A different take on Tut: Egyptian archaeologist shares theory on pharaoh's lineage

Feb 12, 2013 by Alvin Powell
A different take on Tut: Egyptian archaeologist shares theory on pharaoh’s lineage
Tutankhamun, known to the world as King Tut.

In recent years, DNA analysis has shed light on the parents of Egypt's most famous pharaoh, the boy king Tutankhamun, known to the world as King Tut. Genetic investigation identified his father as Akhenaten and his mother as Akhenaten's sister, whose name was unknown.

French Egyptologist Marc Gabolde offered a different interpretation of the on Thursday. Speaking at Harvard's Science Center, Gabolde said he's convinced that Tut's mother was not his father's sister, but rather his father's first cousin, Nefertiti.

Nefertiti was already known to be Akhenaten's wife and in fact the two had six daughters. Gabolde believes they also had a son, Tutankhamun, and that the apparent genetic closeness revealed in the was not a result of a single brother-to-sister mating, but rather due to three successive generations of marriage between first cousins.

"The consequence of that is that the DNA of the third generation between cousins looks like the DNA between a brother and sister," said Gabolde, the director of the archaeological expedition of Université Paul Valery-Montpellier III in the Royal Necropolis at el-Amarna. "I believe that Tutankhamun is the son of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, but that Akhenaten and Nefertiti were cousins."

Gabolde's talk, "Unknown Aspects of Tutankhamun's Reign, Parentage, and Tomb Treasure," was sponsored by Harvard's Semitic Museum and the Harvard Department of Anthropology. It was hosted by Peter Der Manuelian, the Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology.

Tutankhamun was a pharaoh some 3,300 years ago. He was made pharaoh at age 8 or 9 and ruled for about 10 years. In his talk, Gabolde covered some of the scarce known details of his life and his burial.

Tut's tomb, Gabolde said, was not intended as such. The real—and undiscovered—tomb, he said, was probably under construction when he died at 19, and is likely somewhere in the Valley of Kings, on the Nile. The place where he was actually buried was probably not intended for a royal burial but hurriedly prepared when Tut died unexpectedly, most likely of an infection that took hold when he broke his leg.

"Nobody could imagine he would die so young," Gabolde said.

Other details of Tut's life, which Gabolde has pieced together from carved images and inscriptions, include a military campaign in Syria, in which he likely didn't personally take part. Tut also was interested in Nubia, a region in southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Inscriptions on a fan that belonged to Tut showed him hunting ostriches, whose feathers were used to make the fan. In addition, Gabolde said, a staff found in Tut's tomb had inscriptions that showed it was made of a tall reed, cut by Tut himself in a city on the Nile delta.

Gabolde also traced an ornament that was found with Tut when he was discovered in 1922, but had since disappeared. Gabolde said he believes the golden hawk-head clasp, part of a broad collar worn by Tut, is in a private collection, sold by Tut discoverer Howard Carter to pay for surgery later in his life. The rest of the broad collar was stolen during World War II, Gabolde said.

Explore further: Secrets of dinosaur ecology found in fragile amber

Related Stories

King Tut and half of European men share DNA

Aug 03, 2011

According to a group of geneticists in Switzerland from iGENEA, the DNA genealogy center, as many as half of all European men and 70 percent of British men share the same DNA as the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun, ...

Tut's ills won't kill fascination, historians say

Feb 17, 2010

(AP) -- It turns out Egypt's beloved boy-king wasn't so golden after all - or much of a wild and crazy guy, for that matter. But will research showing King Tut was actually a hobbled, weak teen with a cleft ...

King Tut died of blood disorder: German researchers

Jun 23, 2010

Legendary pharaoh Tutankhamun was probably killed by the genetic blood disorder sickle cell disease, German scientists said Wednesday, rejecting earlier research that suggested he died of malaria.

Archaeologists find statue of Tutankhamun's grandad

Oct 02, 2010

Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed part a 3,000-year-old statue of the pharaoh Amenhotep III, believed to be the grandfather of the young King Tutankhamun, antiquities chief Zahi Hawass said on Saturday.

Recommended for you

Secrets of dinosaur ecology found in fragile amber

10 hours ago

Ryan McKellar's research sounds like it was plucked from Jurassic Park: he studies pieces of amber found buried with dinosaur skeletons. But rather than re-creating dinosaurs, McKellar uses the tiny pieces ...

New progress of the Neogene Suidae research

Oct 17, 2014

Dr. Hou Sukuan and Prof. Deng Tao from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology(IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences reported a new species of Chleuastochoerus from the Linxia Basin, Gansu ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

frajo
5 / 5 (2) Feb 12, 2013
the boy king Tutankhamun, known to the world as King Tut

Not really. In the US he might be known as "King Tut", but not elsewhere.