Mummy CSI – Egypt gets second lab for processing ‘Mummy DNA’

Pharaoh Tutankhamun's dental recordsEgypt’s first ever DNA lab exclusively dedicated to the study of ancient mummies which is located in the Egyptian Museum and helped with the quest of identifying Hatshepsut’s mummy will get a ‘sister’ lab at the Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University. One of the main purposes of the new lab is to independently reproduce the results obtained in the first lab, as a crucial element of DNA testing is independent replication of the results.

Fetus assumed to be one of Pharaoh Tut's stillborn children.DNA of mummies is different from that of people alive: “It is very old and fragile, so we have to extract and multiply it before tests.” The DNAsamples on mummies are taken by entering the same puncture hole from a number of different angles with a bone marrow biopsy needle, a less invasive technique than ones that had been used by previous researchers.

This is not the only ‘Mummy CSI’ ongoing in Egypt. Together with the Faculty of Medicine, the Supreme Council of Antiquities also plans to scan all royal mummies for identification and the forensic section at the faculty will study the bones found inside the pyramid builders cemetery on the Giza plateau, in order to learn of the diseases that they suffered during their lifetimes and their average ages at death. The search for King Tut’s ancestery will also include X-raying and the reconstruction of possible relatives’ features.

The priority of the new lab, said Dr. Hawass, is “to study the family tree ofTutankhamun, as we do not know who his father was, and where his mother’s mummy was buried.”

The lab, which cost one million U.S dollars, is sponsored by the American Discovery Channel, said Hawas, adding that the channel “will shoot what we will be doing.” So if it was Amenhotep IV (better known as Akhenaten) or Amenhotep III that fathered ‘King Tut’, we’ll most likely find out on TV.;)

If you’re interested in ‘Mummy CSI’, you might enjoy the report on the CT-scan done on King Tut’s mummy in 2005 on the website.