Ground-breaking DNA technology has been used to solve a decades old mystery about two Egyptian mummies held by a Manchester Musueum.
They've been known as The Two Brothers since they were found in 1907, but debate has raged as to whether they were related at all.
Now scientists have established they were in fact half-brothers
Our reporter Sarah Rogers went to the Manchester University Museum to investigate:
Scientists have revealed that the famous ‘Two Brothers’ mummies of the Manchester Museum have different fathers so are, in fact, half-brothers.
They used ‘next generation’ DNA sequencing to make the discovery.
The Two Brothers are the Museum’s oldest mummies and some of 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 1800 BC.
Since their discovery in 1907 there's been doubt whether the two were actually related at all. So, in 2015, ‘ancient DNA’ was extracted from their teeth to solve the mystery.
But how did the mystery start? The pair’s joint burial site, The Tomb of The Two Brothers, was discovered at Deir Rifeh, a village 250 miles south of Cairo. 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.
When the complete contents of the tomb were shipped to Manchester in 1908 and the mummies of both men were unwrapped 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.
The latest study however, which is being published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, is the first to successfully use the typing of both mitochondrial and Y chromosomal DNA in Egyptian mummies.
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 University of Manchester, and Manchester Museum in particular, has a long history of research on ancient Egyptian human remains. Our reconstructions will always be speculative to some extent but to be able to link these two men in this way is an exciting first.
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