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King Tut PaternityPaternity suits are often settled by DNA testing — but can you still do that when the people involved have been dead for three thousand years?

Weíre talking about King Tut, who was an Egyptian pharaoh at the age of 9 and died at 19 around 33-hundred years ago. Turns out, much to scientistsí surprise, the embalming method used in mummification also protected his DNA, allowing them to analyze not only how King Tut died but who his parents were.

Scientists took DNA samples not only from King Tutís bones but also from ten other royal mummies. Only three of the mummiesí identities were already known.

Using the Y male chromosome, which is passed from father to son, they constructed a five generation family tree.

They learned that one of the mummies was King Tutís father, the Pharaoh Akhenaton. Akhenaton was an important king who moved the religion of Egypt toward the worship of a single God.

Another mummy turned out to be King Tutís grandfather, the Pharaoh Amenhotep the third.

On King Tutís motherís side, the tests identified an unknown mummy as Queen Tiye, King Tutís grandmother. Though scientists could not identify his mother, they did discover sheís the daughter of Queen Tiye and Amenhotep the third.

This meant King Tutís parents were brother and sister, which was then common among Egyptian nobility. This dispels the widely held belief that King Tutís mother was Queen Nefertiti.

But what about King Tut himself? Far from the vigorous, handsome king long pictured, his left foot was deformed and he suffered from malaria, which weakened his immune system.

Scientists believe that his impaired immune system may have led to his death. King Tut had suffered a broken leg, and scientists theorize a lethal infection followed.

How exciting to have DNA reveal history this way.


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For more information…

National Geographic has an excellent and detailed article about the new discoveries revealed by the examination of DNA from King Tut and several other mummies here. The article also has numerous links to additional information about King Tut including some rare pictures.

A similar detailed article about King Tut can be read at DiscoveryNews.

For a brief YouTube video, go here.

For a more complete accounting of the history of Egypt including the reign of King Tut in context, please here.

For a timeline of the history of Egypt, go here.


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