A Real Blueblood?

Tutankhamun solid gold face mask; photo taken 7-27-95
Experts will use DNA tests on two mummies to solve a centuries-old mystery as to whether one of Egypt's most famous kings had truly pharaonic blood.

Comparing DNA from Tutankhamun's mummy with that of another pharaoh should resolve the question as to whether the boy-king known as "Tut" really was of royal stock and divulge more about his family background, said Gaballah Ali Gaballah, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Tutankhamun, who ruled Egypt 3,300 years ago, was believed to have succeeded Amenhotep lV, better known as Akhenaten, and official policy at the time associated him by blood to the great Pharaoh. But many Egyptologists have questioned this patriarchal link with Akhentaten although they seem to agree that Tutankhamun was of some sort of royal lineage.

"This riddle went on now for a long time and probably DNA is the last resort to end it," said Gaballah.

Tutankhamun was believed to have ruled for six or seven years and died mysteriously at the age of 17.

Gaballah said the test will be conducted by a joint team from Waseda University in Japan and Cairo's Ein Shams University. They plan to compare DNA from Tutankhamun's mummy to that of Amenhotep III, whose mummy is exhibited at the Egyptian museum in Cairo. Amenhotep III is believed to be Akhenaten's father.

DNA tests on mummies could provide answers to many riddles in Egypt's ancient history although some archaeologists say that DNA testing has not yet proved very successful in archaeology and warned against relying too much on it to determine historical facts.

The SCA's chief archaeologist in Upper Egypt, Sabri Abdel-Aziz, said the first test will be carried out at Tut's tomb in the Valley of Kings Dec. 12. His tomb, one of the most frequently visited attractions in Egypt, will be closed for only a few hours for the test, he said.

The tomb was discovered, virtually intact, in 1922 by Briton Howard Carter. Its treasures have provided invaluable insight into Egyptian ancient history.

The Valley of the Kings is a deep cleft in limestone hills with sheer walls near the southern city of Luxor. The region was favored as a burial ground for rulers, royals and hundreds of officials of the New Kingdom, which lasted from 1,550 B.C. to 1,070 B.C.

By Salah Nasrawi
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