December 29, 2011

Forensic analysis of King Tut and his relatives

DNA Tribes has released an analysis, based on 8 forensic autosomal STR markers, of the "Amarna Pharaohs". The analysis is based on data from Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family.

The results of the DNA Tribes analysis can be seen below:


They seem to indicate that there is something definitely "African" about this collection of mummies. I have previously used PopAffiliator and STRUCTURE with CODIS markers. The results of that analysis suggest that even this small number of markers is sufficient to place a sample in a continental group with high accuracy, but insufficient to estimate levels of admixture. There is a new version of PopAffiliator, which, unfortunately, does not allow for incomplete data entry, and hence cannot be used to verify the results of the DNA Tribes analysis.

The DNA Tribes results are interesting, but may hinge upon a few marker values that are more prevalent in Africa than in Eurasia. Also, it is not clear which population(s) make up the "North African" group. It would be interesting to extract full genome sequences from Egyptian mummies in order to properly place them in the global genetic landscape.

Pictorial evidence in Egyptian art, as well as the statements of classical Greco-Roman authors strongly suggest that the ancient Egyptians occupied an intermediate position in the phenotypic continuum between Near Eastern and "Ethiopian" people. It is also clear that there was variation within ancient Egypt itself: geographic, temporal, and even perhaps social aspects of this variation may have existed. But these qualitative observations are no substitute for the harder type of evidence that can be provided by authentic ancient DNA.

Hopefully, the debate on the genetic identity of the ancient Egyptians can proceed on the basis of new data, although I am not holding my breath that this will happen anytime soon, both because of the fluid state of politics in Egypt itself, the existence of various fringe theories outside of Egypt, and, the rather controversial state of mummy DNA analysis itself.

8 comments:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

IIRC, Tut and his relatives were a dynasty that emerged from Upper Egypt during an intermediary period associated with Hyskos rule. So, it isn't terribly surprising to see them further towards the Southern rather than the Northern end of the continuum from North to South along the Nile Basin - closer to modern South Sudanese than to modern residents of Cairo.

kbrabender said...

The two main areas on the African maps are where Capoid (C. S. Coon taxonomy) people lived. They were known to have lived many thousands of years ago in NW Africa and thence migrated south along the eastern highlands to the south. They were not always short; they were once full size. I wonder if the royal family was partially Congoid. Makes sense--but have the authors released the raw DNA data?

BloggerSmith said...

Question: Did King Tut have Neanderthal genes?

Jprezy87 said...

"Tut and his relatives were a dynasty that emerged from Upper Egypt during an intermediary period associated with Hyskos rule. So, it isn't terribly surprising to see them further towards the Southern rather than the Northern end of the continuum from North to South along the Nile Basin - closer to modern South Sudanese than to modern residents of Cairo. "

Yep, Upper Egyptians (especially in ancient times but still true today to an extent) are more racially African than lower Egyptians, somethings that's been confirmed time and time again by over a century of anthropological research, so it's no surprise that King Tut and his kinfolk show ties to Africans to the south.

akb said...

Jprezy87 - I dont know if we can really say that they shows ties with the south. Yes of course they do but it is a mutual relationship. 3300 years ago there were no Bantu in south Africa and many of the Nilotic groups in the great lakes reagion and Kenya were still in Southern Sudan. I think its the case of the MODERN groups having a SNP profile NOW similar to people in the Nile Valley 3500 years ago.

Its somewhat the samething but...
Also, in a way I am not surprised by the lack of comments. :/

Jprezy87 said...

"Jprezy87 - I dont know if we can really say that they shows ties with the south. Yes of course they do but it is a mutual relationship. 3300 years ago there were no Bantu in south Africa and many of the Nilotic groups in the great lakes reagion and Kenya were still in Southern Sudan. I think its the case of the MODERN groups having a SNP profile NOW similar to people in the Nile Valley 3500 years ago."

Yea looking at the paper again Im kind of surprised...shouldnt the ancient egyptians show closer relationships to the Sudanese and Horn Africans than to Bantu and West Africans?.. the former were people who were much closer to the country and who actually had a good deal of contact with the egyptians (via Nubia and Punt)..and the great lakes has seen some Nilotic groups move into the area...but the Great Lakes is still majority Bantu.

"Its somewhat the samething but...
Also, in a way I am not surprised by the lack of comments"

Yea any topic discussing what the ancient egyptians looked like is usually a contentious and hot subject..wheres Charie Bass and mathilda where you need em? lol jk

Inzu said...

3300 ago the people occupying much of the great lakes region would have been more related to present day Hotentotts,ethiopids and bush men- I'm not surprised that their genetic imprint still prevails there . The great lakes & East africa is home to the oldest african populations - again no surprise if these bear close affinity to ancient Egyptians. Modern groups much of east africa and the great lakes are Bantu speaking but not necessarily bio-genetically bantu.The labels assigned to many African groups are more linguistic classifications than anything else -These references cannot be used to make an even educated guess of genetic affinity. There many groups in east Africa who are nilotic speakers but would cluster with bantu groups genetically,there bantu speaking groups who would gentically cluster with ethiopid and nilotic groups- morever the variability within groups is so high--its common to find groups who are linguistically and culturally unified but bio-ethnically variant.I think a greater understanding of the logic of social formation in Africa can elucidate this. Much of Uganda, Tanzania,Rwanda,Burundi and Kenya is full of people who have more of bantu linguistic and cultural influence and less genetic one - East africa and the great lakes is the confluence of Bantu, Nilotic, afro-asiatic, pygmoid, khoisan and nilo-hamtic people.Much of this region genetically speaking has a large remnant of ancient populations.

Stephanie said...

Why should the Amarna family have more genetic ties to the south? Simply, because this was the family of native Southern Egyptians that rose up to free their country and expel the Hyksos, and a great deal of familial pride was centered on this fact. =)

The Hyksos domination never got too far past Memphis. This family is from much farther to the south. They were nobility from Thebes (Waset).