King Tut Further Unwrapped – The Family of Tutankhamun Project

Mummy Forensics - DIY KitIt’s only 24 hours since all Tut broke lose, and additional information is still gradually being released (confirming my theory that the main bulk of the information was leaked too early ahead of the press conference). That, or it took the released information a while to percolate through my brain. The following bits are new or extra info (to me) from the official SCApress release.

My grey mass failed to process the fact that this study is part of the ‘Family of Tutankhamun Project’ rather than the ‘Egyptian Mummy Project’. Somehow, limiting the scope does make sense, despite the Onion’s report on the extinction of the Egyptian mummies*. The other half of that same grey mass neglected to apprehend that rather than the protozoan Plasmodium falciparum being observed in King Tut’s DNA, traces of the malaria parasite’s DNA were discovered in Tut.

The SCA release states that:

“Two types of DNA analysis were performed on samples taken (see how they do this, red) from the bones of these mummies: analysis of specific nuclear DNA sequences from the Y chromosome, which is passed directly from father to son, to study the paternal line; and genetic fingerprinting from the autosomal DNA of the nuclear genome that does not directly decide a persons sex. To authenticate the DNA results, the analyses were repeated and independently replicated in a newly equipped ancient DNA laboratory staffed by a separate group of personnel.”

I’m glad to see the ‘separate group of personnel’ written here, as that wasn’t explicitly mentioned in previous reports (which were thoroughly processed by said grey mass). The neural structure does wonder:”If we have thoroughly tested the 18th dynasty’s DNA, then why absolutely no mentioning of any ethnic ancestries? At least some data must have been found?”

A special award goes to the person that decided on the use of the words ‘conclusively’ (putting an end to doubt or question) and definitely (known for certain). The report claims absolutely that:

  • The mummy found in KV55 is Tutankhamun‘s father** (Even though his age at death is now estimated to be between 45 and 55, rather than 20 to 25, it is only ‘almost certain’ that this was Akhenaten. I guess it also can ‘almost certainly’ not be Smenkhkare any more)
  • The ‘Elder Lady’ from KV35 is Queen Tiye, who is Yuya and Thuya‘s daughter.

Yet, I’m not entirely confident that ‘positively identified’ means there is no possible argument against the fact that the ‘Younger Lady’ from KV35 is Tutankhamun’s mother. The assumption that the two fetuses found hidden away in KV62 are Tut’s kids is even more hasty. But then again, that claim is just as likely as the mummy KV21Abeing the most likely mother of these likely children and thus likely Tutankhamun’s wife, making her probably (that was quite enough ‘likelies’ in one sentence) a royal mummy. At least she’s not under superstition of being male, as was Tutankhamun’s likely mother for a while. Aren’t we all looking forward to the removal of the ‘protected’ status on King Tut’s wikipedia entry, so we can start updating it?:p

What I did not fail to notice, not just in the SCA’s press release, is that the research is quite clearly sponsored by Discovery Channel. For those nagging about the big ‘hype’ factor of this and ‘King Tut Unwrapped’ (photo preview here), please know that I’m not on your side. I’m perfectly happy with this arrangement. UNESCO is not needed to help fund the research and can spend some more on errr.. what about Colchester’s Roman Circus? 😉 Taxes do not need to rise because a growing number of mummies are in need of trips to the mummy-hospital and with Discovery Channel sponsoring, the majority of the results are made freely (cost of the bandwith) accessible to all. A sweet deal altogether?

With that to ponder () I leave you, as Ihave some ‘likely’ removing to do on various Heritage Key directory pages.

*No, the grey mass did not fail to notice that the Onion is indeed one big joke.
**I thought that – although the probability is extremely high – a DNApaternity test is never 100% conclusive.