know that trough dna rest we can know about the past what was there when there is no written evidence is there.Thanks for such a nice post.
Genetic ID

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