2018-01-20 19:21:12 UTC
"Long ago, Egyptians carved a cemetery into a rock wall along the Nile
River 250 miles south of Cairo. The cemetery outlasted its 12th Dynasty
creators. It survived intermittent pillaging by tomb raiders. And then
in 1907, an excavator named Erfai discovered an untouched tomb. This was
an unusual burial site. Within the tomb lay two high-society men, called
Khnum-Nakht and Nakht-Ankh, their coffins adjacent.
Hieroglyphs on their 4,000-year-old coffins told part of their story.
Each man was described as the son of a woman named Khnum-aa. The burial
ground earned the nickname ³the tomb of the two brothers.²
The two brothers have been on display in Britain, in the Manchester
Museum, since 1908. Yet, nearly from the start, experts cast doubt on
the men's fraternal relationship. A team led by anthropologist Margaret
Murray, the first female archaeologist to become a lecturer at a British
university, argued that "it is almost impossible to convince oneself
that they belong to the same race, far less to the same family." The
mummies' skull anatomies were too different, the scholars said. Later,
researchers studied scraps of their skin. They agreed with Murray's team
the mummies' distinct complexions suggested these men did not share
No one had it quite right. A new genetic analysis aims to clear up this
relationship. Khnum-Nakht and Nakht-Ankh were, as the text on their
coffins suggested, mummies from the same mother."
'Mitochondrial DNA produced convincing results. ³Because we recovered
nearly complete [mitochondrial DNA] profiles, we can be very confident
that they are maternally related,² Drosou said. Data from Y chromosomes,
however, were spottier. But the information was complete enough to
indicate that these men probably had different fathers. ³Comparisons
between six regions of the Y chromosome indicate that possibly they have
a different father,² she said.
Khnum-Nakht and Nakht-Ankh were not royalty. Each was the son of a local
governor, according to the hieroglyphics. A governor was ³basically the
headman of the local town, making them elite,² said Campbell Price, the
curator of Egypt at the Manchester Museum who worked with Drosou on the
new research. ³Most people were farmers, remember.²
Price said the discovery suggests an underemphasized aspect of this
culture: the role of women in Egyptian high society. Khnum-aa, a member
of the ³highest social circles,² probably had a son with one local ruler
and then, two decades later, had a son with another. ³Perhaps,² he
wondered, ³the male local governors were only able to confirm or
maintain their power by marrying this woman called Khnum-aa?²'