Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Friday, February 19, 2010

This article by pling makes interesting reading.  Pling looks at the methodology used to assess the genetic genealogy.  She has read the full paper and also states clearly what has been scientifically proven and what hasn't.  (Again, it's worth stressing that that the identification of Akhenaten from tomb KV55 has not been proven by this latest study.  If progress can be made on the identification of the lineage of the Younger lady, we may be able to make a firm identification because we know KV35YL was the sister of the mummy from KV55.)

There are a couple of things which "puzzle" me.  The mummies from KV21 in the Valley of the Kings are largely unknown, although including the mummies fromKV35 was an obvious move.  Only 11 New Kingdom mummies from the time of Tutankhamun were tested.  I am intrigued what prompted the SCA to select this particular group of 11 mummies and not any others.  So far as I am aware, there was no prior speculation that the mummy "KV21A" mummy could be Ankhesenamun.   I wonder if the ongoing investigations of Valley of the Kings tombs has revealed unpublished clues to the occupants some of the lesser known tombs.  (The indentification of Aknhesenamun still has not been proven by the way.)  Remember Dr Hawass said 6 months ago:

"The fetuses will help us determine whether [King Tut's wife and daughter of Nefertiti] Ankhesenamun was a half sister or a full sister," said Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.  "If the fetus DNA matches King Tut's DNA and Ankhesenamun['s DNA], then they shared the same mother." 
Although in 2008 Dr Hawass also said of the two foetuses from KV62, ""I personally feel they are not the sons of Tutankhamun".

Sadly the study has failed to answer these questions which brings me to the second thing that puzzles me: no mention is being made of the earlier DNA sampling of key New Kingdom mummies.  As I reported in September 2009, Prof Scott Woodward harvested DNA from 27 New Kingdom mummies, 7 successfully.  He also successfully recovered mitochondrial DNA from the elder KV62 foetus, although the sequencing has never been published.  There are also reports that he successfully extracted DNA from Yuya, the father of Queen Tiye.  Nothing I have read suggests that any attempt has been made to integrate these earlier DNA sequences.  Undoubtedly methodologies have moved on since the 1990s, but nonetheless I worry whether the politics of "an all Egyptian investigation" may have come before maximising the scientific value of the DNA which has been gathered from New Kingdom mummies.   That is particularly true of the foetuses from KV62 because, as I have reported previously, they have allegedly not been well kept and have deteriorated over the past decade making DNA extraction more difficult.


Jim said...

That's an excellent link - thanks Kate. Interesting, as it tends to confirm exactly what I'd suspected was happening - fascinating and illuminating new data, but blown up at the presscon into 'clear' conclusions which do not all bear close scrutiny. Riveting stuff, nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Best synopsis I have have read of the findings. It would seem to be clear based on the STR analysis that the relationship of Tutankhamum to the KV 55 mummy and KV35-yl, Amenhotep III and KV35-el (Tiye) as well as the relationship between Thuya and Tiye are well substantiated. It is my understanding that the JAMA article was peer-reviewed, so one can have a high level of confidence in the findings regarding the methodology of the testing and the affiliation of the various sets of remains (while of course recognizing that some attributions such as KV 55 being Amenhotep IV are provisional).

pling said...

Something I didn't mention in my post that's relevant to the fetuses and the KV21 mummies is that in the supplemental part of the paper they say:

"[...]part of an ongoing project is the examination of the hypervariable region of the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA of all mummies."

So hopefully some of these questions will be answered or at least addressed in future papers.

Kate Phizackerley said...

Thanks pling

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