Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm watching the Tutankhamun video on Five.  They showed the Y chromosome results on screen very briefly.  I think it showed DYS193.  So far as I an aware that's not been published.  A few minutes later, they showed a spreadsheet (without column headings) showing how alleles across the DNA microsite analysis alligned between Tutankhamun and KV55 (who in the documentary they identify as Akhenaten).  I want to compare these with the results published in the JAMA paper.  They were only on screen for a second or two but I thought I spotted a difference.

I am not putting this on disk so I can't check.  I'll record it on Saturday.  If anybody has recorded this showing, they might want to check the comparison between what was briefly shown on screen and the JAMA paper.


Later in the show there DNA analysis for Yuya and KV35EL is also displayed on a spreadsheet.  I'll watch that back when I have a recoding as well and compare with the the JAMA paper.  Some commentator have suggested that the JAMA paper doesn't present all of the DNA findings.  The documentary gives us a chance to test that theory - at least in part.

I also understood from the JAMA paper that the mtDNA analysis was outstanding, but the documentary clearly shows that the mtDNA of Tutankhamun, KV35YL and KV35EL match (that is they share a lineage down the female line).

I really want to watch the segment back.  If it said what I thought, then it shows that Queen Tiye is related via the female line to the Younger Lady (and Tutankhamun), which would back up the claims in the JAMA paper that Queen Tiye was the mother  of the Younger Lady.  It would also rule out some of the alternative family trees I have seen - although I think my own suggestion remains safe!


MLP said...


A pair of posters to a DNA email list -- both apparently skilled in reading the electrophoregrams produced by the Applied Biosystems YFiler -- independently of one another recreated the Y profile shown in the Discovery documentary. They differed on only one of the seventeen loci, which happened to be one of the two published in the main JAMA paper. Unfortunately, the second poster pointed out that the resulting profile was a close match for the control DNA that comes with the YFiler kit. I verified this against the YFiler manual. So it's possible the output shown on TV was just to put on a good show: with one exception, the program was showing the output of the control DNA rather than the actual Y profile of Tutankhamun.

After backtracking through several years worth of articles and interviews, I believe a great deal of the mtDNA testing was done before any of the aDNA was profiled. If what I've read is correct, KV35YL was included in the kinship analysis because her mtDNA matched Tutankhamun; and the surprising (to me, anyway) inclusions of the KV21 ladies in the study was due to their mtDNA matching the KV62 fetuses. Some of the post-study remarks of members of the study team imply that the mtDNA of all the female mummies matches.

Hope that's of interest,
Mark L. Peel
Arlington Heights, IL

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting information indeed. It`s just like Hawass to hide the real data from anyone`s view. He is garding his secrets (if he has some) well.
Why do they put on a show with the Y-DNA, announcing further testing when in fact it is all done?
I think in the light of this information it is quite useless to work with the data displayed in the show.

pling said...

When I watched the Discovery documentary the first time it had a message up on the screen at the beginning saying that some of the lab scenes were reconstructions. So that would fit with what MLP says above about the control data being shown to put on a good show. I didn't notice that disclaimer being there in the reshowing of this on 5 at the moment (in the UK) but I'm pretty sure it's the same documentary.

One thing I remember noticing when I watched it was that they do show more data (profiles of the foetuses for instance) than is in the paper. My assumption is that this got taken out of the paper during the peer review process but that the documentary was (obviously) made sometime before the paper was published.

(I wasn't that impressed with the documentary to be honest, I thought it was more interested in being dramatic than in the actual data it was supposedly about. I talk about it a bit in the third paragraph of this blog entry (the rest of the entry isn't about Egypt).)

styler78 said...

It would appear that many of us are rather disappointed with the overall presentation of the Documentary(ies. I (in my case) have put this down to requiring facts as i am trying to study ancient Egypt quite thoroughly. When information is cloudy due to SCA or anyone else deciding which facts i need to hear- i find myself feeling frustrated and relying on others like Kate Phiz to give me a better understanding.

As for the "Akhenaten is Tut's father"- i have no issue with this-providing that i receive the archaeological evidence and indesputable facts to back this up. For now the KV55 mummy is the KV55 mummy, not Akhenaten.

Anonymous said...

It`s possible that the show was made some time before the JAMA paper but still this is no excuse for the many discrepancies between them.
I am sure that not only some of the laboratory scenes but all of them were reconstructed as I don`t think that any cameras were present at the time of the original research.
So there would have been enough time to wait with the making of the show til after the peer review and the final draw up of the JAMA paper. Then they could have given proper information in the show as well.
That is at least what I think a responsible scientist would have done.
Hawass does not seem to be one of them.

Kate Phizackerley said...

Wow! Some really great comments here. Thank you.

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