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4,000-year-old Egyptian mummies were half-brothers, DNA analysis reveals

Two famous Egyptian mummies at the University of Manchester Museum, known as the ‘Two Brothers,’ had the same mother but different fathers, according to a new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The pair of mummies was discovered in 1907 at Deer Rifeh, a village 250 miles south of Cairo.

The 4,000-year-old, 12th Dynasty mummies belong to two aristocratic males, named Khnum-nakht and Nakht-ankh, and date to about 1800 BC. According to hieroglyphic inscriptions on the coffins, both men had mothers with the name Khnum-aa and were sons of an unidentified local governor. The joint burial site was then known as The Tomb of the Two Brothers.

Once Egyptologists got a chance to unwrap the mummies in 1908, they saw that the skeleton morphologies of the mummies were very different, suggesting one of the brothers may have been adopted.

Then, in 2015, lead author Dr. Konstantina Drosou of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Manchester and colleagues conducted a genetic analysis from DNA extracted from the mummies’ teeth.

The researchers found that both mummies belonged to mitochondrial haplotype M1a1, indicating a maternal connection between the two. The Y chromosome sequences suggested they had different fathers, making them very likely half-brothers.

“It was a long and exhausting journey to the results but we are finally here,” said Drosou, in a statement. “I am very grateful we were able to add a small but very important piece to the big history puzzle and I am sure the brothers would be very proud of us. These moments are what make us believe in ancient DNA.”

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