King Tut: DNA Secrets of Incest & Genetic Disease by Tory

King Tut’s DNA: The Key to the Secrets of the Royal Family

By Tory B.

     Mummies are things that mystify people today, whether it real life or in movies. Scientists spend their lives looking at testing on the mummies of the ancient worlds to see how they died and how old they were. Before recent tests, people believed that King Tut died when he was 19 from a blow to the dead or from a fractured leg. However a recent CT scans showed the blow to head was given after death during the mummification process.

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(Garrett, 2010)Tut’s coffin.

     Scientist did not want to disturb the ancient remains, but they knew they needed to do testing to better understand how Tutankhamun died. In 2008, scientists in Cairo performed tests on the mummies using high tech DNA sequencing labs. They also consulted experts from around the world to help identify bodies.

     All of the mummies had CTs performed on them and DNA was taken from deep in the bones for sequencing. The DNA samples had to be taken from deep within the bones because the scientists were afraid the upper levels of DNA had been contaminated from the people who carried out the mummification process or by other archeologists who had worked with the mummies. After the DNA was taken from the bodies, the DNA was carefully separated from the resins and unguents that the ancient priests had used to help preserve the bodies. Once Tut’s DNA was extracted and cleaned, the scientists put it in a clear substance so they would be able to analyze it. The first solutions containing the DNA came out black, making the analyzing impossible. After six months of grueling work the scientists were finally able to extract the remnants of the chemicals used during the mummification process and the sample was finally ready to be analyzed. From the sequencing the scientists would be able to identify all of the mummies and see how the mummies were related. (helps explain how the DNA was extracted)

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 (Garrett, 2010) This is what Tut may have looked like when he was alive.

     Part of the testing was to identify Tut’s father. From the tests the scientists learned that one of the unidentified mummies called KV55 was both the father of Tut and the son of Amenhotep III. The next step was to identify the mummy. The scientists had narrowed the suspects down to

     Smenkhkare and Akhenaten. The mummy was believed to be no older than 25 when he died. Akhenaten bore two daughters before starting a seventeen year long reign so scientists then believed Tut’s father was Smenkhkare because Akhenaten would have been too old.

Tests run on an elderly female mummy showed that she was Tiye the wife of Amenhotep III and the mother of Akhenaten. More tests then showed that the KV55 mummy died when he was closer to 40 rather than 25 because his bones showed signs of osteoarthritis in his legs and knees. This new discovery lead to scientists believing that Tut’s father and the son was Tiye and Amenhotep III was Akhenaten.

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(Lorenzi,2010) King Tut’s family tree. (helps explain how the scientists discovered who Tut’s father was)

After determining the father of Tut, tests were run on a younger women found next to Tiye. The DNA research showed the young female mummy was most likely the mother of Tut and the sister of Akhenaten. Scientists will never be able to be positive which of the five sisters Akhenaten had was the mother of Tut. This incest, although not uncommon in royal in families in Egypt, is most likely a major reason for the early surmise of Tut.  (Than, 2010) This is King Tut’s mask.

Other CT tests were done to prove that the royal family did not suffer from Marfan syndrome, a congenital disease that causes people to have feminine features and elongated faces. Scientists had believed the family suffered from this because in the paintings that archeologists found the male family members seemed to have more feminine features. However, the pathologies showed no signs of Marfan syndrome.

CTs then showed that Tut had clubbed left foot and that he had necrosis, a disease which eats human tissue. The combination of the tissue disease and the clubbed foot would have made walking very hard for Tut. This discovery would help explain why his tomb was filled with 130 canes, some of which looked used (Hawass, 2010). In a lot of paintings of the King he is featured sitting down, where as, a lot of other pharaohs were shown standing up. Even though his disease would have been crippling, it would not have killed him. The genetic scientists were then able to dig further into the king’s medical history. They discovered that he had contracted a very severe form of malaria multiple times. The malaria was found when the geneticists found strains of DNA from Plasmodium falciparum. The severe form of malaria can cause hemorrhaging, coma, death, and or circulatory shock. Since he lived in an area where malaria was very common, he most likely had a small immunity to malaria. However, since he was born from incest, he most likely inherited genetic diseases. Tut also had a cleft palate.  In the tomb there were also the remains of two fetuses. The fetus’ were most likely Tut’s and his wife’s kids, however, since his wife was his half sister their children most likely had genetic diseases. The diseases are probably why the children were unable to be brought to full term and died before birth.

The work the scientists are doing is allowing us to learn more about the ancient world. The tests on the DNA will allow us to learn more about the genetic diseases that affected the Egyptian royal families. The research may even give us more insight into the genetic diseases affecting people in the world today.

 What do you think?   Should we do the same type of DNA tests for George Washington (Kleinfelter’s disease?)  or Abraham Lincoln (Marfan’s syndrome?) ??

Channel, D. (2010, February 16). * Discovery Channel Videos: * King Tut Unwrapped: Father and Son Reunited. Discovery Channel. Retrieved May 18, 2011, from

Channel, D. (2010, February 16). * Discovery Channel Videos: * King Tut Unwrapped: Collecting Royal DNA. Discovery Channel. Retrieved May 18, 2011, from

Hawass, Z. (n.d.). King Tut’s Family Secrets – Photo Gallery – National Geographic Magazine . National Geographic Magazine. Retrieved May 18, 2011, from

Hawass, Z. (2010, August 25). King Tut’s Family Secrets — Science & Technology — Signs of the Times News for Wed, 18 May 2011. Retrieved May 18, 2011, from

Than, K. (2019, February 16). King Tut Mysteries Solved: Was Disabled, Malarial, and Inbred . National Geographic Daily News. Retrieved May 11, 2016, from

Lorenzi, R. (2010, February 16). The Tut Puzzle. Discovery News. Retrieved May 23, 2011, from

One response so far

One Response to “King Tut: DNA Secrets of Incest & Genetic Disease by Tory”

  1.   Janis Clarkon 21 Oct 2014 at 11:12 pm     1

    Fascinating! I love DNA investigations – I say “Go For It” with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I’ll be following your site if possible.

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