Ancient DNA results end 'daddy' mystery of Egyptian mummies in Manchester

The Two Brothers are Manchester Museum’s oldest mummies and among the best-known human remains in its Egyptology collection. (Provided: University of Manchester)
Updated 17 January 2018
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Ancient DNA results end 'daddy' mystery of Egyptian mummies in Manchester

MANCHESTER: Using “next generation” DNA sequencing scientists from the University of Manchester have found that the famous “Two Brothers” mummies of the Manchester Museum actually had different fathers so are, in fact, half-brothers, according to a release from the university.
The Two Brothers are the Museum’s oldest mummies and among the best-known human remains in its Egyptology collection. They are the mummies of two elite men — Khnum-nakht and Nakht-ankh – dating to around 1800BC.
However, since their discovery in 1907 there has been debate among Egyptologists whether they were related at all. Therefore, back in 2015, “ancient DNA” was extracted from the teeth of the pair to solve the mystery.
But how did the mystery start? According to the release from Manchester University, the pair’s joint burial site, later dubbed The Tomb of The Two Brothers, was discovered at Deir Rifeh, a village 250 miles south of Cairo. They were found by Egyptian workmen directed by early 20th century Egyptologists, Flinders Petrie and Ernest Mackay. Hieroglyphic inscriptions on the coffins indicated that both men were the sons of an unnamed local governor and had mothers with the same name, Khnum-aa. It was then the men became known as the Two Brothers.
The release goes on: “When the complete contents of the tomb were shipped to Manchester in 1908 and the mummies of both men were unwrapped by the UK’s first professional female Egyptologist, Dr. Margaret Murray. Her team concluded that the skeletal morphologies were quite different, suggesting an absence of family relationship. Based on contemporary inscriptional evidence, it was proposed that one of the Brothers was adopted.”
Analysis showed that both Nakht-Ankh and Khnum-Nakht belonged to mitochondrial haplotype M1a1, suggesting a maternal relationship. The Y chromosome sequences were less complete but showed variations between the two mummies, indicating that Nakht-Ankh and Khnum-Nakht had different fathers, and were thus very likely to have been half-brothers.
Dr. Konstantina Drosou of the university’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences who conducted the DNA sequencing, said: “It was a long and exhausting journey to the results but we are finally here. I am very grateful we were able to add a small but very important piece to the big history puzzle and I am sure the brothers would be very proud of us. These moments are what make us believe in ancient DNA.”


Hot air balloons take flight over Austria for world championship

Updated 20 August 2018
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Hot air balloons take flight over Austria for world championship

  • Around 100 teams from more than 38 countries are taking part in the biennial event
  • Competitive ballooning test pilots’ skills in distance, speed and navigational precision

GROSS-SIEGHARTS, Austria: The northern Austrian sky was filled with colorful hot air balloons early on Monday morning as the sport’s world championship sailed into view.
Around 100 teams from more than 38 countries are taking part in the biennial event, which is being held in Gross-Siegharts near the Czech border.
Competitive ballooning test pilots’ skills in distance, speed and navigational precision, according to the World Air Sports Federation that oversees the sport.
Each flight is scheduled for 5am (0300 GMT) and 5pm when light winds usually allow for safer take off and landings. The event runs until Friday.