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Did Tut-Ankh-Amon have a Pharaonic DNA?

Genetic testing of mummies should shed light on the origin of the kings

By Salah Nasrawi

Part of the gilded coffin of Tut-Ankh-Amun (right) and a work of art found in his tomb, in which he is depicted with his wife

Ancient Egypt / Genetic tests of mummies are supposed to shed light on the origin of the kings

Cairo Egypt experts have decided to answer once and for all the ancient question, whether the king of Egypt, Tut-Ankh-Amun, was indeed flesh and blood of the pharaohs and the legal registrar. The experts chose to address the problem from a modern angle, and decided for the first time to conduct DNA tests on the mummy of Tut-Ankh-Amun and the mummy of an official son of the pharaonic family, who is considered, according to ancient Egyptian tradition, to be his grandfather.

The DNA comparison of the two mummies should also answer the question of whether the young king was a descendant of any royal dynasty. "This puzzle has been going on for too long," says the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, Gabballah Ali Gabballah. "A DNA test is probably the last resort."

Tutankhamun ruled Egypt 3,300 years ago, from the time he was eight until he died at age 17. According to tradition, he inherited the kingship from Amenhotep IV, known as Akhenaten. The accepted opinion at the time of Tut even had a version that he had a blood relation to the great pharaoh. However, although most Egyptologists believe that King Tut was a descendant of the royal dynasty, many of them doubt the version, according to which Akhenaten was his father.

According to Gaballah, the DNA tests will be carried out by a team of researchers from "Wasada" universities in Japan and "Ain Shams" universities in Cairo. The researchers will compare DNA extracted from Tutankhamun's mummified body with DNA from the mummy of Amenhotep III, which is on display in a museum in Cairo.
Amenhotep III, according to tradition, was the father of Akhenaten, and hence - also the grandfather of Tut-Ankh-Amun.

The chief archaeologist of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Sabry Abdel-Aziz, says the first inspection will take place on December 12 at Tut-Ankh-Amun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The valley - a deep cleft in the limestone mountains near the city of Luxor - was the preferred burial ground for rulers, kings and officials of the New Kingdom, which existed between 1,500 and 1,070 BC.

The tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amun was discovered in 1922 by the British Howard Carter. It is in almost perfect condition, and the treasures discovered in it yielded great insights into the history of ancient Egypt.
During the reign of Tut-Ankh-Amun, Egypt was governed by a general named Horhem, who claimed, along with other generals, that royal blood also flows in his veins. Now, genetic testing of mummies may solve some of the mysteries surrounding ancient Egypt, confirming or disproving views such as Hormhab's. In addition, the tests can add information about marriage patterns and relations between ethnic groups at those times.

However, some archaeologists claim that genetic tests have not yet proven their effectiveness, at least in this field. They warn that one should not over-rely on such tests, especially when trying to determine historical facts.
{Appeared in Haaretz newspaper, 10/11/2000}

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