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Tutankhamun's DNA analysis


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#1    kmt_sesh

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 02:42 AM

The Supreme Council of Antiquities has finally published the results of its genetic analyses of Tutankhamun and numerous other mummies believed to have been in his family line. The results confirm some old suspicions, answer numerous questions, but, not surprisingly, raise new questions. Here's an excerpt from a JAMA article:

Quote

Results  Genetic fingerprinting allowed the construction of a 5-generation pedigree of Tutankhamun's immediate lineage. The KV55 mummy and KV35YL were identified as the parents of Tutankhamun. No signs of gynecomastia and craniosynostoses (eg, Antley-Bixler syndrome) or Marfan syndrome were found, but an accumulation of malformations in Tutankhamun's family was evident. Several pathologies including Köhler disease II were diagnosed in Tutankhamun; none alone would have caused death. Genetic testing for STEVOR, AMA1, or MSP1 genes specific for Plasmodium falciparum revealed indications of malaria tropica in 4 mummies, including Tutankhamun’s. These results suggest avascular bone necrosis in conjunction with the malarial infection as the most likely cause of death in Tutankhamun. Walking impairment and malarial disease sustained by Tutankhamun is supported by the discovery of canes and an afterlife pharmacy in his tomb

Some of the technical stuff is over my head; I have never delved too deeply into the technical aspects of genetic research, so I'll leave it to posters more savvy than I to comment. However, other information is very surprising and interesting to those of us who study the history. For instance, most but not all researchers believe that Akhenaten was the father of Tutankhamun and that his mother was a secondary queen named Kiya. A tomb in the Valley of the Kings was discovered in 1907 by Theodore Davis and his archaeologist, Edward R. Ayrton. This tomb, KV55, has puzzled people ever since. It contained one badly decayed mummy (skeletonized) in a heavily damaged coffin that some argued was the body of Akhenaten; based on the examinations of more than one forensic anthropologist, however, the skeleton was that of a person no more than 25 years of age at death, which was too young for Akhenaten. Therefore, most of us have believed that the skeleton belonged to a very ephemeral and poorly understood king named Smenkhkare.

However, the SCA's genetic analysis has confirmed that this mummy was the father of Tutankhamun. Tut's dad, then, was this fellow (the skull of the skeleton in KV55). Because the genetic tests have confirmed that the mummy thought to be Amunhotep III was in fact him (long contested by some), we can now rule out that Amunhotep III was the father of the boy-king. This used to be a popular theory among some researchers.

KV35 is the tomb of Amunhotep II. It was discovered in 1898 by Victor Loret, and in the course of clearing the tomb Loret came upon a sealed side chamber containing mummies that had been moved in ancient history, some time following their original burials. Two of the mummies belong to regal-looking females and are known as Younger Lady and Elder Lady. So then, the genetic tests have confirmed that KV35YL, the Younger Lady, was both the full sister of Akhenaten and the mother of Tutankhamun. This presents a big mystery. It's unlikely that Kiya was Akhenaten's sister, so who is this woman? There are several possible candidates: Sitamen, Isis, Nebetah, or Baketaten, all royal ladies known from that time. There is also Nefertiti, of course, but as with Kiya, she was probably not Akhenaten's sister.

The tests have further confirmed that KV55 and KV35YL were the children of Amunhotep III and his principal queen, Tiye. At this point I may sound a little redundant, so please forgive me. This is all big news to those of us who study the history. Long suspected and also now confirmed is that KV35EL, the Elder Lady from that cache of mummies in KV35, is in fact the mummy of Queen Tiye. Some of you may remember the big fuss the British Egyptologist Joann Fletcher tried to make in identifying this mummy as Nefertiti, so now this officially sinks her theory. A theory she rushed to publish and which landed her in a heap of trouble.

Also confirmed is that KV35EL (Elder Lady) was the daughter of the nobles Yuya and Tjuya, who were buried in KV46 during the reign of Amunhotep III.

And yet more. A female mummy from KV21 (sorry, no photo) is quite possibly that of Ankhesenamun, queen of Tutankhamun. This is most likely going to be confirmed. Two stillborn mummified infant girls (photo of one here) were found in KV62, Tutankhamun's tomb, when it was being cleared in the 1920s. It has been verified that Tutankhamun was their father and the KV21 mummy their mother. Tutankhamun is not known to have another wife, so the KV21 mummy probably is in fact Ankhesenamun, long lost to history.

The genetic tests have clarified that there is no trace of Marfan's syndrome in Tut's family line. The odd appearance of Akhenaten and family in the early artwork of the Amarna Period most likely has nothing to do with disease, an idea most Egyptologists abandoned years ago but still popular among laypeople. However, other diseases were prevalent, malaria among them. It was a combination of weakening by malaria and the severe fracture to his left distal femur that most likely caused the death of Tutankhamun.

Here are some JAMA links (and one from National Geographic) where you can read more, including the one from which I quoted above:

http://jama.ama-assn.../303/7/638?home

http://jama.ama-assn.../303/7/667?home

http://jama.ama-assn.../303/7/659?home

http://news.national...ed-tutankhamun/

Of course I would like to write more and there's a lot more to be said--all of you know how addicted I am to the study of ancient Egypt. Still, I've written enough, and I hope some of you will comment and contribute. :)

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#2    Qoais

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 02:59 AM

Maybe some of the smarter folks in here can tell us why there was no sign of him having a club foot when they originally unwrapped the dude, but the scans show he had one, as well as a cleft pallet.

http://www.latimes.c...story?track=rss

Edited by Qoais, 17 February 2010 - 03:03 AM.

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#3    kmt_sesh

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 03:34 AM

View PostQoais, on 17 February 2010 - 02:59 AM, said:

Maybe some of the smarter folks in here can tell us why there was no sign of him having a club foot when they originally unwrapped the dude, but the scans show he had one, as well as a cleft pallet.

http://www.latimes.c...story?track=rss

I can't get your link to work, Qoais. Do I need to know the secret handshake? :lol:

In the reports I've read I haven't seen anything about a club foot. Rather, that was found in one or more of other mummies examined. In my OP I mentioned only several of many mummies that were part of these tests. In this link it says:

Quote

The researchers also excluded Antley-Bixler syndrome, but detailed radiological examination of the king's feet revealed a low arch and deformed structure with areas of bone density indicating bone necrosis.

Köhler disease II or Freiberg-Köhler syndrome was apparently active at the time of death and may have caused walking disability for some time, given the 130 canes and walking sticks -- some with traces of wear -- found in the boy king's tomb and depictions of him seated for activities like hunting for which he normally should have been standing.

I had to look into these ailments but the gist of it is, pertaining to Tut, it's likely a particular bone in his foot (the navicular) lost blood supply for some time, which resulted in a weakening of the bone and subsequent disability to some degree or another.

The article in this link also says:

Quote

Among the 10 possibly or definitely closely related mummies examined, Pusch's group also found bone malformation -- including cleft palate, clubfeet, and flat feet -- along with indications of bone degeneration, neoplastic changes, and trauma.

So feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the club foot and cleft palette refer to other mummies. I'm still in the early stages of digesting this material and getting everything straight. What's interesting is that the CT scans performed on Tut several years ago revealed no disorder to his feet, and in fact the scientists who studied the scans felt he was a healthy young man at the time of his death.

This is really interesting stuff. It will cause us to rewrite some of our understanding of that particular time in Dynasty 18.

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#4    cormac mac airt

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 06:31 AM

Fantastic news kmt_sesh,

For anyone interested, here is a comparison of the head of the mummy confirmed by genetic testing as the father of King Tutankhamen, and King Tut himself.

Posted Image

Head of Tut's father..................................................................Tut's own x-ray..................................................................Actual head-shot of King Tut

Kmt_sesh, what information is know concerning Smenkhare, currently?

cormac

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#5    TheSearcher

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 08:04 AM

Nice piece of info Kmt, thanks for that. This sheds a whole new light on a lot of things and effectively cans a few theories as it goes, mainly Joann Fletcher's theory, but I'm sure there are a few others.

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#6    Qoais

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 08:18 AM

King Tut's mundane death
Malaria and a broken leg, not murder, probably led to the demise of Egypt's famed boy king. New testing also shows that he had a cleft palate, clubfoot and degenerative bone disease.

Archaeologists have weaved elaborate tales of intrigue and deceit about the death at age 19 of Egypt's fabled boy king Tutankhamen, with theories that include poisoning by his regent, Aye, and a blow to the head by thugs hired by Aye, but new research indicates his cause of death was probably more mundane -- complications from a broken leg and malaria.

Using a new approach for analyzing mummies called molecular Egyptology, an international team of researchers found DNA traces of malaria parasites in the boy-king's brain, suggesting an infection was a major factor in his death.

Examination of Tut's body and his genes confirmed that he suffered from a cleft palate and clubfoot, and showed he had a degenerative bone condition called Kohler disease II.

But he did not suffer from Marfan syndrome or other diseases that would have feminized his appearance, as many researchers have speculated from observing busts from the period.

It now appears that those busts were simply a distinct artistic style chosen by the pharaohs of the 18th dynasty of Egypt's New Kingdom, who ruled from 1550 BC to about 1295 BC.

By matching Tut's DNA to samples from other mummies, the team was able to identify one -- previously known only as KV55 -- as the pharaoh Akhenaten and the probable father of Tut; another as Tiye, Akhenaten's mother and Tut's grandmother; and a third as a sister of Akhenaten who was probably Tut's mother.

The results, published in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Assn., show that DNA analysis of mummies can provide valuable insights, said archaeologist Zahi Hawass, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities and leader of the research team.

"It is very important to have more empirical data about this body," said archaeologist Emily Teeter of the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, who was not involved in the research. "The period is well documented [with artifacts] but not well understood."

She said the demonstration that Akhenaten was probably Tut's father also had "ramifications for Egyptian chronology." Researchers had not known whether Tut's father was Amenhotep III or Amenhotep IV, who took the name Akhenaten.

Tut became pharaoh in 1333 BC at age 10 and ruled for only nine years, a period during which most of the governing was probably performed by his regent, the commoner Aye (pronounced "I"). It was common for millenniums for regents to rule when a new king was too young.

Tut was considered a minor king. Little was known about him until archaeologist Howard Carter found his riches-filled tomb in 1922, at which point he became an international celebrity.

The find also triggered much speculation. Busts showed a feminized face and gynecomastia, or feminized breasts, leading to the hotly contested speculation by a few that Tut and his family suffered from a disorder such as Marfan syndrome.

But the new study, performed at a specialized ancient-DNA laboratory at the University of Tubingen in Germany, showed no evidence of genetic conditions in Tut's family that would lead to such characteristics.

The first examinations of Tut's skull many years ago showed a fracture, and historians wove elaborate tales about it. In 1998, archaeologist Bob Brier of Long Island University published "The Murder of Tutankhamen," speculating that the killing was done by Aye's henchmen so he could continue to rule.

But CT scans performed in 2005 showed that the fracture actually occurred long after death, most likely during the embalming process. The scans also showed a cleft palate and a fracture in his left femur, or thighbone, that most likely occurred a few days before his death.

The new testing did show the presence of several genes from the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum in Tut and three other mummies, including his grandmother, suggesting the disease was a fairly common problem among the Egyptian royalty.

That infection, combined with necrosis, or death of bones, caused by Kohler disease could have weakened him severely, the authors speculated.

The broken leg, possibly from a fall, could then have been the final event that led to his death.

Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of the new findings was that Tut suffered from clubfoot, Teeter said. "Photographs of the mummy taken when it was unwrapped in 1925 don't show anything that would suggest a clubfoot, so this is a real surprise."

The team says that the presence of many canes in the tomb support the idea that he was disabled, but Teeter noted that the canes "were primarily decorative, and every well-dressed Egyptian man carried a cane -- just like a man in the 1940s with a pocket square."

Two one-hour documentaries about the researchers' studies will be presented on the Discovery Channel on Sunday and Monday.

thomas.maugh@latimes.com
Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.c...story?track=rss

The link won't work, and yet when I try it in the other forum, it works.

Edited by Qoais, 17 February 2010 - 08:23 AM.

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#7    Leonardo

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 08:25 AM

Try this link, Qoais.

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#8    TheSearcher

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 08:28 AM

View PostQoais, on 17 February 2010 - 08:18 AM, said:


Qoais, the link is not working because of the , in the URL. It only recognises this part http://www.latimes.c...tut17-2010feb17 which inevitably leads to a Page Not Found message.

Try copying this entire link and paste it into your browser :

Quote

www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-sci-king-tut17-2010feb17,0,7747129.story?track=rss

It should work fine then.

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#9    cluey

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 09:09 AM

fantastic thread!!!!!...thank you all for sharing your wealth of knowledge......i have researched and read on a lot of Egypt.......but you guys blow me away!!!!!........i have never seen the beautiful gold mask that was found with him.........i believe it is in a London museum????....and will 1 day travel to Egypt.....thanks again....ok....about the documentary.....i'm in Australia......so when would it be on for me???.....or should i just go to their website and see...Posted Image

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#10    Fluffybunny

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 10:38 AM

Pretty incredible stuff...based on the information they recently found, it certainly sheds light on the situation in a way we could have never done in times past. I can't fathom how they dealt with a femur fracture back then...Having dealt with many current day femur fractures I can tell you that they are extremely difficult to treat without advanced care; the muscles of the thigh(front and back) generally tighten up and pull the ends of the  jagged bone together and into muscle tissue. Anyone who has seen a broken chicken bone knows how sharp the edges of the bone are; imagine that pulled into muscle tissue, or worse yet the large arteries and veins of the thigh...it is excruciating. We now have a device with a pulley system that attaches to the foot and allows us to pull traction on the broken femur, pulling the jagged edges out of the injured tissue, and back into some degree of alignment. The people having that traction applied actually give a sigh of relief when traction is applied...As advanced as the Egyptians were, I seriously doubt they had the ability to create such a system, so I can only imagine that Tut would have had to suffer in agony for some time(unless the jagged bones cut the femoral artery; which ends in a quick death). Compounded by the fact that he would have been weakened by malaria(to some degree anyway), it would have been miserable.

Too many people on both sides of the spectrum have fallen into this mentality that a full one half of the country are the enemy for having different beliefs...in a country based on freedom of expression. It is this infighting that allows the focus to be taken away from "we the people" being able to watch, and have control over government corruption and ineptitude that is running rampant in our leadership.

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#11    TheSearcher

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 12:38 PM

View Postcluey, on 17 February 2010 - 09:09 AM, said:

fantastic thread!!!!!...thank you all for sharing your wealth of knowledge......i have researched and read on a lot of Egypt.......but you guys blow me away!!!!!........i have never seen the beautiful gold mask that was found with him.........i believe it is in a London museum????....and will 1 day travel to Egypt.....thanks again....ok....about the documentary.....i'm in Australia......so when would it be on for me???.....or should i just go to their website and see...Posted Image

If I'm not mistaken the burial mask is usually exhibited in and by the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It's not in a London museum as far as I'm aware. You might want to check on their site so see if there is a traveling exhibition happening for the moment. I know that in 2009 it toured the US, but I'm unsure if it will go to the great down under.

Their web link is www.egyptianmuseum.gov.eg, although I  need to warn that for the moment it's not working for me.

Edit : me bleeding spelling again of course.

Edited by TheSearcher, 17 February 2010 - 12:45 PM.

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#12    Qoais

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 03:16 PM

Thanks Searcher - it works.  I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't work when I copied it right from the site, but would work from the other forum.  Oh well, all's well that ends well. :)

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#13    HerNibs

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 03:32 PM

:blush:

I need a chart.  Family tree chart or something.

:(  Some of us need visual aids.

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#14    kmt_sesh

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 03:34 PM

Thanks for all of your wonderful input, everyone. I don't have time for detailed posting right now, and I'm waiting on an acquaintance who is supposed to be emailing me a PDF of the report listing the results and findings.

For the moment, however, a correction is in order. In my OP I mentioned that Joann Fletcher had tried to identify KV35EL as the mummy of Nefertiti, but I got my mummies confused. It was KV35YL, the Younger Lady, who Fletcher was using for her theory. The identity of this mummy remains unknown and I listed some potential candidates in my OP, including either Kiya or Nefertiti. So Fletcher's theory has not been definitively disproved as of yet and I must apologize to the group for misidentifying the mummy. LOL And I'm the one always criticizing Fletcher for rushing to publish. However, as I said earlier, it's extremely unlikely that either Kiya or Nefertiti was a full sister of Akhenaten.

I'll stop in later and read everyone's comments in more detail. Thanks again, folks. :)

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#15    kmt_sesh

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Posted 17 February 2010 - 03:38 PM

View PostHerNibs, on 17 February 2010 - 03:32 PM, said:

:blush:

I need a chart.  Family tree chart or something.

:(  Some of us need visual aids.

Nibs

A perfectly reasonable request, HerNibs. I happen to have a chart pertaining to the relationships of the people in question:

Posted Image

I hope this helps. ^_^

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