Thursday, February 18, 2010

Forensic genetics and the pharaohs of Egypt:
After extracting tiny amounts of ancient DNA from the mummies' bones, the researchers amplified 16 short tandem repeats (short sequences in the DNA that create a genetic fingerprint) and eight polymorphic microsatellites (hereditary molecular markers) to testable quantities using techniques commonly employed in criminal or paternity investigations. They also looked for DNA sequences from the malaria pathogen.

Based on their results so far, the researchers were able to name several mummies who were previously anonymous (referred to only by tomb number), including Tut's grandmother "Tiye" and Tut's father, the KV55 mummy probably named "Akhenaten". "This is the most important discovery since the finding of the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922," Hawass says. The team also identified the mummy likely to be Tut's mother as KV35YL, not Queen Nefertiti as was once thought. "Now I'm sure that it cannot be Nefertiti, and therefore the mother of King Tut is one of the daughters of Amenhotep III and Tiye—and there are five," Hawass says, adding that he plans to investigate this further.

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