Genetics has solved the age-old mystery mummies «two brothers» from Ancient Egypt

© Photo : Manchester Museum, The University of ManchesterМумии brothers, found in the vicinity of Cairo in the early twentieth centuryGenetics has solved the age-old mystery mummies «two brothers» from Ancient Egypt© Photo : Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester

. The «resurrected» DNA of two Egyptian mummies found in the vicinity of Cairo in the early 20th century, has helped scientists to reveal their ancestry and find out that they were cousins or half-brothers, said in an article published in the journal JAS: Reports.

«We had a long and thorny path to solution of this mystery, and only now are we able to answer this question, which Egyptologists for over a hundred years. I am very grateful that I was able to make even a small contribution to solving this mystery, and I’m sure the brothers would appreciate our efforts», — said Konstantin Grosu (Konstantina Drosou) from the University of Manchester (UK).

The famous mummies of the two brothers, khnum-Nahda and Nacht-Ankh, was discovered in 1907 by a team of British archaeologists and workers, who carried out excavations at the ancient Egyptian cemetery Dating from the 12th dynasty pharaohs, situated in the village of Deir Rifah two hundred kilometers from Cairo.

The sarcophagi of these mummies were covered with hieroglyphics, indicating that both were high-ranking dignitaries, «children of the Governor» and the priests of the God Khnum. According to the inscriptions, their mother was the same woman who bore the name of khnum-AA, which caused the discoverers of the tomb to conclude that they were brothers.

After the sarcophagus was moved to Manchester and opened, the scientists found that the skeletons of the mummies were a little similar to each other. This has led many Egyptologists to believe that khnum-Nacht and Nacht-Ankh was called, not blood brothers, one of which could be adopted or adopted into the family some other way. This idea fits in well with the fact that one of the «brothers» was 20 years older than the second, which, however, is challenged by many other researchers.

Grosu and her colleagues were able to resolve this age-old mystery, restoring the complete mitochondrial DNA of these mummies, a small part of the genome, which is contained in the mitochondria, the cellular power stations, and is transmitted from mother to her children.

To obtain this DNA, scientists cut out small fragments of bone tissue from those parts of the teeth of these mummies, which did not penetrate the bacteria and the DNA worked with them archaeologists have learned from them fragments of the genome and multiplied them. After that, scientists have tried to extract from these samples a different part of the genome, «male» Y-chromosome which is passed from father to his sons.

As shown by this analysis, khnum-Nacht and Nacht-Ankh really were brothers on the maternal side – they belonged to the same haplogroup M1A1, and have roughly the same set of small mutations in mtDNA. Today the descendants of this haplogroup live in the countries of Eastern and southern Asia and the Middle East.

On the other hand, as scientists assume, the owners of the mummies were the offspring of different fathers. Speaking in favor of this major difference in the structure of individual fragments of the Y-chromosome whose structure they never managed to fully recover. Therefore, as the researchers note, there are two options of their relationship – they can be uterine, and cousins on the maternal side.

This, coupled with the inscriptions on their sarcophagi, says one interesting thing: during the 12th dynasty the social status of mothers can play an equally important role than the father. Scientists assume that gender played for the Egyptians a less significant role than their social status and belonging to a particular family. DNA analysis of other mummies, as I hope genetics will reveal further secrets of the daily life of the ancient Egyptians.