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19 February 2010 @ 11:12 am
Hawass et al "Ancestry and Pathology in King Tutankhamun's Family" JAMA. 2010;303(7):638-647  
Because of J's obsession with ancient Egypt he follows the news of what's going on with the archaeology etc. And the big news this week was the publication of a paper which has done a genetic and anatomical analysis of Tutankhamun's mummy and those of several close relatives. The genetic stuff is entirely new, I believe - they have extracted DNA from the bones of the mummies & done genetic fingerprinting on it to look at the relationships between the people. The anatomical analysis is building on work that's gone before but using up-to-date methods etc, and again comparing Tutankhamun with his relatives to back up the relationships. As well as this they looked at evidence for diseases that you might expect to be present at that time & place, such as malaria.

Tutankhamun's immediate family are interesting not just because Tutankhamun's tomb was found "recently" and was intact when discovered. Tutankhamun was Pharaoh towards the end of the 18th Dynasty, a dynasty that ruled Egypt from c.1550BC to c.1295BC at the start of the New Kingdom period. The Pharaohs before him are known to be Amenhotep III, Akhenaten (initially known as Amenhotep IV), Smenkhare (a very enigmatic figure) then Tutankhamun. Akhenaten has attracted a lot of interest because during his reign he changed the religion of Egypt from a polytheistic one where the priests were the intermediaries with the gods to a monotheistic one where the Pharaoh was the only intermediary, all blessings flowed through him. He also moved the capital of Egypt from Thebes (where the great temples to Amun were) to Amarna where he constructed a new city with only temples to the Aten, his one god. This new religion & capital did not long survive Akhenaten - during Tutankhamun's reign the old ways were gradually reinstated and the capital moved back to Thebes.

Because of the religious changes Akhenaten, Smenkhare & Tutankhamun were fairly thoroughly removed from the historical record of the Egyptian people - some things survive, particularly at Amarna and in Tutankhamun's tomb, but their names are generally not in the King Lists of later Pharaohs or other documents. This means that things like the family relationships between them are not well documented. What is known is that Amenhotep III was married to Tiye, the daughter of Thuya and Yuya. Akhenaten is attested as their son. After that the relationships are more murky - was Tutankhamun a younger brother of Akhenaten? or his son? if his son, then by which wife? I think it's accepted that he's not the son of Nefertiti (Akhenaten's senior wife) but there are multiple other candidates. And who Smenkhare is and if he really existed is even more obscured - one theory is even that this could be a name (and male persona) that Nefertiti took to be Pharaoh after Akhenaten's death, other than that he could be a younger brother of Akhenaten or an older brother of Tutankhamun (and both of them sons of Akhenaten). Or he may not exist, he's mentioned so rarely that this might be misunderstanding of the texts available.

And there is a lot of speculation around Tutankhamun's state of health & cause of death. The art style of the Amarna era is odd - the royal family are represented with odd looking bodies, which has lead to speculation that they had various genetic disorders. And Tutankhamun died young (age 19), so was he ill? was he murdered? was it an accident?

So this paper presents three strands of evidence to look at all these questions. First they present genetic data on 11 mummies, including Tutankhamun and putative members of his immediate family, and use these to construct a 5 generation tree of relationships. This confirms the identity of some of mummies that were less well attested (and some previously totally unidentified), and puts Tutankhamun into context with his predecessor Pharaohs. He is shown to be the grandchild of Amenhotep III and Tiye, via two of their children - his parents were full siblings. Because of the existence in the historical record of Smenkhare it isn't really possible to say if Akhenaten is his father or not (although the paper states that in their opinion this is most plausible). The two fetuses found buried in Tutankhamun's tomb may be his daughters (rather than ceremonial offerings), but the identity of their mother isn't clear. The previously well identified mummies were Tutankhamun, Thuya and Yuya. It is now possible to be sure that the mummy of Amenhotep III is indeed correctly identified, and a previously unidentified mummy (known as K35EL) is his wife Tiye. Mummy KV55 may be Akhenaten (tho may also be Smenkhare or a different son of Amenhotep III as I note above), and KV35YL is Tutankhamun's mother and a full sibling of his father.

They then present an anatomical examination of those same mummies and dismiss any possibility of a diagnosis of a feminising genetic disorder, but show that clubfeet and cleft palates (amongst other things) ran in the family - unsurprising in some ways due to the level of inbreeding that both the historic record and the genetic analysis demonstrate.

And finally they look for evidence of a selection of diseases including Black Death, tuberculosis, leprosy, malaria. The only one present was malaria, with both Tutankhamun and his great-grandparents showing evidence of multiple infections with the parasite. They then speculate that Tutankhamun's death was really due to a multitude of things which then overwhelmed him - he was weak due to his congenital defects and repeated malaria infections, then a severe fracture to his leg would combine with those to lead to his death.

I pretty much have to take the anatomical data, and the egyptological discussion, on faith - I have insufficient knowledge in either of those fields to examine the data critically. The genetic analysis on the other hand is closer to my own field, so I can poke at it with a more professional & critical eye. Though you should bear in mind that I'm 5 years out of date and this wasn't quite my field when I was current. So before I go through the actual data, here's some thoughts on the methods/presentation.

They don't discuss the details of the extraction of the DNA from the bones of the mummies - they do however cite 4 papers (only 2 of which have overlapping authors with this paper) for the method they use, so I'm inclined to think (without reading those papers) that this is a known and tried method in the field of ancient DNA extraction.

They use commercially available kits to do the genetic fingerprinting, from a quick glance through the company's website they're used for more modern forensic applications too. I was, though, concerned that although they use 16 markers on the Y-chromosome analysis they only use 8 markers for the autosomal DNA (the rest of the DNA in the nucleus that is not sex chromosomes). The kit seemed to allow you to test more markers than that - but they don't mention why only 8. Was it that they had good data for those 8? or is this an accepted practice? (as I said, this isn't quite my field). Some note of that might have been nice.

They did analysis on 30 samples for each mummy, taken from different biopsies - it might've been nice to have seen a figure with the biopsy locations marked on it (in the supplemental data perhaps). And it would've been nice to see the numbers - the data given is noted as the "majority", but I think I would've liked to see the actual figures. It makes a difference if something came up in 16 of the samples or in 29 of the samples.

I would also have liked to see some controls! In the Y-chromosome analysis they do compare the three male mummies with another unrelated one. But in the bulk of the data they don't show the control data. It's not even clear if it's been done, although there is a line in the methods section about using 4 mummies from earlier in the 18th dynasty (not just royal family mummies) as a genetic control group. I would have liked to see this data (in the supplemental data again, maybe, not the main paper). They do, however, make it clear that everyone involved in the handling of the DNA was also analysed, and they state none of them had the same profile. It's unlikely anyone who handled the mummies prior to this study could have contaminated the data as the sample were taken from within the bone.

The mummies tested were:

  • Thuya (female)

  • Yuya (male)

  • Amenhotep III (almost certainly identified, but less sure than other named ones, male)

  • KV55 (an unknown male mummy thought to be maybe Akhenaten)

  • KV35EL (an unknown older female mummy)

  • KV35YL (an unknown younger female mummy)

  • Tutankhamun

  • Fetus 1 (from Tutankhamun's tomb, female)

  • Fetus 2 (from Tutankhamun's tomb, female)

  • KV21A (unknown female)

  • KV21B (unknown female)

The last 4 have very patchy data and this means it's very hard to draw any conclusions about them and their relationships.

The Y-chromosome analysis data isn't shown in a table or figure, but is just stated in the text. The three male mummies tested (Amenhotep III, KV55, Tutankhamun) share the same profile, so are in the same paternal line. You can't draw any other conclusions about precise relationships from that. They also didn't match modern people involved in the work, didn't match an older mummy thought to be unrelated, and no Y chromosomes were found in mummies thought to be female (a good cross check, and confirms the sex of them).

The fingerprinting they've done is short tandem repeat (STR) analysis - there are sections of DNA that are repeats of short sequences. It doesn't appear to do anything, and as a result these regions mutate more than functional sections of the genome, so can be used to trace familial relationships (unless of course you get a mutation right between two generations of the family you're looking at, but that is still a rare occurrence). For any given marker what they do is look at how many repeats the sample has - there will be 2 numbers of repeats, as chromosomes come in pairs. Brief explanation - the DNA in a person is organised into 46 chromosomes, 22 pairs of non-sex chromosomes normally known by numbers and 2 sex chromosomes (XX for women, XY for men). You inherit one of each pair of chromosomes from your father and one from your mother, and this is randomly organised. So if your mother's chromosomes are labelled A & B, and your Dad's are C & D, you could inherit chromosome 1 as A (from your mother) & C (from your father), chromosome 2 as A&D, chromosome 3 as B&D, chromosome 4 as A&D and so on; a full sibling of yours would get a different random selection, ie 1 B&D, 2 A&D, 3 B&C, 4 A&C. And importantly you MUST get one in each pair from each parent, you'll never have 1 A&B for instance.

So with the STR analysis you get a bunch of numbers for repeats of the short section for each marker, and you use markers spread across the chromosomes so that they are independently inherited. To look at one of the markers for Tutankhamun's family (a marker called FGA), Tutankhamun has 23 repeats on both chromosomes. Amenhotep III has 23/31, KV35EL (Tiye) has 20/26. So Tutankhamun cannot be the child of those two people - where would he get the second 23 from? KV55 has 20/23 - so you see he can be son of Amenhotep III/Tiye, and KV35YL has 20/23 as well (so she can be a daughter). And Tutankhamun can be the son of KV55/KV35YL because he can get one 23 from each of them.

Basically you do this sort of comparison across all the markers you look at - 8 in this case. And calculate probabilities for each trio (mother/father/child), they say 99.73% is the accepted standard for "practical proving" the relationship. The data they have in excess of this figure in all cases (tho as I said above I would've liked to see n numbers for the samples, and possibly more markers) so seems very solid.

The data shows:

KV35EL is the daughter of Thuya and Yuya.

KV35EL and Amenhotep III are the parents of KV55 and KV35YL.

KV55 and KV35YL are the parents of Tutankhamun.

Taking these three together with the historical record allows definite identification of KV35EL as Tiye (daughter of Thuya and Yuya known to have married Amenhotep III), and solidifies the identification of Amenhotep III's mummy.

They also state that they think KV55 is most plausibly Akhenaten - but just seem to dismiss Smenkhare out of hand, and I'm not sure the data support that. If KV55 is indeed Akhenaten, then KV35YL being a full sibling is interesting - why's she not the senior wife, being higher status than Nefertiti (who is not King's Daughter in the historical record, so not KV35YL)?

They do speculate on the data from the fetuses, that it isn't ruled out that they are daughters of Tutankhamun, and possibly KV21A but the data is so patchy that no firm conclusions can be drawn (and indeed they don't try to).

Dear lord that got long :)
Current Mood: pensiveinterested
Current Music: ABBA "ABBA Gold" then ABBA "More ABBA Gold"
John: thoughtfuljarel on February 19th, 2010 12:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for writing all this out. It definitely makes it all a lot clearer to people like me :)
Margaretpling on February 20th, 2010 11:52 am (UTC)
ann_hk on February 19th, 2010 12:21 pm (UTC)
*seconds the above comment*

Margaretpling on February 20th, 2010 11:53 am (UTC)
Thanks;) Glad it's been interesting & useful to people!
Robdreema on February 19th, 2010 04:50 pm (UTC)
thirded, a lot of it's completely over my head, but it's very interesting
Margaretpling on February 20th, 2010 11:52 am (UTC)

If there's any specific you found confusing, let me know & I'll try and clarify it :)
Jonbigme on February 19th, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
That was really interesting. :)
Margaretpling on February 20th, 2010 11:50 am (UTC)
ext_225533 on February 19th, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
News from the Valley of the Kings
J reads my blog and suggested I read your article. I'm glad he did! I've quoted it on my blog so you may find a few of my readers popping over here to read what you have written. So far it's the only decent assessment of the paper I have found.

Many thanks
Margaretpling on February 20th, 2010 11:49 am (UTC)
Re: News from the Valley of the Kings
Thanks for the link (& for the compliments!) :)
jimreevejimreeve on February 19th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC)
Yes, thanks VERY much for such a concise and helpful explanation - I've been trying to find something like this since the presscon...! Nice to see someone looking at the evidence rationally, if I might say so! :)
Margaretpling on February 20th, 2010 11:50 am (UTC)
Thanks! :) Glad it's useful & interesting to people!
(Anonymous) on February 19th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
How about ages of that mummies? How many years has lived KV55? If something changes in this matter?
Margaretpling on February 19th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
Re: Ages!
The ages of the various mummies would be based on the anatomical evidence, which I'm afraid is outside my area of knowledge, so I can only say what is said in the paper but not give any judgement on it. However, what is said in the paper is actually very little. And in particular, the age of KV55 is unfortunately not discussed at length - in the main paper there are a couple of mentions of their belief that KV55 was 35-45 at death and that this is different from earlier interpretations. In the supplementary data there is again only one mention of this revised age-at-death estimate, but no evidence is given and there is no discussion of this.
(Anonymous) on February 19th, 2010 10:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Ages!
Exactly. However, anthropological studies were already carried out on the mummy surely being in much better shape. Were made by the authorities even larger than the present physicians with Hawass at the head. 19-23 years was the age of KV55, and I wonder how much bending it to match the age of Akhenaten is related to a reliable state of recent research. Where does this confidence that KV55 = Akhenaten? After all, without changing the results of last genetic research, as well it could be Semenkhkare.
Sorry for my English.
Margaretpling on February 20th, 2010 12:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Ages!
Yes, my understanding of the genetic data is that it shows that KV55 is the body of the man who was father of Tutankhamun, but that it sheds no light on the identity of this man. Hopefully there will be future publications from this project that will include the data that leads them to believe KV55 was the right age to be Akhenaten.
(Anonymous) on February 20th, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Ages!
Yes. I understand perfectly, and thank you for this information. So I'll put my question differently: Is genetics a greater (or lesser) degree than anthropology can determine the age at death of man? Is this possible? Whether these researches are any indication of the age of subjects of the mummy?
Margaretpling on February 20th, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Ages!
The genetic data doesn't (and can't) say anything about the age of the mummies at death, only anatomical analysis can help to answer that question. The DNA in a person doesn't change over the lifespan of the person, so there isn't anything that can be used to estimate age.
(Anonymous) on February 20th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
Re: Ages!
Now everything clear. I can't realize that! So we have a contradiction. 20-year Akhenaten? ;) Well, for the purposes of science anatomopatolodzy slightly increase the age of KV55, and everything will match. Beginning to be skeptical about these tests ...
Thank you for interesting conversation. I apologize because I didn't introduce myself. My name is Derek (www@narmer.pl). Nice to chat with you. :)
Margaretpling on February 21st, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Ages!
Nice to 'meet' you, Derek :)
(Anonymous) on February 21st, 2010 02:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Ages!
I have to close this issue - On Hawass website I found information that the CT scan conducted on the KV55 deceased age to 45-55. If it is not matching "the force" a reliable test (in what I believe) that we haven't problem. Asks only that such an eminent authority as Harris from Michigan reduce age until about 20-25 years!
Thanks, D.
(Anonymous) on February 20th, 2010 11:52 pm (UTC)
He Loved His Mother
So Akhenaten's father and mother were sister and brother. and Akhenaten loved his mother and she had Tut. Isn't this close to what Velikovsky speculated?
Margaretpling on February 21st, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
Re: He Loved His Mother
There is nothing in this paper to suggest that Akhenaten's parents were brother and sister (Tutankhamun's parents were, Amenhotep III and Tiye were not). There is also nothing suggesting Akhenaten or any of the male mummies tested had offspring with their mother.
(Anonymous) on February 21st, 2010 12:13 am (UTC)
velikovskey and oedipus
a good read from his book on aknaton3 aka oedipus might solve this dna riddle . akhnaton married more than once . he did marry his own mother a persian .any other person out there familiar with these ideas? the dates of his time are most definetly wrong. have fun with this riddle
Margaretpling on February 21st, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
Re: velikovskey and oedipus
There is nothing in this paper suggesting that Akhenaten had offspring with his mother.
ext_225636 on February 21st, 2010 03:02 am (UTC)
Very interesting breakdown of the report. That Tut's mother and father would turn out to be brother and sister really introduces a new woman to the Amarna royal family and if we are to assume that the Kv 55 individual is Akhenaten than the Kv 35YL may be his sister Sitamen or Isis.

Both women had titles as "King's wife" though neither bore the title of "Mother of the king". There are two other daughters of Amenhotep III including princess' Henut-Taneb and Nebetah though these two women are only known as king's daughters. Beketaten was probably too young.

If the remains from Kv 55 is Akhenaten than the name of Tutankhamen's mother is likely one of the above?

Margaretpling on February 21st, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
Re: Jama
In the supplemental data part of the paper they speculate on which sisters of Akhenaten are possibilities, here's the relevant sentences:

"The allele constellations in all short tandem repeat markers tested indicate that the KV35 Younger Lady is a full-sister of the KV55 mummy, and is unlikely to be Nefertiti or Kiya, neither of whom is attested as a daughter of Amenhotep III. This leaves Nebetiah and Beketaten, daughters of Amenhotep III not known to have married their father and who therefore might have married their brother, as the most likely candidates for the KV35 Younger Lady."

I'm not sure why only those two are considered - would having married Amenhotep III really rule out marrying Akhenaten subsequently? But as I said in my post, I'm really just taking everything they say about the egyptology on faith, I don't know enough about it to do otherwise :)
(Anonymous) on February 21st, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
Re: Jama
Do not forget about Sitamon and Meritre. The firs maybe was Semenkhkare's mother and undoubtedly - full sister of Akhenaten. The second - a mysterious figure, it could be also...
(Anonymous) on February 21st, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Jama
There is no reason to be in such a hurry to discount Nefertiti as the mother of Tutankhamun. Nowehere does it state who her parents were and the fact she is not styled "king's daughter" is not fatal. Once she married Tutankhamun, Ankhesenamun is no longer styled "king's daughter", either, even though it is known for certain she was one. Akhenaten was shown with Nefertiti from the earliest part of his reign. A wife named Kiya is briefly attested for him but she is no more styled "king's daughter" than Nefertiti. At any rate, Tutankhamun, given his age at accession and at death cannot have been born early in the reign of Akhenaten, who ruled for at least seventeen years. The notion of Akhenated suddenly taking one of his full sisters for a wife around his Year 12 [if she was not Nefertiti] is very problematic. None of the known ones would have been especially young at this juncture and even Akhenaten's elder daughters were already close to entering their teens. In ancient and much more modern Egypt [until the 19th Century] 12 or 13 was an ideal age for a bride. The pharaohs of Egypt were not known for being monogamous, especially Amenhotep III. Another solution is that he may have had a daughter with a full sister of Tiye, thereby creating the genetic impression Akhenaten had married his sister. It would not have been thought unusual for a king to marry two sisters from the same family, his niece or even his own daughter.
Margaretpling on February 21st, 2010 07:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Jama
I'm only going to reply to the genetics bit of your comment as that's what I know about :)

I think you may be confusing this STR genetic analysis with mitochondrial DNA analysis? In mitochondrial analysis all that can be stated is if two people shared the same female common ancestor or not, all children of the same mother have the same mitochondrial DNA (barring mutation) and all children of daughters of the same woman will have the same mitochondrial DNA etc. So mitochondrial DNA analysis cannot distinguish between full siblings and half-siblings or cousins whose mothers share a mother. So your hypothesis of KV55 & KV35YL being offspring of Amenhotep III with 2 different daughters of Thuya would be untestable using mitochondrial DNA analysis.

However, STR analysis is a more powerful tool which can be used to test this hypothesis - which is why it is used in modern applications, such as paternity testing and identification of criminals. As I said in my post the test looks at several markers which are inherited independently of each other. So the chances of two full siblings having the same profile is very small. The daughter of Amenhotep III and a full sibling of Tiye is statistically unlikely to have an STR profile that would also allow her to be the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye (unless Tiye and this hypothetical sibling were identical twins).

(The "downside" with STR analysis is that you need to have data for all the markers to make the matching statistically significant and they don't have that for the KV21 mummies and the fetuses, presumably the DNA was less well preserved in these mummies.)
As relevant as Tacitustabula_x_rasa on February 21st, 2010 11:01 pm (UTC)
Hi- I got here in a very roundabout way, but I wanted to thank you for this analysis. I do Egyptology and forensics, but know only the basics about genetics. This is a very helpful and clear analysis!

Would you mind if I linked other people to this post?
Margaretpling on February 21st, 2010 11:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks, glad it's helpful :)

Link away, it's fine by me!
(Anonymous) on February 22nd, 2010 09:18 am (UTC)
Hi pling - I got here from a link recommended on a Forensic Egyptology group on Facebook, so your good work is being spread far and wide.

Could you just give a second opinion on the claims in the paper that the probabilities of their mum/dad/child being correct trios are 99.999999...% etc.

With just 8 pairs of markers being considered surely there are are only 256 possible combinations for each parent or 256x256 in all for a couple. This gives a probability that *another* child of the parents has at least a 99.9985% chance of having the same set of markers as the one they are examining, and with repeated values for markers between parents or duplicates in the child (which double the probability) this is often less that 99%.

This is relevant is in the case of KV55. We know there was another brother, Smemkhkare. So he could have been the father with a probability of >1%. Where do the 99.999999...% figures come from?

Margaretpling on February 22nd, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
Re: 99.9999.....
The two numbers are answering different questions, so do not need to add up to 100.

The question that the statistical analysis they have done answers is: Are these three people a possible family of father/mother/child? And they give a figure of in excess of 99.99% from their statistical analysis of their raw data. Which makes this statistically likely to be a family unit.

The question that you are asking is: What is the chance that the father is not KV55 but is instead a full brother of this mummy? As you say the probability of one of KV55's brothers sharing the same profile for these markers is 1 in 256x256 which is 0.0015%. (I assume you're aware you accidentally reversed the probabilities when you quoted 99.9985%?) There are no duplicated alleles in either Amenhotep III's or KV35EL's profiles, so that isn't relevant in this case. However, we need to consider that this putative brother only needs to share the half of the profile of KV55 that is passed on to Tutankhamun, so there are 256 possible profiles which would match sufficiently, and the probability is thus 256 in 256*256, or 0.3906%. Which makes it statistically unlikely that such a brother exists.

It doesn't, obviously, rule it out totally - there is still that possibility. It just isn't very likely, and would make more sense based on the data they show to accept an identification of KV55 as the father of Tutankhamun. Future experiments on these mummies and/or on other mummies as yet un-profiled or as yet not found might mean that this data has to be re-evaluated but as it stands, it is more plausible that KV55 is the father of Tutankhamun than that there is a brother of his who shares enough of his genetic profile for these markers to be an alternative father.
(Anonymous) on February 22nd, 2010 02:15 am (UTC)
U Copenhagen full genome sequence of 4000 yo Greenlander
About a week before you published this comment, a group at the University of Copenhagen reported in *Nature* on the reconstruction of the nuclear genome of a 4000 year old Inuk.

Morten Rasmussen et al. *Ancient human genome sequence of an extinct Palaeo-Eskimo* Nature 463, 757-762 (11 February 2010)

The article comments suggest that sequencing and analysis now takes months.

Any comments relative to the JAMA article?

Mike (near the Berkeley in California :))
Margaretpling on February 22nd, 2010 08:58 am (UTC)
Re: U Copenhagen full genome sequence of 4000 yo Greenlander
I've not read that paper, interesting to hear there are reports of successful DNA extraction & sequencing from even older bodies than these mummies. Although, of course, the preservation of the body is likely to have been totally different!
(Anonymous) on February 25th, 2010 05:52 am (UTC)
Re: U Copenhagen full genome sequence of 4000 yo Greenlander
BTW, looks like Nature has posted the complete cover article on their website:


I'm an organic chemist (with some background in electroanalytical), but my molecular biology is completely inadequate to the task....


(Anonymous) on February 24th, 2010 10:41 am (UTC)
Re: U Copenhagen full genome sequence of 4000 yo Greenlander
FYI the JAMA mummy analysis and the Palaeo-Eskimo case are *completely* different.

The analysis in the JAMA case is trivial - it is the same as in standard paternity tests that you can order online for a few hundred dollars, whereas the sequencing of the PE genome is a major scientific achievement. This one of only 6 humane genomes that has *ever* been sequenced, I believe that they built a special laboratory just to do this. So far we have genomes for 2 caucasians, 1 chinese, 1 korean, 1 african - and now the ancient eskimo.

On the other hand, the PE analysis had a very good sample, it was hank of hair that had been frozen in permafrost (i.e. effectively kept in a fridge for the last 4000 years), while in the JAMA case the situation was much more difficult, they had to take dessicated bone marrow samples and allow for mummification.
Margaretpling on February 24th, 2010 11:23 am (UTC)
Re: U Copenhagen full genome sequence of 4000 yo Greenlander
Ah thanks for clarifying that, I hadn't any information about it :)
(Anonymous) on February 25th, 2010 06:05 am (UTC)
Re: U Copenhagen full genome sequence of 4000 yo Greenlander
BTW, have YOU read the article?


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BTW, have YOU read the article?


<I believe that they built a special laboratory just to do this.>

According to the authors, there are three laboratories that already have this technology in Denmark, UK, and the US.

<This one of only 6 humane genomes that has *ever* been sequenced>

The second sentence in the article suggests (optimistically???) that this number will soon be closer to 1000.

I not a molecular biologist, but I am curious to see how all this will play out. I appreciate that there was a time when recovering mummified DNA was considered categorically impossible. Now, it's just difficult.
(Anonymous) on February 25th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
Re: U Copenhagen full genome sequence of 4000 yo Greenlander
I have had a look at the "1000 genome" project web page (http://www.1000genomes.org/) unfortunately it is not very encouraging. However, since the Palaeo-Eskimo work is one outcome, it may belie appearances. In any case these sorts of numbers can't be too far away. The intro mentions 8 current complete sequences, although the description only seems to use the that 5 I mentioned (see fig. S11). Most of the refs are 2008-9 so it looks as though the field has progressed while this paper was being written.

The main point is that the scale of this work is orders of magnitude greater than the recent work in Egypt. The Palaeo-Eskimo team sequenced over 2 million SNPs, The Egyptian mummy team looked at one (STR?) marker on each of 8 chromosomes (plus some Y-chromosome stuff). Of course they did look at a number of mummies, but it is still small-scale stuff in comparison.

ext_225764 on February 22nd, 2010 02:07 pm (UTC)
thank you so much for that, it really helps. I have posted a link to my blog Luxor News so expect a few more visitors. Regards Jane Akshar
Margaretpling on February 22nd, 2010 02:12 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear it's been useful! And thanks for the link :)