London, Jan 17 (IANS) Scientists have found that the 4,000-year-old Egyptian “Two Brothers” mummies, long believed to be of brothers from the same father actually shared a maternal relationship.
The study showed that the mummies — of two elite men named Khnum-Nakht and Nakht-Ankh — had maternal links but had different fathers, and were thus very likely to have been half-brothers.
“It was a long and exhausting journey to the results but we are finally here. I am very grateful we were able to add a small but very important piece to the big history puzzle and I am sure the brothers would be very proud of us. These moments are what make us believe in ancient DNA,” said Konstantina Drosou, from the University of Manchester.
The mummies that dated from around 1,800 BC, were first discovered in 1907 in a joint burial site in Cairo.
Inscriptions on the coffins indicated that both men were the sons of an unnamed local governor and had mothers with the same name, Khnum-aa. Since then the men became known as the Two Brothers.
However, in 1908, a team of Egyptologists concluded that the skeletal morphologies were quite different, suggesting an absence of family relationship. Based on contemporary inscriptional evidence, it was proposed that one of the brothers was adopted.
In 2015, “ancient DNA” was extracted from their teeth and, following hybridisation capture of the mitochondrial and Y chromosome fractions, sequenced by a next generation method.
The analysis, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, revealed that both Nakht-Ankh and Khnum-Nakht belonged to mitochondrial haplotype M1a1, suggesting a maternal relationship.
The Y chromosome sequences were less complete but showed variations between the two mummies, indicating that both had different fathers, and were thus very likely to have been half-brothers.