Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Andie Bynres found a story online which claims that scientists in Switzerland have analysed Tutankhamun's Y-chromosome and determined his haplogroup to be R1b1a2.  The story is bouncing around several fora and blogs but the source is hard to determine.  This article others rather more information and claims that the scientists have also analysed KV55 (they say Akhenaten so lets translate that back into a mummy and avoid the identification wit Akhenaten) and Amenhotep III.  The scientists work for the Zurich-based DNA genealogy center, iGENEA.

That's when the story gets murky, because their website not only will sell you a test to see if you too are related to King Tutankhamun, they state:

In the year 2009 extended DNA-tests had been carried out with the mummy of Tutankamun and other members for his family. These have only partially been published in February 2010. Despite several demands, the results of the Y-DNA tests have been shut away. 

iGENEA was able to reconstruct the Y-DNA profile of Tutankhamun, his father Akhenaten and his grandfather Amenhotep III with the help of a recording of the Discovery Channel.
So this is not new work on the official raw data.  There are two problems with working from the Discovery Channel videos.  The first is that the team which analysed Tutankhamun's DNA for publication in JAMA have stated that the first lab sequences were shot in the lab.  However, it was taking them a week to re-sterilise the lab to resume work so TV crews were banned and much of the lab sequences were reconstructions.  Now we know that, using the TV footage has to carry a warning that the results shown on TV may not be real - and so far as the Y chromosome is concerned could for instance by a reconstruction using the DNA of one of the scientists himself.  Even if the footage was accurate, there is concern among geneticists that the results were contaminated and the methodology of the original study uncertain. 

Putting the two together, with suitable caveats the data is probably useful to indicate familial relationships.  I don't however feel comfortable myself with claims of a European haplogroup in such circumstances.  It's possible, but the chance that it is a spurious result from a dramatised reconstruction seems very real to me. 

We go back to wishing that the raw data had been fully published and then such stories wouldn't arise.


Stephanie said...

In the JAMA paper it is stated that the examination of the Y-DNA yielded few results with only two markers showing up.

So find it rather difficult to believe that it is Tut`s full y-DNA profile which is shown on the screen.
I guess it is either not from him or it could be some raw data which could not be verified and was therefore not included in the report.

Either way it`s not something to base speculations on.

Dennis said...

Kate, I think you are right - the discovery video is what is called 'file footage' and the Swiss firm is simply using it to make money. The file footage could easily be my DNA as what I have seen of it matches a test that was done for tracing an ancestor of mine.

Stephanie said...

There is an article
in which Pusch, the co-author of the JAMA paper, says the Swiss firm acts unscientifically and that their claims are wrong.

But he does not exactly state that the onscreen-data is not Tut`s DNA either.
Not very surprising though as he cannot admit now that those screenshots were a complete hoax.

Anonymous said...

From your post last year i deducted that KV55 is most likely Smenchkare and the younger lady one of Amenhotep III and Tiye's younger daughters. This brother-sister couple produced Tutanchaten during the reign of their brother Achnaton.

Is there any clear evidence of the Amarna succession between Achnaton and Tutanchamon?
I know Smenchkare and Neferneferuaton both are considered to have reigned in between. But if Tut is Smenchkare's son than the identity of Neferneferuaton changes depending on who of those two reigned first.
Was Achnaton succeeded by the female Neferneferuaton than it is likely she was Nefertiti.
However if Achnaton was succeeded by his brother than Smenchkare could have married his niece Meritaton, who after his short reign opted to reign herself instead of letting the throne to her young cousin/stepson.

That would still require an explanation for Thuya's link with the daughters of Tut. I know we have no fact on Nefertiti's background, but i don't think it to be too far fetched that she was related to Queen Tiye. Tiye had a brother Anen and he had one son and four daughters when he died. If he had died a female relative of his mother (a cousin) that would nicely link the dna of Thuya with those of the foetusses.
Ay could than be a brother of Nefertiti's mother who with his wife Tey took on the education of his sister's children. This would also explain why his name doesn't appear in Thuya's and Yuya's tomb. He would be their nephew and not their son.

Geoff Carter said...

I doubt this is true, or a valid bit of science, but I would not be surprised to find that a ruling elite were from a different genetic background from those they rule.

For those with a conspiratorial bent, the idea that Dr Hawass would have ever announced that any Pharaoh/Dynasty was European, is equally improbable, although 'mad Heretic Pharaoh was foreign' does have some merit.

tim said...

Scientific study based on Discovery footage? I have found so many mistakes over the years with Discovery's programming which tends to downplay the science and up plays the sensationalism.

I take everything coming out of Discovery with a huge pinch of salt and consider that this must be a joke or sensationalism passing as science.

Marianne Luban said...

Once again I bring up the blood type of the members of the royal family, including Yuya and Thuya, Amenhotep III and Tutankhamun and the KV55 individual. It is A2, a rare subgroup of type A. In a study done in Egypt in the north and the south, A2 was found in less than 1% of the tested population, which included Copts and Moslems. A2 seems to be more prevalent in Europe and is found in highest percentage in the Scandinavian lands. Based on this, it really wouldn't surprise me if Tut's haplogroup was R--although I would have no idea why at this point.

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