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.”


The Royal Wedding’s ‘zaghrata’ mystery — who was ‘ululating’ as Harry and Meghan left the chapel?

Updated 21 May 2018
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The Royal Wedding’s ‘zaghrata’ mystery — who was ‘ululating’ as Harry and Meghan left the chapel?

LONDON: As the dust settles on the weekend’s royal wedding extravaganza, Arab interest has switched from speculation over Meghan Markle’s dress to a more pressing mystery — who was ululating as the couple emerged from the chapel?
The high-pitched celebratory noise traditionally reserved for major celebrations in the Middle East were clearly audible as the newly weds paused at the top of the steps outside St. George’s Chapel in Windsor on Saturday. They again rang out as the couple descended the steps into the sunshine and the welcoming embrace of the crowds.
Was there an Arab guest in the crowd expressing their excitement for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their own inimitable fashion?
The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office tweeted a video on their Arabic account of the supposed ululations, saying: “Maybe you can hear the ‘Zaghrata’ at the moment Harry and Meghan leave the church after the wedding?”


Zaghrata is a form of ululation practiced in the region.
Rima Maktabi - London bureau chief at the Al Arabiya News Channel, who was covering the wedding - told Arab News: “I heard it first when Harry went into the church and then when Meghan went inside, I didn’t understand what it was.
“The commentators were saying that they heard ‘international sounds’, and then as they came out, it was clear.”
However, the Arab claim to be the source of ululation is facing a challenge from a grandmother from Lesotho who told British media that Harry had pointed out to her and smiled as she made the noise.
Malineo Motsephe, 70, traveled from the African nation for the wedding, having met Harry through her work with one of his charities.
Ululating, it turns out, is as common a cultural phenomenon in parts of Africa as it is in the Arab world.