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Saturday, 11 November, 2000, 17:15 GMT
Tutankhamun to undergo DNA tests
Tutankhamun's death mask
Tutankhamun's exact link to the royal line is unclear
By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

Egyptian antiquities officials have announced that the mummy of Tutankhamun is to undergo DNA tests next month in an attempt to clear up the mystery of who he really was.

Similar tests will be conducted on the mummy of the pharaoh, Amenhotep III, who is widely believed to be Tutankhamun's grandfather.

The head of Egypt's supreme council of antiquities, Gaballah ali Gaballah, said the aim was to establish once and for all if they were related by blood.

Debate over Tutankhamun's exact link to the royal line has raged among archaeologists for decades.

Although he is Egypt's most famous pharaoh, little is known about how exactly he came to be on the throne at the age of just nine or 10.

None of the many items found in his tomb when it was discovered in the 1920s gave any clues as to his parentage.

But now, well over 3,000 years after his rule, the latest scientific techniques are to be used to try to find out.

Hit and miss

A Japanese team, working with local experts, will conduct DNA tests on Tutankhamun's mummy, which has lain undisturbed in its tomb in Luxor since it was last X-rayed in 1969.

The results will be compared with tests on the mummy of the man thought to be his grandfather, Amenhotep III, now in the Egyptian museum.

But mummy expert, Nasry Iskander, cautions that DNA analysis on ancient remains is still a hit-and-miss affair and that Tutankhamun's mummy may be in too poor a shape to yield any conclusive answers.

If the testing does work, though, it could help solve another major mystery: How Tutankhamun came to die, while still in his teens.

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See also:

01 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Did disease kill Tutankhamun?
07 Jan 98 | Sci/Tech
Mummies reveal medical secrets
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