Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pharaonic DNA

King Tut Exhibit Opens At The Field Museum

King Tut had a cleft palate, as did his father, Akhenaten. His mother was Akhenaten's sister. Tut suffered from Kohler's disease and clubbed feet, inherited from grandpa Amenhotep III. And he wasn't murdered.

We know all this from DNA analysis. Cool, huh?

A CT scan discovered that King Tut's leg was broken just before death, and that brain malaria most likely killed him. But it's the DNA confirmation of his paternity and maternity that settles a lot of questions.

For two years, winding up in October 2009, researchers did all sorts of tests--twice--on several royal mummies in Tutankamun's family. Ten possible near-relatives were analyzed, as well as five royal mummies from the previous century (Tut died around 1323 BC). The results are just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  (JAMA...wouldn't you assume this would be in an archaeologica or Egyptology journal? Just a thought.)

And all those theories of Marfan's disease, or a biological basis for elongated skulls and womanish curves in Akhenaten's family? No genetic evidence of any of that was found. Possibly, the portrayals of Akh & Tut & co. just reflect a passing artistic style.  It's in all the papers today, so here's a link to the Science Daily piece. I like it particularly because it ends by bringing up some of the ethical questions that come with this type of work. Who's entitlted to a right of privacy, even after death? for example.

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