Search form

Last updated: 7 min 15 sec ago

You are here

Offbeat

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)
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.”

MORE FROM Offbeat