Tutankhamun's DNA

14 Jul 2010

At www.eutimes.net/2010/06/king-tuts-dna-is-western-european/ is another post sent in by Gary Gilligan, as he has a strong interest in ancient Egypt. It claims Zahi Hawass has not released the DNA results from Tutankhamun's body although he has publicised the findings of the scientific research in respect of the manner of his death, and his relationship to other mummified bodies of the late dynasty 18 period. However, they have leaked out, and the claim, bogus or otherwise, is that his DNA has Y chromosomes consistent with a western European ancestry. It seems that the Discovery Channel TV documentary, filmed with the permission of Zahi Hawass, had a still with the camera hovering over a printout of the DNA results. This was plucked out of the film - by halting the DVD player I suppose, and copied. The article then describes how the DNA numbers were taken up by a retired physicist with an interest in genetics, and he tied the dominating haplogroup of Tutankhamun into the population of the western seaboard of the Atlantic (western and northern Iberia, western and NW France, Ireland, and western Britain from Cornwall to the top of Scotland) which is a bit of a surprise. Whilst one might immediately suspect the DNA analysis was in some way wrong, this will only be determined when professional geneticists look at the sequences available. It should be noted from the map of haplogroup distribution that the ancestry of Tutankhamun is not necessarily restricted to an origin in the far west of Europe but may otherwise belong to a pool of people that spread through central Europe at some indeterminate stage in the past - intermingling with other groups.

Meanwhile, some other facts might be relevant, which the article does not mention. It is known that one thread of the early farmers spread from the Mediterranean and along the Atlantic seaboard, during the Mid Holocene Warm Period. Their origins, we might suppose, were in SW Asia and the Balkans - and perhaps the Aegean region. In addition, genetic analysis has established that the early Holocene population of the Atlantic seaboard had an origin in Iberia, and an affinity with groups such as the Basques. Hence, there are two distinct strains to contend with in the far west of Europe - and that is without any migration from inland Europe to the east (which of course must also have been a factor). Which of these groups does the relevant haplogroup belong? In addition, there is an historical parallel for a connection between the Egyptian royal family in late dynasty 18 and European DNA - namely, through the medium of the Kingdom of Mitanni. Royal sisters were exchanged to forge a treaty of alliance against the threat of the Hittites (and others). DNA from siblings of such a union may account for the haplogroup in question. The Mitanni were Indo European speakers and presumably had an origin on the Russian steppe zone - and going back further in time, an origin with Europeans in general. The Mitanni are thought to have had their closest parallel in the aryans that invaded Iran (the Persians) and India (aryans) but this is not evident from the map on the web site. However, if the aryan influx had been quite small in contrast with the greater population of both Iran and the Indian subcontinent, the DNA evidence would only show up as a minority feature.

In no sense are we talking about the actual population of ancient Egypt, solely the bloodline of the Egyptian royal family in the late dynasty 18 period. The difference between the Amarna pharaohs and earlier members of the dynasty 18 royal family has been commented upon on a number of occasions - not least within the pages of SIS journals. The disgrace of the Amarna pharaohs and their removal and replacement by the dynasty 19 royal family was in all likelihood due to reversals of fortune on the political front and problems in the natural world (and the same fate was to befall dynasty 19). When the racial factor is added, a foreign bloodline in the line of pharaohs, visualised as representatives of God on earth, one might assume that factor also was involved in their removal from power - as the vagaries of the natural world were generally interpreted as a God that was displeased with humanity. In some way they had erred. This factor is self evident in the Biblical story of the fall of the House of Omri - and reappears in Babylonia contemporary with Amarna. Namely, the Assyrian marraige alliance with the king of Babylon was seen as a slight against Marduk - which caused him to become restless (those natural forces assumed to have an origin in Marduk). In fact, this is one very good reason for making the dynastic upheaval in Egypt at the end of the Amarna period contemporary with the similar upheaval in Babylon.