Two Egyptian mummies that rested next to each other for nearly 4,000 years are not full brothers, but rather half brothers, finds a new study that used advanced DNA sequencing.
The finding settles a 111-year-old mystery that began when excavators exhumed the two mummies in Deir Rifeh, a village 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Cairo, in 1907. Both mummies — thought to be of noble lineage, based on their luxurious grave goods and the elite placement of their tomb — had the female name “Khnum-Aa” written on their coffins.
Khnum-Aa was referred to as the mother of both men, but studies in subsequent years couldn’t confirm it. Now, by analyzing DNA extracted from the mummies’ teeth, researchers have verified that these two ancient Egyptians had the same mother but different fathers.
[T]he researchers analyzed the mitochondrial DNA (genetic material passed down from the mother) and Y chromosomal DNA (genetic material passed down from the father).
“The two mummies had identical mitochondrial profiles, [so] we can be sure they were related maternally,” the study’s lead researcher, Konstantina Drosou, a research associate at the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, in the United Kingdom, told Live Science.
[T]he Y chromosome results indicated that the two men likely had different fathers. The study is published in the February issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
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