Yesterday the results were announced, after DNA from the mummy of Egypt’s Tutankhamun was compared with DNA from a bunch of other royal mummies. The news was supposed to be released today, but I guess too much had leaked out already. With these tests, I’ll venture that we learned as much about Tut’s family as we knew previously. For a start, the tests give names to some mummies who didn’t have a positive identification before. Here’s what we learned:
1. Tutankhamun died of a combination of a broken leg and malaria. Moreover, the presence of more than one strain of malarial DNA tells us he had the disease more than once. He also had a clubfoot, and was forced to walk with a cane. This is why he was buried with an assortment of canes and walking sticks, some of which showed signs of being used. Evidently the picture showing him leaning on a walking stick was realistic.
2. Tut’s poor health was probably caused by inbreeding (see #5 below). The XVIII dynasty may have been less inbred than most of the families that produced pharaohs, but its genetic good luck ran out with him.
3. The mummy identified as Amenhotep III was his grandfather, and the bones found in KV55 came from his father. This settles another question one and for all–the person buried in KV55 was Akhenaten, not Smenkhkare.
4. The mummy from KV35 called the “Elder Lady,” identified as Queen Tiye in 1976, was King’s Tut’s grandmummy, all right.
5. Another mummy from KV35, the so-called “Younger Lady,” was Tutankhamun’s mother; she was Tiye’s daughter, and thus Akhenaten’s full-blooded sister. Unfortunately we don’t have a name for her yet, so we can’t say for sure if she was Nefertiti or somebody else.
6. The two mummified fetuses buried with Tut were his stillborn daughters, and a mummy from KV21 was their mother. That means Tut’s wife, Ankhesenamun, has been found.
7. Akhenaten didn’t really look as weird as his portraits and statues suggest. The only unusual feature detected from the KV55 body was an elongated head. It looks like he had the pictures done that way as an artistic convention. The god he worshiped, Aten, was portrayed as sexless, so he wanted to be shown as both male and female, too. For me this was the most surprising discovery.
At a minimum, I’m going to have to rewrite some paragraphs on my ancient Egypt page.
Here are some news links to the story:
From FOX News
From The Globe & Mail
From National Geographic