Page last updated at 19:18 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 20:18 UK

Cairo paternity test for King Tut

One of the two mummified foetuses during preparations for a DNA test in Cairo, Egypt, 6 August 2008
It is hoped DNA tests will confirm the foetuses are Tutankhamun's offspring

DNA tests are to be conducted on the mummified remains of two stillborn children found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, Egyptian officials say.

Egypt's chief archaeologist hopes the tests will confirm whether they were the offspring of the boy pharaoh.

It is also hoped the tests will clarify whether the children's grandmother was the famously-beautiful queen Nefertiti.

They were found in the Luxor tomb of the boy king, who died over 3,000 years ago, by explorer Howard Carter in 1922.

Since then they have been kept in storage at the Cairo School of Medicine, and have not been publicly displayed.

Some scholars think the female foetuses' mother was Ankhesenamun, Tutankhamun's only known wife and daughter of Nefertiti.

Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities, said the tests could help determine Tutankhamun's family lineage, which has long piqued the curiosity of Egyptologists.

Mummy scan

"For the first time we will be able to identify the family of King Tut," Mr Hawass told Reuters news agency.

Zahi Hawass, file pic from March 2007
Zahi Hawass is hoping to identify the family of the boy king

He added that this should help "to discover the mummy of Nefertiti", which scholars say has never been identified.

DNA samples from the two foetuses - thought to have been stillborn between five and seven months into pregnancy - will be compared to each other and to Tutankhamun at Cairo University, and the results should be known by December, Mr Hawass said.

Tutankhamun's remains were examined by DNA and computerised tomography (CT) scans in 2005.

His was one of the first royal mummies to undergo the procedure as Egypt attempted to confirm the identities of all its ancient rulers.

'Wonderful things'

Tutankhamun, who lived in the mid-14th Century BC, is believed to have ascended to the throne aged about nine.

Death mask of Tutankhamun
Scholars believe Tutankhamun had no surviving children

Scholars believe he married Ankhesenamun at the age of 12, but the couple had no surviving children.

Although in life he was of only moderate historical significance, in death Tutankhamun achieved worldwide fame thanks to the virtually intact state of his tomb when it was opened by British explorer Carter in 1922.

It was packed with such a fabulous trove of gold and ebony treasures that when Carter first peered inside and was asked if he could see anything, his famous reply was: "Yes, wonderful things."

The treasures that were unearthed have captivated the world and drawn millions to the Valley of the Kings.

Questions over why Tutankhamun died at about the age of 19, and rumours of a curse prematurely killing those involved with the excavation of his tomb, have only increased the pharaoh's fame.

Face-to-face with Tutankhamun
04 Nov 07 |  Science/Nature
In pictures: Tutankhamun revealed
04 Nov 07 |  In Pictures
Quick guide: Mummification
04 Nov 07 |  Science/Nature
Face of Tutankhamun reconstructed
10 May 05 |  Middle East
King Tut 'died from broken leg'
08 Mar 05 |  Science/Nature
Tests may end Tutankhamun mystery
13 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
Tut's life and death unmasked
30 Sep 02 |  Sci/Tech
Did disease kill Tutankhamun?
01 Aug 00 |  Sci/Tech


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